Melon Farmers Original Version

UK News

2009: Oct-Dec

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31st December   

Taking the Self Censorship Rap...

Eminem to tone down his tour act to avoid picket protests
Link Here

Reports indicate that Eminem has promised Wireless Festival promoters he will drop lyrics from his act considered to be homophobic. In return, gay rights groups have promised not to picket the summer event.

Citing a festival insider, the Daily Mail says Wireless Festival organizers were worried that gay rights groups protesting Eminem's first major U.K. tour in nine years might disrupt the yearly multi-day festival.

When Em toured the United Kingdom in 2001, gay rights group OutRage! accused the rapper of using homophobic lyrics and protested outside venues while he was performing.

The organisers were afraid campaigners could potentially ruin the event, the inside source told the Daily Mail. So there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and Eminem only agreed to sign up when assurances had been made that there would not be any protests, adding that any demonstration would have been disastrous.


27th December   

Privacy or Censorship?...

Newspapers don't name football manager who visited Thai working girls
Link Here

The football manager caught visiting a brothel was named on the internet site Wikipedia yesterday. A posting in his biography on the online encylopedia said he was rumoured to have been caught visiting Thai prostitutes .

Another, in a pointed reference to his tastes, said: He is a big fan of Thai curry.

Both contributions were swiftly removed by Wikipedia editors.

Football websites have been awash with speculation since the Sun newspaper revealed the manager had been spotted entering a building on a shabby industrial estate where Thai prostitutes offer sex for £130 an hour. Many went as far as to name him and his club.

On some discussion sites, contributors have put forward football chants with references to sex and Thai prostitutes. The songs are likely to be heard at future premier league matches.

Yet despite the manager's identity becoming more and more widely known, newspapers are effectively barred from publishing it because of privacy rules set down by senior judges over the past five years.

The Sun reported that earlier this month the manager spent more than an hour in the brothel, which advertises itself as a massage parlour. He arrived dressed in training clothes featuring his club logo and is said to have freely admitted that he knew it was a brothel. It was said to be his second trip, following an hour-long visit in October.

If the Sun or any other newspaper published his name, it could face the threat of a hugely expensive privacy action in the courts.


27th December   

Update: Libel Strawman...

Panel to report on libel law reform before election
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Foreigners could be barred from bringing libel actions with tenuous links to the UK under reforms being considered by ministers.

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, is to appoint an expert panel to examine how to prevent overseas litigants from using British courts for defamation cases with little connection to this country.

The new working group of lawyers, academics and newspaper editors will report by mid-March, with the aim of implementing some recommendations before the general election. They will be asked to consider nine areas of concern about Britain's libel laws, with so-called libel tourism the priority. Related Links

In an interview, Straw said: Libel law is not in the right place — there cannot be any disagreement with that. This group will work fairly swiftly to get a report out before parliament is dissolved.

Straw said he was disturbed by the use of UK courts to silence doctors and scientists. It is very worrying, he said. There ought to be open and robust debate in the scientific and medical world. If someone who has expertise in a field believes a piece of medical equipment is not doing what it is supposed to do, and is claimed to do, they ought to be free to say so.

Straw is also holding discussions with officials in Brussels about libel jurisdiction in Europe. He said the European commission had acknowledged that the system was operating unsatisfactorily .

The new panel will be asked to consider the case for capping the level of damages that courts can award, and whether a libel tribunal should be established to resolve defamation claims out of court. The experts will examine how to make it easier for scientists, authors and commentators to defend their words on the basis of fair comment, or in the public interest; and whether the burden of proof should be shifted from the defendant to the litigant.

Large and medium-sized corporations may have to prove malicious falsehood to succeed in a defamation action, while smaller firms and individuals could have to provide more proof that their reputation has suffered. The panel will also consider whether there should be special rules for internet blogs.

Straw hopes that most reforms can be implemented through secondary legislation , avoiding the need for a time-consuming new parliamentary bill. Libel lawyers, however, insist that the system works well and accuse the government of trying to curry favour with the media ahead of the general election.


23rd December   

CEOPS Goes Quango...

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre reorganises
Link Here

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is to be made into a quango (an non-departmental public body), a junior Home Office Minister announced this week.

The significance of the announcement is that it will give greater independence to CEOP to set its own strategic goals and priorities. CEOP is currently accountable to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA); while CEOP enjoys operational independence, SOCA oversees its annual plan, budget etc. quangos generally have full independence: their purpose and powers is set out in the statute that creates them and within that framework they have almost complete strategic freedom.

Jim Gamble, the senior police officer who is the Chief Executive of CEOP, has a record of being outspoken in his criticisms of the Internet industry, particularly social networking sites, and arguing that CEOP should not have to pay costs to ISPs, unlike the regular police. Heading an independent quango, rather than answering to a policing agency, he will have even greater freedom to campaign to set limits on industry self-regulation.


23rd December   

Petition: Unrated Films...

Petition to introduce a Voluntary 'Unrated 18' Certificate in the UK
Link Here

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce a Voluntary 'Unrated 18' Certificate in the UK

In the USA, Norway and Germany? unrated films can be sold to 18+ adults. In Denmark? unrated films may be sold to people aged fifteen and over, whilst in Sweden the government is looking to introduce a similar measure.

In the UK, in order to sell a film to a member of the public it must first be submitted to the BBFC, who charge a fee, a fee which can run to thousands of pounds.

The North West New Wave, a blanket term which has recently been used by both filmmakers and local press to describe independent filmmakers in the Northwest of England, is campaigning for the introduction of a Voluntary Unrated 18 Certificate.

This would allow independent film makers, who often have little to no budget at all, but who today have the technological means to make films themselves, to voluntary offer their film into the public market under a blanket 18 certificate, regardless of content.

Such a relatively simple reform would be the largest and most significant step that could be taken in support of British film culture. The BBFC would still be able to do its job, and the UK would come in line with other countries which successfully value and use a Voluntary Unrated 18 Certificate.


20th December   

Updated: Unredeemed...

Redemption Films goes into administration
Link Here

The cult movie empire of Redemption Films has collapsed into administration.

The company, based in Wigmore Street, Soho, was set up by Nigel Wingrove.

Administrators were called in to the distributor of gothic horror movies, whose past titles range from Sinful Nuns Of St Valentine to Koo Stark's cult 1977 hit The Marquis De Sade's Justine.

Wingrove set up Redemption in 1992 after directing Visions Of Ecstasy , the only film to have been refused a licence by censors on grounds of blasphemy. He also manages the Satanic Sluts, the burlesque dance group of Georgina Baillie, the granddaughter of Andrew Sachs who was at the centre of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand telephone scandal.

Vantis administrators said it hoped to complete a sale of the business in the next few days .

