Today we have witnessed, in Alan Rusbridger’s own words, a ‘great victory for free speech.’
As if you didn’t know, this afternoon, after a frenzy of online activity, a gagging order (a ‘super-injuction’ ) was lifted which had been imposed on the Guardian in relation to a question from a then unnamed MP, Paul Farrelly to Parliament about the oil traders Trafigura.
There is little to say on the matter that hasn’t already been said because over the last 20 or so hours I have witnessed the fascinating and wonderfully detailed unfolding of events, and I have been able to do so by reading comments from those in the thick of it, via twitter.
Once again the net has come up trumps, not only in the speed and efficiency that information has been passed on but by making a very important difference in the outcome of the case itself.
“Breaking news. Guardian gagged by a company in the High Court. We can’t tell you which company, or why. Er, that’s it.”
In their original front-page story today, the Guardian said it was prevented from identifying the MP who had asked the question, what the question was, which minister might answer it, or where the question was to be found. They were also banned from telling the public why.
This totally unprecedented and ‘doubly menacing’ threat on media freedom, a restriction of reporting on Parliament, was met with fury online where the voices of those who could not be silenced rang out loud and clear.
The transparency and openness of the internet and the immediacy of twitter allowed fervent discussion to take place and revealed not only information about the gagging order but the outrage against those who imposed it.
Frankly it proved that a gagging order will not work when up against intelligent, media savvy internet users.
I follow a fairly media-centric group of tweeters, so it is understandable that my newsfeed was taken up mostly by comment on the #guardian #trafigura and RTs of @arusbridger but one glance at trendsmap shows that it wasn’t just media types entering the debate:
This amount of public involvement in media freedom cases should be celebrated. There was a sense of accomplishment following the collapse of the gagging order, that the internet – which can often get a hard time from those with a stake in newspapers- made a substantial difference in a very serious matter.
More importantly it made a mockery of Trafigura who, let it not be forgotten should be under the spotlight for the horrendous and illegal fly-tipping of chemical waste on the Ivory Coast in 2006.