Tag Archives: trafigura

Journalism is not a zero-sum game

Last Friday I took part in a debate organised by UNESCO to promote World Press Freedom Day (full video here). Lined up to argue in support of the motion that “Unregulated political comment online helps the democratic process” were Sunny Hundal of the Liberal Conspiracy blog; the founder of MORI, Sir Robert Worcester, and, speaking from the floor, me.

Arguing against the motion were Westminster University’s Professor Steven Barnett; the BBC’s Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson; and, speaking from the floor, Nick Jones, formerly of the same corporation.

With an audience of diverse professional backgrounds packing the Frontline Club, it was a healthy discussion – although if you’ve attended a journalism event in the last few years you’ll have recognised some of the threads throughout, as the usual straw men were wheeled out to justify either regulating the internet or ignoring it altogether: ‘it’s not representative‘; ‘it’s just sound and fury, signifying nothing‘ (actually, no one quoted Shakespeare, sadly).

I’ve addressed some of the general anti-web arguments in another blog post, but I thought I’d add a couple of specific observations about the thinking behind the arguments being put forward at the event.

The Zero Sum view of journalism

Thomson’s argument (listen in full here) started with the idea that political comment online could not be left in isolation, but needed to be selected and presented within an editorial context and analysis – not surprisingly, the sort of context and background that the BBC itself could provide.

Members of the public did not have the “understanding” that journalists could provide, said Thomson*. Continue reading

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Pluck out your eyes: the anatomy of a super injunction

Super injunctions – those that don’t just order a newspaper not to report something, but forbid it from reporting the existence of the reporting restrictions – are on the rise.

The Guardian has been served with at least 12 notices of injunctions that could not be reported so far this year, compared with six in the whole of 2006 and five the year before.

And Carter Ruck continue their kafkaesque moves to stop reporting about Trafigura and the Minton report (their latest attempt is to write to Parliament saying it can’t discuss the matter, at the same time as saying they’re not trying to forbid anyone reporting what Parliament discusses. That’s because there wouldn’t be anything to discuss).

So what does a super injunction look like? I’ve got hold of one – I obviously can’t say which and I’ve had to leave out the juicy bits. But here’s what it says. Continue reading

Mugging the lawyers

If the famous media gaggers, the libel law firm Carter-Ruck, scourge of Private Eye, thought they’d scored another famous victory suppressing news (these guys are big on bragging) they hadn’t reckoned with social media.

#trafigura is as I type the #1 trending topic on Twitter (that’s in the whole world). The Spectator has already broken the wall between what the blogs will say and what the print media thinks it can get away with … and many, many more people are now aware of the very story a very rich set of people running a polluting company is paying them – presumably – many millions to kill.

In a few hours American bloggers will start picking up on the story enmasse. What’s Carter-Ruck going to do then? As @ElrikMerlin just pointed out to me ‘this is Streisand Effect in action’ – something which I have blogged about before.

When Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov tried the same trick, and created the same effect, it generated this quote from Boris Johnson (one of those inadvertently whacked by Usmanov’s ‘take-down’ action):

We live in a world where internet communication is increasingly vital, and this is a serious erosion of free speech.

This is what Carter-Ruck did: Continue reading