Update: Salvation of Redemption

20th December 2009. Based on article from

On the 14th of December The Salvation Group Limited acquired all of the assets of Redemption Films Limited in Administration. Redemption Films will resume as a trading name of The Salvation Group Limited and to the extent possible it is the intention to again deal in the films and products previously managed by Redemption Films Limited in Administration.


17th December   

Update: Stubbed Out...

Liverpool 18 rated smoking films proposal rejected
Link Here
Full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

Proposals to rate films showing smoking as 18 certificates were rejected by Liverpool councillors.

The proposals put forward by Liverpool Primary Care Trust were rejected by an overwhelming majority despite impassioned pleas from health executive Cllr Ron Gould.

But full council heard members on both political sides attack what they claimed amounted to censorship on the grounds of public health .

The PCT has spent months preparing and consulting on its case for the ban, which it insisted would only cover new productions which show smoking in a positive light.


15th December   

Council propaganda Magazines Remain Unregulated...

But trade association decides that online magazines should be regulated by the Press Complaints Commission
Link Here

As part of its industry consultation, the Press Standards Board of Finance Ltd (PressBoF) has decided that local authority publications should not be brought within the remit of the Press the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

It has decided against doing so on the basis that such publications tend to be marketing material, the board announced today.

PressBoF, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission.

Extended PCC Remit to Online Magazines

Based on article from

The industry consultation also decided that online-only publications – mainly magazine sites – should come under the PCC's remit.

PressBoF chairman Guy Black said: The internet is an increasingly important platform for publishers to reach consumers.

While online versions of newspapers and magazines available in printed form come within the remit of the PCC, there is a gap to the extent that online-only publications do not.

This decision is a logical development in self-regulation, recognising the moves in the magazine sector towards online-only titles, and underlines the effectiveness of our system .

PCC chairman Baroness Buscombe said: We welcome the decision by the industry. The PCC needs this freedom to develop rapidly to meet the challenges and the opportunities presented by media convergence.


15th December   

Censored Out of Contention...

Trade association called for lighter touch media regulation to help fend off foreign competition
Link Here

A report has called on the Government to overturn media regulation to ensure the UK is not left behind in the TV, internet and social media industries.

The British Screen Advisory Council has published a paper outlining the changes taking places across the audiovisual sector (film, TV, internet videos, games, social media) and how the Government and regulators need to react to the changes.

The paper concludes: The global democratisation in content creation and dissemination has only just begun and the UK must be part of it. In approaching the issues, our overriding focus has been the development of this audiovisual industry's capability as an enterprise sector and important contributor to wealth creation.

BSAC is an independent body, funded by the media industry, which represents executives in TV, film, satellite, cable and digital media.

The council believes that, while the UK audiovisual industry appears healthy, its competitiveness is being hit by cheaper, foreign, educated workforces. The council is now calling for lighter touch media regulation in the UK. It concludes: A light and focused set of government policies and regulations must be designed to help industry meet the challenges head on.


13th December   

Update: Libel Reform...

Simon Singh asks for people to sign petition
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

It has been 18 months since I was sued for libel after publishing my article on chiropractic. I am continuing to fight my case and am prepared to defend my article for another 18 months or more if necessary. The ongoing libel case has been distracting, draining and frustrating, but it has always been heartening to receive so much support, particularly from people who realise that English libel laws need to be reformed in order to allow robust discussion of matters of public interest. Over twenty thousand people signed the statement to Keep Libel Laws out of Science, but now we need you to sign up again and add your name to the new statement.

The new statement is necessary because the campaign for libel reform is stepping up a gear and will be working on much broader base. Sense About Science has joined forces with Index on Censorship and English PEN and their goal is to reach 100,000 or more signatories in order to help politicians appreciate the level of public support for libel reform. We have already met several leading figures from all three main parties and they have all showed signs of interest. Now, however, we need a final push in order to persuade them to commit to libel reform.

Finally, I would like to make three points. First, I will stress again - please take the time to reinforce your support for libel reform by signing up at Second, please spread the word by blogging, twittering, Facebooking and emailing in order to encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Third, for those supporters who live overseas, please also add your name to the petition and encourage others to do the same; unfortunately and embarrassingly, English libel laws impact writers in the rest of the world, but now you can help change those laws by showing your support for libel reform. While I fight in my own libel battle, I hope that you will fight the bigger battle of libel reform.


12th December   

Update: Glorified Censorship...

Student given 6 months in jail for DVD containing scenes of terrorist atrocities
Link Here
Full story: Glorification of Censorship...Climate of fear caused by glorification of terrorsim

A Pakistani student was sentenced to six months in prison for sending a DVD containing scenes of terrorist atrocities to his neighbours.

Illegal immigrant Bilal Malik a student at Dundee University, admitted a breach of the peace.

He faces deportation after serving his sentence.


11th December   

Scoring Birdies...

Tiger Woods gets court injunction to ban nude images
Link Here

Tiger Woods has won an injunction banning the English media from publishing new details about his personal life, after instructing London-based lawyers to take legal action.

The move, described by lawyers as unbelievable , prevents the media from publishing material that the US media would be able to publish, prompting further anger about the ability of foreign litigants to take advantage of repressive English laws.

This injunction would never have been granted in America , the media lawyer Mark Stephens said. It's unbelievable that Tiger Woods' lawyers have been able to injunct the UK press from reporting information here .

The injunction, granted by high court judge Mr Justice David Eady, comes amid intense press speculation about the golfer's alleged extra-marital affairs.

US media are reporting that the high court has blocked the publication of nude photos of Woods. The golfer's British lawyers, Schillings, deny that the nude photos exist and 'suggest' that any images in circulation have been doctored.

Woods would not have got an injunction like this in America, Gavin Millar QC, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said. Privacy law is weaker in America than it is here. It is not articulated as a constitutional right and it's subject to much stronger rights to publish on the internet. The material may already be available in America, but in this country what Mr Justice Eady and others say is that unless it is in the public domain here, by virtue of having been published by the national media , they don't acknowledge that it is already in the public domain. The entire universe could be looking at it and it doesn't matter , Millar added. But clearly there is no point maintaining an injunction that is completely pointless.

But the injunction obtained by Woods, although it prevents publishing details of the photographs, marks a move away from the most repressive injunctions, experts say. The emergence of so-called super injunctions, which prevent the media reporting that an injunction exists, was revealed by the Guardian in October after the oil trading firm Trafigura obtained an order prevented any reporting of proceedings such as the one brought by Woods.

I suspect the Trafigura case has had something to do with this, said Millar. The whole question of whether they and judges are using their power in private hearings is very important, and they are now much warier of making super injunctions.


11th December   

Update: Coalition for Libel Reform...

