Oct 13, 2009

Guardian lets Twitter do the talking

A British law firm today agreed to drop a gag order that had prevented the Guardian newspaper from reporting that a member of the British Parliament had raised questions about a secret report on toxic dumping off the Ivory Coast. The law firm of Carter-Ruck, which represent oil-trading giant Trafigura, had earlier won a secret injunction to stop the paper from exposing a report - possibly this report - that some say addresses whether Trafigura knew about the dumping.

Time magazine and others cited the use of social media tools, most notably Twitter, to sidestep the gag order and make public that Trafigura was likely behind the injunction. But I don't understand why the Guardian agreed to abide by the gag order in the first place. As Stephen Shotnes, a media-law expert with the London firm Simons Muirhead & Burton, told Time magazine: "It's been enshrined in our law for 300 years that there's freedom of reporting of parliamentary proceedings." Shouldn't the paper have broken the gag itself?

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