Put a Sock In It

Ryan Giggs

Image via Wikipedia

(published in Gwangju News – July)

http://issuu.com/gwangju_news/docs/july_2011-56p

page 34

British footballer Ryan Giggs, one of the finest footballers the UK has produced recently got harangued recently across the press for trying to cover up an alleged extra martial affair.

A ‘super-injunction’, a legal gagging order that not only prevents the media from reporting a story, but also blocking any attempts to mention that there is even an injunction in place, was brought out across all media.  The Manchester United’s winger reportedly paid vast sums of cash to money hungry lawyers to muzzle all newspapers, television and radio, plus any website in the UK public domain from mentioning anything.

Off the record journalists that had known for some time about famous celebrities who used their bloated bank accounts to fend off newspapers from delving into their lives became powerless to cover it.

You may ask who gives a damn about Z-list celebrities getting caught having sex at two in the morning and whether we, the public have a right to know about it.  You’re probably right, we don’t need to know about it, but that misses the point.  The super-injunction can do real damage for the public at large when stinky rich businesses do activities that unfairly attack or hinder the weak and uninformed then knowing block the free press from reporting anything about it.

Take Trafigura, back in 2009, the multi-national energy supplier brought out a super-injunction against the UK’s Guardian newspaper.  The paper had planned to report that the company was dumping vast quantities of toxic waste off the Ivory Coast.  But before it went to press Trafigura contacted Carter & Ruck, an aggressive, London based law firm and quickly danced off to the High Court to impose a blanket on the piece.  If the newspaper planned on releasing even a whiff of the story they would face drastic repercussions including imprisonment, seizure of assets and be made to watch ‘I’m America’s Next Top Toxic Barren’.

It looked like the British legal system, which has come under scrutiny for several years for being a honey pot for large corporations, with its libel and defamation laws would continue to help out the corporate heavyweights, but thanks to a bit of tradition and a bit of the new, the article did eventually come out.

Parliamentary Privilege, a UK law dating back hundreds of years gives an Member of Parliament (MP) the right to discuss any matter he considers in the public interest in the House of Commons and for that to be freely reported in the press.  MP Paul Farrelly used his privilege and spoke up about the injustice.  This plus as the Internet becomes a borderless horizon such whistle-blowing sites such as Twitter and WordPress.com, which are not governed by any restrictive ‘legal’ guidelines and therefore can write whatever the hell they like.  So with all their billions in the bank and thousands of lawyers on its books, heavy-handed institutions can be made to confess with just a strong minded government minister and one-hundred and forty words message.

(This was published in the July issue of Gwangju News, a magazine run by ex-patroits in Gwangju, South Korea

By David Holt

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