Campaigners regroup to reform Britain's libel laws
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

England’s libel laws are unjust, against the public interest and internationally criticised — there is urgent need for reform this is the message performers, writers, poets, patient groups, legal experts, broadcasters, journalists and others represented by the Coalition for Libel Reform (English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science) are sending to politicians urging them to support a bill for major reforms of the English libel laws now, in the interests of fairness, the public interest and free speech.

At the launch of the National Campaign for Libel Reform on Thursday, performers and others urged the public to sign a petition demanding reform of the libel laws, highlighting that for the first time in over a century we have an opportunity to change our unfair and repressive libel laws.


9th December   

Mean Minds in Bournemouth...

Councillor downloading top shelf porn in his own time survives a vote of no confidence
Link Here
Full story: Witch Hunts for Porn...Porn on company laptops

Councillors have defeated an attempt to pass a vote of no-confidence in Bournemouth council leader Cllr Stephen MacLoughlin.

There were boos and cries of welcome to Beijing and shame on you all you hypocrites from the public gallery as the verdict was delivered in a recorded vote at the meeting of Bournemouth full council yesterday.

Mean minded Cllr Anne Rey moved the motion following the revelation that porn was found on his council laptop computer – a matter which is now being investigated by the standards committee.

Cllr Rey told the meeting: I move this motion for the sake of fairness and what is right for this council and town. If this matter hadn't been leaked to the Echo none of us would have known about it. If this had been anyone else it would have been referred to the standards committee and dealt with accordingly, and probably the member wouldn't be sitting here now.

She also referred to 20 staff who were put on paid management leave after sending supposedly offensive emails, branding it double standards and said that Cllr MacLoughlin should stand down at least temporarily. She added: He should be setting an example. Cllr MacLoughlin has lost the authority and respect which his position commands.

Cllr Claire Smith said: This came as a great shock to many of us when we eventually learned of it. The damage has been done not just to Cllr MacLoughlin's reputation but all our reputations.

The recorded vote was 10 for, 24 against and eight not voting.


8th December   

Update: Zip It, Block It, Flag It...

Lessons in internet safety to be added to the school curriculum
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Lessons in using the internet safely are set to become a compulsory part of the curriculum for primary school children in England from 2011. Children will also be encouraged to follow an online Green Cross Code and block and report inappropriate content.

The Zip it, Block it, Flag it campaign is intended for use by schools, retailers and social networks, although it will be up to individual sites to choose how they use it.

The campaign intends to encourage children to not give out personal information on the web, block unwanted messages on social networks and report any inappropriate behaviour to the appropriate bodies, which may include the website, teachers or even police.

False pictures posted on social networking sites will have to be removed by host companies within 24 hours of a complaint under internet safety rules published today.

Companies will also be forced to apply far more effective privacy settings or lockdowns for parents to use on search engines so that young people do not stray on to pornographic or violent sites.

The two new requirements on the industry are part of the Government's long-delayed child internet safety strategy, which will be launched by Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.

Ministers delayed their final strategy because negotiations between safety campaigners and the internet companies proved so tortuous. Companies fiercely resisted moves to burden adult internet users with cumbersome safety features that would slow down or restrict access to the web. Some were also sceptical that many parents would use features such as privacy settings or filtering software because they do not understand how it all works.

However, after months of discussions the industry has agreed to independent oversight of all the new policies so that progress can be objectively monitored. They had initially wanted to self-regulate. One of the big consultancy companies is likely to be asked to take on the oversight task.

The new strategy is called Click Clever Click Safe and was drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The creation of the council, a coalition of government, industry and charities, was one of Dr Tanya Byron's recommendations. She said that it should be the conscience of the industry, encouraging it to take a greater responsibility for removing inappropriate content promptly, promoting and improving parental control software and regulating online advertising.

The strategy is thought to be the first of its kind and ministers hope it will be adopted around the world.


6th December   

Update: Internet Panic...

Social networking sites to add panic buttons
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Facebook and other social networking websites are to install panic buttons so children can alert the sites' operators if obscene or inappropriate material is posted.

The site is among 140 companies, charities and other groups who have signed up to new internet standards recommended by Tanya Byron, the government's adviser on online safety. Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and Alan Johnson, the home secretary, will announce the new voluntary code on Tuesday. Gordon Brown may also take part in the launch.

The panic button system, similar to one already announced by Bebo, requires companies to display prominently on their websites how children can report offensive or inappropriate content and to respond promptly.

Other provisions include giving parents greater control over how their children use the internet, with sites obliged to provide safe search facilities and controls with which parents can restrict access to offensive or bullying pages.

The guidelines will concentrate on websites moderated by staff, such as chatrooms, instant messaging and search websites. Details will be drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), set up following a review by Byron published in March last year. They will be published in the summer.


5th December   

Offsite: Climate Debate...

Climate change: free speech for the sceptics?
Link Here

The combination of the recent climategate scandal and the upcoming Copenhagen summit has put environmental issues, and specifically global warming, in the spotlight. Until recently, it seemed strange that there would even be such thing as a climate debate . But increasingly, voices that challenge the accepted thinking on the issue seem to be gaining ground.

Last night, Index on Censorship hosted an event at the Free Word Centre in the hope of teasing out the various strands of this conflict. The title – Is climate change scepticism the new Holocaust denial? – may have seemed provocative, but it picked up on phrases used by panellist George Monbiot, who in the past has described the two stances as equally immoral and stupid. When asked if he thought climate sceptics' evidence for their claims was as flakey as that of Holocaust deniers for theirs, Monbiot concurred. Questioned on the use of the term deniers to describe his opponents, Monbiot said he simply could not think of a better way of describing them, though he recognised the implications the term could carry for some.

...Read full article


2nd December   

Music to the Nutter Ear...

Conservatives have a whinge at exempt from classification music videos
Link Here

The Conservatives have called on the Government to change the law which says that DVDs or videos primarily concerned with sport, religion or music do not have to carry ratings.

Recordings with content that is designed to inform, educate or instruct are also exempt from carrying warnings under the Video Recordings Act 1984.

The Conservatives warned that depictions of self-mutilation, erotic dancing, sex toys and drug use are now widely available to youngsters in music and sport DVDs.

As the law currently stands, videos in these categories are not classified and may be bought by anyone, regardless of age.

Under the Digital Economy Bill, the Government is reforming the Video Recordings Act to update the classification system for video games. However, Tory culture spokesprat Jeremy Hunt warned that ministers have failed to close the 'loophole'.

One DVD of the band Slipknot, which is freely available in stores and on the internet, glamorises self-mutilation by young people who are seen carving the name of the band on to their bodies. Enlarge violence graphic

Another music documentary American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980 - 1986 contains references to raping a woman. The heavy metal group Black Dahlia Murder's DVD Majesty features the band members taking copious amounts of drugs.

Hunt said: It is good news that the age rating of potentially harmful video games is being put on a statutory basis. However, it is really worrying that the Government hasn't done more to close some serious loopholes for other harmful content. Shockingly, in some cases it is actually legal to sell this sort of thing to children.

A Department of Culture spokesman said: Music, sports or religious videos lose their exemption from classification if they depict sexual activity, mutilation, gross violence or other practices likely to cause offence. If unclassified videos are on sale when they shouldn't be, it is for the appropriate enforcement authorities to take action.


29th November

 Offsite: Foul, Disgusting and Blasphemous...

Link Here
Full story: Monty Python...Monty Python winds up the nutters
What did Life of Brian ever do for us?

See article from


28th November   

Climate of Censorship...

Censorship of dissent amongst climate scientists
Link Here

The scientific basis for global warming projections is now under scrutiny as never before. The principal source of these projections is produced by a small group of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), affiliated to the University of East Anglia.

Last week an apparent hacker obtained access to their computers and published in the blogosphere part of their internal e-mail traffic. And the CRU has conceded that the at least some of the published e-mails are genuine.

Astonishingly, what appears, at least at first blush, to have emerged is that

  • the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend
  • they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data
  • the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests
  • they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

There may be a perfectly innocent explanation. But what is clear is that the integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British Government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question. And the reputation of British science has been seriously tarnished. A high-level independent inquiry must be set up without delay.

Update: Resigned

4th December 2009. See article from

Britain's University of East Anglia says the director of its prestigious Climatic Research Unit is stepping down pending an investigation into allegations that he overstated the case for man-made climate change.

The university says Phil Jones will relinquish his position until the completion of an independent review into allegations that he worked to alter the way in which global temperature data was presented.


26th November   

Update: Test Case for Freedom of Speech...

British doctor sued over academic criticism of medical research
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

A British doctor who is being sued for libel after criticising an American company's research has pledged to turn the action into a test case for freedom of speech.

Peter Wilmshurst, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, told The Times that he aims to use a public-interest defence to fight the claim from NMT Medical and establish the principle that scientists may engage freely in academic debate.

He said he was prepared to risk losing his home to take the case to trial because victory would set a precedent protecting other scientists from legal bullying . Dr Wilmshurst said: I have got a responsibility to fight this. There is a fundamental principle of science at stake here. People have to be free to challenge research.

There is growing concern about the use of England's draconian libel laws to stifle expert scrutiny of scientific evidence. Simon Singh, the science writer, has been sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an article in which he questioned the evidence that spinal manipulation could treat childhood conditions such as asthma and colic.

Many scientific journals admit that they now seek legal advice before publishing some academic papers, and several websites have withdrawn scientific articles claimed as defamatory because of the prohibitive costs of defending such actions.

Dr Wilmshurt's case began with his involvement in a study of a medical device made by NMT called Starflex, designed to close a type of hole in the heart known as a patent foramen ovale (PFO). The study investigated Starflex as a potential treatment for migraine, which is significantly more common among people with a PFO, but failed to find benefits.

At a cardiology conference in Washington in 2007, Dr Wilmshurst criticised NMT in relation to the research. His comments were reported by Heartwire, a website, prompting NMT to sue him.

Dr Wilmshurst and his solicitor, Mark Lewis, will meet NMT's legal team next month for mediation. If no deal is reached, the case is expected to go to trial.


24th November   

Update: Tourism Curtailed...

Jack Straw sets out to reform UK libel laws
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Jack Straw is preparing to draw up proposals for wholesale reform of England's libel laws.

The justice secretary says the large legal fees involved in defamation cases in English courts are jeopardising freedom of speech, potentially curbing vital debate by scientists, academics and journalists.

The huge payouts awarded to individuals who successfully claim their reputation has been damaged has made London the libel capital of the world.

Last night, Straw warned that the bonanza for lawyers and claimants was having a chilling effect and pledged radical changes. It is very important that citizens are able to take action for defamation if they are seriously defamed. But no-win, no-fee arrangements have got out of hand. The system has become unbalanced, he said.

In measures that are expected to win cross-party support, Straw believes individuals and media groups must have a clearer right to express their views, as in other countries.

A free press can't operate or be effective unless it can offer readers comment as well as news. What concerns me is that the current arrangements are being used by big corporations to restrict fair comment, not always by journalists but also by academics, he said.

He also wants to see new restrictions on no-win, no-fee arrangements and curbs on legal fees involved in fighting cases. In many cases, lawyers who win libel cases make 10 times the money their clients are awarded. He cited one case in which a regional newspaper was forced to pay damages of £5,000 to a plaintiff but £50,000 to the plaintiff's lawyer.

The proposed changes are still under discussion, but Straw is keen to begin the process, which could involve a new libel bill, as soon as possible.

Update: Working Group

2nd December 2009. See article from

Justice Secretary Jack Straw is to establish a working group to examine England's controversial libel laws. The group will consist of media lawyers, editors and experts. The government has also said it will respond to English Pen and Index on Censorship's libel report, along with recommendations by the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee within two months of the publication of the Select Committee report.

The working group is expected to convene in January 2010.


21st November   

Update: Libel Tourists Flocking to Britain...

Defamation cases increased by 11% in 2008
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

The number of defamation cases that reached the high court surged by 11% in 2008 to a four-year high, as foreign claimants took advantage of the UK's tougher laws to seek libel tourism awards from publishers.

A total of 259 high court defamation writs were issued last year, according to a review by the law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, the most since 2004.

These figures show that the UK remains a very attractive jurisdiction for libel claimants, said Jaron Lewis, a media partner at RPC. This is because our laws are very pro-claimant, making it difficult for the media to defend claims, even when they are unmeritorious.

RPC added that most of the cases that did reach the high court were either settled before a trial began, or withdrawn, often because the costs associated with an action, which can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, were too high for publishers to risk.

For some publishers the cost of losing a libel trial, or even winning one, might put them at risk of closure, said Lewis. It is not the level of damages so much as the requirement to pay a claimant's legal costs, which will often be a significant six-figure sum.

However, RPC said that if the figures were seen in the wider context of the explosion of news content across the internet, the number of libel claims actually declined significantly, in relative terms, during the past decade.

Although the figures have gone up by 11%, the volume of material being published, particularly on the web, has increased at a much higher rate, said Lewis. So the proportion of articles resulting in libel claims is lower now than 10 years ago.


17th November   

Blog off!...

Press Complaints Commission eyeing a role as blog censor
Link Here

Baroness Buscombe, the new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, has ambitions for her organisation that go beyond the traditional newspaper companies.

She wants to examine the possibility that the PCC's role should be extended to cover the blogosphere, which is becoming an increasing source of breaking news and boasts some of the media's highest-profile commentators, such as the political bloggers Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes. Do readers of such sites, and people mentioned on them, deserve the same rights of redress that the PCC offers in respect of newspapers and their sites?

Some of the bloggers are now creating their own ecosystems which are quite sophisticated, Baroness Buscombe told me. Is the reader of those blogs assuming that it's news, and is [the blogosphere] the new newspapers? It's a very interesting area and quite challenging.

She said that after a review of the governance structures of the PCC, she would want the organisation to consider whether it should seek to extend its remit to the blogosphere, a process that would involve discussion with the press industry, the public and bloggers (who would presumably have to volunteer to come beneath the PCC's umbrella).


17th November

 Offsite: Police Spout Bollox about 1...

Link Here
Full story: 1 Day of Censorship...Police whinge at Birmingham gang movie
Censorship makes art more appealing

See article from


14th November   

Mean Minds in Bournemouth...

Council institutes witch hunt for top shelf porn
Link Here
Full story: Witch Hunts for Porn...Porn on company laptops

An independent investigation is to be carried out into four formal complaints concerning the conduct of Bournemouth's council leader. Top shelf adult material was found during a routine service on a council computer Cllr MacLoughlin had used. It has been accepted that this was downloaded outside of working hours.

Conservative councillor Stephen MacLoughlin had hoped to draw a line under his computer misdemeanour after receiving a vote of confidence from his cabinet colleagues and making a public apology in the Daily Echo.

But following a subsequent meeting an assessment sub-committee of the Standards Committee has decided that four separate complaints made against him warrant investigation.

Independent Cllr David Shaw, who was expelled from the Conservative group earlier this year, is among those who have complained following the discovery of pornographic material on Cllr MacLoughlin's council-owned laptop. Cllr Shaw alleges that the council leader has shown a lack of respect to his colleagues and the council .

Three members of the public have also complained including Nigel Gillespie, who claims that Cllr MacLoughlin has brought his office as councillor and the council into disrepute .

After considering the complaints, the assessment sub-committee decided that the allegations be referred to the deputy monitoring officer to arrange an investigation and prepare a report to the Standards Committee .


11th November   

Update: Free Speech is not For Sale...

Report from English PEN and Index on Censorship
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

After a year-long Inquiry, English PEN and Index on Censorship have concluded that English libel law has a negative impact on freedom of expression, both in the UK and around the world. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and should only be limited in special circumstances. Yet English libel law imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on free speech, sending a chilling effect through the publishing and journalism sectors in the UK. This effect now reaches around the world, because of so-called libel tourism , where foreign cases are heard in London, widely known as a town named sue . The law was designed to serve the rich and powerful, and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.

In this report, we cut through the intimidating complexity of English libel law to show how the legal framework has become increasingly unbalanced. We believe that the law needs to facilitate the free exchange of ideas and information, whilst offering redress to anyone whose reputation is falsely or unfairly damaged. Yet our inquiry has shown that the law as it stands is hindering the free exchange of ideas and information. We repeatedly encountered the same concerns, expressed by lawyers, publishers, journalists, bloggers and NGOs, who have no wish to abolish libel law, but know from experience of its chilling effect on legitimate publication.

In response to their concerns, which are set out below, we offer the following recommendations to restore the balance between free speech and reputation:

1. In libel, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent

We recommend: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity

2. English libel law is more about making money than saving a reputation

We recommend: Cap damages at £10,000

3. The definition of publication defies common sense

We recommend: Abolish the Duke of Brunswick rule and introduce a single publication rule

4. London has become an international libel tribunal

We recommend: No case should be heard in this jurisdiction unless at least 10 per cent of copies of the relevant publication have been circulated here

5. There are few viable alternatives to a full trial

We recommend: Establish a libel tribunal as a low-cost forum for hearings

6. There is no robust public interest defence in libel law

We recommend: Strengthen the public interest defence

7. Comment is not free

We recommend: Expand the definition of fair comment

8. The potential cost of defending a libel action is prohibitive

We recommend: Cap base costs and make success fees and After the Event (ATE) insurance premiums non-recoverable

9. The law does not reflect the arrival of the internet

We recommend: Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability

10. Not everything deserves a reputation

We recommend: Exempt large and medium-sized corporate bodies and associations from libel law unless they can prove malicious falsehood


9th November   

Update: Effs Off...

Latest Gordon Ramsay show loses most of the strong language
Link Here

Gordon Ramsay has cut the strong language on his new series by 90%.

In the first episode of his new series of The F Word , he swore nine times, including six 'fucks'. Swearing guests took the total expletives to 12.

One viewer said: It's like he had Tourette's and they found a miracle cure. He's obviously been told to cut down his swearing.

But Tuesday's The F Word attracted just 1.8m viewers - half the number it got last summer.


9th November   

Shock Art Gets Shock Ban...

Joseph Steele: Now that's Why They Call It Art (Baby)
Link Here

An artist filmed two friends having sex at a university – in the name of art. Joseph Steele has caused a stir with his 10 minute graphic film shot on the day he learned of his degree results.

The controversial short made at Newcastle University raised eyebrows at its preview night last week yet the former art student insists it is art: I wanted to shock people by making the film and just after the film people said it did just that, said Steele.

It was based on the idea that with things like the internet and TV, the only way you feel anything now is through sex and violence, he added.

The 23-year-old creator, from Newcastle, said two friends volunteered to perform their sex act for the work, titled Joseph Steele: Now that's Why They Call It Art (Baby).

The art show, which features people trashing cars and models posing provocatively, is being shown at the week-long Easyrider exhibition at the Hangar 51 gallery in Newcastle, is co-staged with fellow graduate Tom Whitty.

The pair said no one raised any objections at the opening night last Thursday, and the crowd was warned it was not suitable for under-18s. But within hours of the Sunday Sun revealing details of the X-rated show, the plug was pulled. Steele was banned from saying who had pulled the plug.


9th November   

Update: Pariah Britain...

US newspapers explain that libel tourism may lead to internet blocks to British Access
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Britain's reputation for libel tourism is driving American and foreign publishers to consider abandoning the sale of newspaper and magazines in Britain and may lead to them blocking access to websites, MPs have been warned.

Publishers, human rights groups and campaigners have expressed substantial and increasing concern because comments that would be protected under the freedom of speech in the US constitution are actionable in London courts once published here, no matter how small the readership.

A memorandum submitted to a Commons select committee, ahead of a meeting with US publishers, states: Leading US newspapers are actively considering abandoning the supply of the 200-odd copies they make available for sale in London – mainly to Americans who want full details of their local news and sport. They do not make profits out of these minimal and casual sales and they can no longer risk losing millions of dollars in a libel action which they would never face under US law. Does the UK really want to be seen as the only country in Europe – indeed in the world – where important US papers cannot be obtained in print form?

The submission is on behalf of a number of US media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and MacMillan (US), as well as Human Rights Watch, Global Witness US and Greenpeace International.


7th November   

Update: The Wrong Sort of Stars...

iTunes censors Doo Wop records
Link Here
Full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

An automated censoring service has left iTunes embarrassed after it censored doo wop to doo w*p , confusing consumers, including Radio 2 DJ Jeremy Vine.

When Vine mentioned in passing to fellow DJ Ken Bruce on Wednesday that he was surprised to find iTunes had censored an album he wanted, it caused an on-air stir.

A search of iTunes reveals that the asterisk substitution does not apply only to the 1950s genre, but to any track or album that mentions the racial slur wop, including Lauryn Hill and, those famously inflammatory artists, Prefab Sprout.

Doo wop was originally performed largely by African-Americans, but was later popularised by Italian-American artists. It's the latter ethnic group that has borne the brunt of the racial slur in question, so in censoring the word, iTunes is being a little over-sensitive.

Adam Howorth, Head of Music PR at iTunes, says the asterisk is imposed by an automated database that checks words against a list but can't distinguish the context. We have an automated system which looks for potentially off words and asterisks out certain ones based on the rules, and wop is one of those, says Howorth. In the context of this music it is an error.


6th November   

Update: One Day of the Censor...

Police ban on 1 Day extends throughout the West Midlands
Link Here
Full story: 1 Day of Censorship...Police whinge at Birmingham gang movie

A Dudley cinema has backed out of showing a Birmingham gangland film.

Showcase Cinema at Castlegate, pulled 1 Day as the ramifications of a censorship row between West Midlands Police and the filmakers Vertigo Films rumble on.

Odeon in Birmingham were the first to announce they were not showing the movie, which was released last Friday, after taking police advice .

And now Showcase have followed suit, by pulling it from Midland cinemas.

Karen Fox, general manager of Showcase UK Theatres, said: Showcase has made the decision not to screen the film 1 Day at its cinemas in the West Midlands region.

However, we are screening the film in our other UK locations.

Despite claiming they were not trying to censor the film the police have admitted a police officer had contacted cinemas criticising the film.

The film's director Penny Woolcock, said: Censoring this film is short sighted, shameful and lets a lot of people down: Even if 1 Day did glamorise gun violence, which it certainly does not, I do not think it is the function of the local police to go round saying what films should be shown and which ones shouldn't. She added: Let people decide for themselves.


3rd November   

A Matter of Sensitivity...

Newspaper publishes picture of bridge suicide
Link Here

The chief constable of the Northern Ireland police has said he was deeply shocked by the publication of a picture in a Sunday paper of a man who had taken his life. Matt Baggott said such issues should be treated with more delicacy .

Jim McDowell, northern editor of the Sunday World, defended his decision to print a photograph of a man hanging from a bridge in Bangor, County Down. He said it was in the public interest. McDowell said the body was left hanging for three hours.

The chief constable defended the police response. Sometimes, unfortunately, there are circumstances which make it very difficult for us to deal immediately with those distressing situations, said Baggott. I am satisfied that these circumstances meant that it was impossible to deal with it any quicker. I believe our watchwords, both in the media and as the police service, should be compassion and kindness and I would not support the publication of photographs of that distressing nature.

While he defended the publication of the picture, the newspaper editor apologised if people had been distressed by the picture. That is what newspapers do, McDowell said: I took the decision to run this picture because this poor man had been left hanging in public view for such a long time. The guidelines for journalists are clear when they are reporting suicide, that care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used. This has been completely disregarded. He added that the picture used by the newspaper meant the dead man was not identifiable.

Malachy Toman from the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm described the newspaper's decision to print the photographs as absolutely disgusting . I lost my 21-year-old son in exactly the same circumstances and when I picked up the newspaper, my stomach just churned. This young man has a family and friends and I would say they will be feeling a hundred times worse than me when they see this photograph. The guidelines for journalists are clear when they are reporting suicide, that care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used. This has been completely disregarded.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) said it had received 70 complaints.


3rd November   

Update: Lesbian Vampire Censors...

Lesbian Vampire Killers beheaded at HMV
Link Here

My local HMV store is now selling Lesbian Vampire Killers with the censored sleeve like Tescos.

When first released they were selling the uncensored sleeve but now they are not.

I'm not sure if all HMV stores are doing this but my store is.


1st November   

Update: Gangs of Censors...

Police to screen warning about gangs at cinemas showing 1 Day
Link Here
Full story: 1 Day of Censorship...Police whinge at Birmingham gang movie

Birmingham police chiefs are to issue an on-screen warning about gun crime before a controversial new movie about gang life in Birmingham is shown on the big screen.

1 Day tells the story of two rival gangs caught up in the underworld of drugs and guns. The movie was filmed around Birmingham and stars local actors.

Now police say they will place an advert ahead of any other screenings to highlight the real dangers inherent in gang-related criminality . The advert features an illuminated headstone with the catchline: Once upon a time, they were dying to join a gang.

The film's writer-director, Penny Woolcock, said: The film shows how people get sucked into that life and it clearly spells out the consequences, which is people end up dead or in prison. The film absolutely does not glamorise that lifestyle. It has a clear moral message.

A force spokesman added: Our general advice is for individual cinemas to make a responsible and informed decision based upon local circumstances and taking into account the views of their local communities.


1st November

 Offsite: One Law for the Rich...

Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth
Britain's libel laws are killing investigative journalism

See article from


30th October   

Updated: Censor for 1 Day...

Birmingham cinemas ban film on police advice
Link Here

Cinemas in Birmingham have been caught up in a bitter row between police and film makers as they were advised not to screen a controversial new film about city gangs.

1 Day , which is to go on general release next week, tells the story of two rival gangs of black youths who are caught up in the underworld of drugs and guns.

The film was shot on the streets of Handsworth with the cast recruited from nearby neighbourhoods.

The row between police and filmmakers reached boiling point last night when it's director, Penny Woolcock, claimed that Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas had all been advised by West Midlands Police not to screen the movie in Birmingham.

Woolcock, said: Censoring this film is shortsighted, shameful and lets a lot of people down. Even if 1-Day did glamorise gun violence, which it certainly does not, I do not think it is the function of the local police to go round saying what films should be shown and which ones shouldn't. Let people decide for themselves.

But Assistant Chief Constable Suzette Davenport strongly denied there had been official censorship from West Midlands Police. The assistant chief constable said she had spent all day trying to find out where the message had come from not to show the film: I would like to make it absolutely clear that West Midlands Police don't have any powers at all to censor. Organisationally, we haven't sent out a message to cinemas that they shouldn't screen this film, she said. [...but...]

I have always been consistent in saying that I am concerned it glamorises gangs and the impact this will have on the people of Birmingham.

Odeon, which has a cinema on New Street, said it was not showing the film after taking advice from West Midlands Police. It declined to comment further.

Passed at '15' for strong language and violence

See article from

To get a bit of perspective, the  BBFC have commented about the film:

1 Day is a drama-thriller that follows a frenzied 24 hours in the life of a gang member and drug dealer in Birmingham who must somehow find a large amount of money that he owes to his gang leader who has just been released from prison. The film was passed at 15 for strong language and violence.

The film contains numerous uses of strong language that feature in the dialogue and the lyrics of hip-hop songs accompanying the action, certainly too many to meet with the restrictions of the Guidelines at 12A/12 which state that the use of strong language (for example, 'fuck') must be infrequent . Consequently, the film was placed at the 15 category where the Guidelines allow for frequent use of such language.

In a film depicting the lives of characters involved in crime and gang rivalries, there are sequences of moderate threat as well as scenes where tensions break out into open violence that include the use of knives and guns. These represent moments of strong violence with sight of its bloody consequences which required the 15 category, but there is no undue dwelling on the infliction of pain or injury , or on the bloody detail, which might have presented a challenge to the Guidelines at 15 .

The film contains infrequent soft drug use as well as sight of hard drugs, including a scene which sees a character cooking up crack cocaine but this is portrayed without any significantly instructive detail. The presence of drugs has a contextual justification but the depictions of drug dealing and drug misuse do not carry any elements of overt promotion or encouragement and it is likely that they would have been permitted at 12A .

The film also contains moderate language and a moderate suggestion of sexual activity.

Update: Story of a Police Censor

30th October 2009. Based on article from

It seems that local police took umbrage at the portrayal of Birmingham violence in 1 Day , and the West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable, Suzette Davenport, appeared on television accusing filmmakers of glamorising violence .

She said: My starting-point is that it's fiction, but I think you do see some glamorisation of gang-related behaviour. The main character walks off with £100,000, leaving behind a carnage of dead bodies. It's like a shoot-out at the OK Corral.

The Odeon chain confirmed that it would not be showing the film in the city itself, although it will carry it in 10 cinemas nationwide. Cineworld has likewise opted out of a local screening, in spite of carrying it in more than 20 of its cinemas across the country, according to the film's distributors Vertigo. Only one major multiplex - Vue - which originally declined to show 1 Day in Birmingham, had a change of heart after a consultation process. And two smaller independent cinemas in the city will also show the film.

It emerged yesterday that a uniformed West Midlands police constable had taken it upon himself to speak to the manager of the Odeon in Birmingham and advised him, in a personal capacity, against screening 1 Day. The manager took the advice, word spread and other multiplexes followed. Davenport said the police officer in question was mortified by the consequences of his actions, but would not be suspended or reprimanded. [yeah yeah!]

She dismissed claims that the force had tried to implement a ban, but admitted that she had written to the BBFC in an attempt to have the film's certification raised from 15 to 18 years, but said her request had been denied. She had seen the film in a special screening.


28th October   

Comment: Out on a Limb...

Comedian under fire for jokes about injured soldiers
Link Here

Jimmy Carr has come under fire for joking about soldiers who lost their limbs in battle.

He has landed in trouble for a joke in his current Rapier Wit tour in which he says: Say what you like about these servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're going to have a fucking good Paralympic team in 2012.

However, Carr is a supporter of seriously injured troops - who are often known for their gallows humour - and has previously visited patients at Selly Oak military hospital in Birmingham and the Headley Court rehabilitation centre in Surrey.

His joke made the front page of the Sunday Express, as well as coverage in The Mail on Sunday and Daily Star Sunday.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer said: This was a remarkably dim and foolish thing to joke about. It's not funny and this man's career should end right now.

In a statement, Carr said: I've got nothing but respect for the young men and women who put their lives on the line for this country. I've visited Selly Oak and Headley Court on many occasions.

I'm sorry if anyone was offended but that's the kind of comedy I do. If a silly joke draws attention to the plight of these servicemen then so much the better. My intention was only to make people laugh.

Comment: Jimmy Carr and the pomposity of those professing outrage

28th October 2009. See article from by Dominic Lawson. Spotted by mediasnoops

There really should be a single word to describe people who are volubly outraged on behalf of someone they have never met. There is, I suppose, the term busybodies , but that doesn't quite capture the noise they make.

This week's target for vicarious outrage is the comedian Jimmy Carr. He had made the following remark in last Friday night's show at the Manchester Apollo theatre: Say what you like about servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're going to have a fucking good Paralympic team in 2012.

If you believe the suspiciously identical reports in various different newspapers, the 2,500-strong audience were stunned and gasped with shock . I'm more inclined to trust the reader who emailed one such paper to say, I was at the Manchester Apollo that Friday and the audience was not 'stunned into silence'. The place erupted in laughter.

...Read the full article


21st October   

National Security Censors...

Former British spy attempting to overturn MI5 book ban
Link Here

A former British spy is asking Britain's Supreme Court to overturn a decision by domestic intelligence agency MI5 to block him from publishing a book about his career.

Lawyers for the former MI5 officer, who is not named in court documents, told a hearing that he is seeking a judicial review of the decision.

Britain's government says publishing the book could threaten national security.


20th October   

Nothing 'Natural' in the Daily Mail...

Stephen Gately article seen by many as an anti-gay rant
Link Here

The Press Complaints Commission has received a record 22,000 complaints about Jan Moir's Daily Mail article about Stephen Gately. This is more complaints in a single weekend than the PCC has received in total in the past five years.

Moir's article, which was published the day before Gately's funeral in Dublin, provoked widespread outrage on the web. The original headline on the Mail Online website, Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death , was later amended to the print edition headline A strange, lonely and troubling death . The article has also prompted a complaint to the Metropolitan police.

Moir's article said Gately's death in Mallorca after a night out strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships .

It is understood that the PCC will be mindful of the attitudes of Gately's family and partner. They appear to be individually written complaints, a source said. The PCC has had no formal contact with the Daily Mail over the incident, the source added.

The PCC today stopped short of announcing an immediate investigation to see if its code of practice has been violated but said it would consider the 22,000 complaints. In this case the PCC could launch an investigation to see if Moir's article violated parts of its code that deals with intrusion into grief, accuracy, discrimination and homophobia.

On Friday advertisers including Marks & Spencer demanded that their advertising be removed from the webpage on which Moir's piece was published, although Mail Online had already taken the decision to remove banner ads.

Moir, who has won a British Press Award, made a statement defending her column late on Friday, saying it was not her intention to offend, blaming a heavily orchestrated internet campaign for the furore and adding that it was mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones .


17th October   

Updated: Super Injunctions...

Attempt to prevent Guardian publishing parliamentary proceedings fails
Link Here
Full story: Super Injunctions...Granting super powers to rich gaggers

An unprecedented attempt by a British oil trading firm to prevent the Guardian reporting parliamentary proceedings collapsed following a spontaneous online campaign to spread the information the paper had been barred from publishing.

Carter-Ruck, the law firm representing Trafigura, was accused of infringing the supremacy of parliament after it insisted that an injunction obtained against the Guardian prevented the paper from reporting a question tabled on Monday by the Labour MP Paul Farrelly.

Farrelly's question was about the implications for press freedom of an order obtained by Trafigura preventing the Guardian and other media from publishing the contents of a report related to the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast.

The Guardian was prevented from identifying Farrelly, reporting the nature of his question, where the question could be found, which company had sought the gag, or even which order was constraining its coverage.

But overnight numerous users of the social networking site Twitter posted details of Farrelly's question and by this morning the full text had been published on two prominent blogs as well as in the magazine Private Eye.

Carter-Ruck withdrew its gagging attempt by lunchtime, shortly before a 2pm high court hearing at which the Guardian was about to challenge its stance, with the backing of other national newspapers.

MPs from all three major parties condemned the firm's attempt to prevent the reporting of parliamentary proceedings. Farrelly told John Bercow, the Speaker : Yesterday, I understand, Carter-Ruck quite astonishingly warned of legal action if the Guardian reported my question. In view of the seriousness of this, will you accept representations from me over this matter and consider whether Carter-Ruck's behaviour constitutes a potential contempt of parliament?

The Commons question reveals that Trafigura has obtained a hitherto secret injunction, known as a super-injunction , to prevent disclosures about toxic oil waste it arranged to be dumped in west Africa in 2006, making thousands of people ill. Farrelly is asking Jack Straw, the justice secretary, about the implications for press freedom of a high court injunction obtained on 11 September 2009 by Trafigura on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura :

61 N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura. (293006)

62 N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will (a) collect and (b) publish statistics on the number of non-reportable injunctions issued by the High Court in each of the last five years. (293012)

63 N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what mechanisms HM Court Service uses to draw up rosters of duty judges for the purpose of considering time of the essence applications for the issuing of injunctions by the High Court.

How super-injunctions are used to gag investigative reporting

Based on article from

Injunctions have become one of the most effective tools powerful individuals and corporations reach for when they want to silence the media. In their simplest form, they prevent news organisations from reporting what happens in court, usually on the basis that doing so could prejudice a trial.

Super-injunctions that prevent news organisations from revealing the identities of those involved in legal disputes, or even reporting the fact that reporting restrictions have been imposed, have emerged recently. They grew out of family cases and then developed further as a result of the privacy law that has come into being in the UK on the back of the right to privacy enshrined in the 1998 Human Rights Act, itself based on the European convention on human rights.

That law has evolved through a series of high court rulings and was used by Max Mosley, the Formula One chief, last year to win damages from the News of the World when it revealed details about his sex life. But this privacy law, welcomed by some as a way of protecting against tabloid intrusion, has further boosted the use of injunctions whose terms of reference are far wider than ever before.

Libel lawyers Carter-Ruck and Schillings have proved adept at persuading judges that injunctions should now be granted on privacy grounds. Some tabloid newspapers are being served with a handful of such orders each week, according to media lawyers. 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.

Update: Injunction Lifted

17th October 2009. Based on article from

A suppressed report which details how an oil company dumped toxic waste in Africa that may cause serious burns has now been released following a parliamentary row over freedom of speech.

The study commissioned just weeks after the incident in West Africa concluded that the dumping would have been illegal under European pollution laws and suggests that the likely cause of the illness reported by locals was the significant release of potentially lethal gas.

The report had been kept secret after Trafigura, one of the world's largest independent oil trading firms, obtained a super injunction that threatened the centuries-old privilege of newspapers to report what MPs can say freely in the Commons.

On Friday night, as the High Court gagging order was lifted, senior figures at Trafigura admitted their approach may have been heavy-handed and insisted it had not been their intention to try to gag Parliament.


15th October   

Updated: Backing Simon Singh...

Events as Simon Singh's case goes to court
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

With English PEN and Index on Censorship, and with all your help in compiling case studies, we are putting together the case for reform of libel laws to stop other writers finding themselves in Simon Singh's position.

Meantime, this is a quick note to remind you that Simon Singh has his oral hearing on Wednesday 14th October at the Royal Courts of Justice. This is his last chance to try to overturn the early ruling on meaning in his case. The result will shape how he decides to continue. For a briefing see: Simon Singh background to next hearing . You can sign up to the legal blog twitter feed there too.

On Tuesday 13th October, from 7pm, Westminster Skeptics in the Pub is holding a public meeting on Simon's case so far, on his court hearing and the need for libel law reform. The meeting is organised by the lawyer and blogger David Allen Green and Simon Singh, Dr Ben Goldacre and the journalist Nick Cohen will be speaking at the Barley Mow pub, Horseferry Road, Westminster, London.

Simon Singh and Tracey Brown of Sense About Science will be speaking about the case and the libel chill in science and medicine on Thursday 15th October at the City University London and Association of British Science Writers debate on Science Journalism and Libel Law. They will be joined by John Kampfner of Index on Censorship, Dr Ben Goldacre and Duncan Lamont, libel lawyer and Head of Media & Entertainment at Charles Russell. See details .

Do watch our website and Twitter feed (@freedebate) for updates on Simon's case and the campaign.

Update: Leave to Appeal Granted

15th October 2009. Based on article from
See also article from

This morning at the Royal Courts of Justice Simon Singh was granted leave to appeal the preliminary ruling on meaning in his libel case with the BCA. In his judgement Lord Justice Laws said There is no dispute that [Simon's original article] is in the public interest, with no suspicion of malice and there is no question of good faith .

In a scathing rebuttal of Mr Justice Eady's previous judgement in the case, Lord Justice Laws said Eady had risked swinging the balance of rights too far in favour of the right to reputation and against the right to free expression. Lord Justice Laws described Eady's judgement, centred on Singh's use of the word bogus in an article published by the Guardian newspaper, as legally erroneous .

Simon Singh's statement: This is a great result, but we now have to win the appeal…and then we have to win the trial. So there is still a long battle ahead in my case and in reforming the libel laws. Thank you to everyone for all your support and please use today's success to encourage others to sign up to supporting libel reform.


15th October   

Update: British Freedom of Speech Belittled...

California passes a law to ignore UK libel judgements
Link Here
Full story: Libel Tourism...UK prosecutions of books published abroad

The state of California has banned libel tourism in an effort to resist the influence of British judges.

Its governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law which will allow its courts to refuse to enforce libel judgments handed down in London.

He acted following alarm in the U.S. that powerful individuals use British courts to silence criticism and prevent investigation of their activities around the world.

California legislators said their courts must have power to block libel judgments from Britain which has become a jurisdictional Mecca for the rich and famous .

And in a verdict deeply embarrassing for the British government, they said the libel tourism law must be passed to pressure foreign jurisdictions like Britain to change its laws to place greater protections on free speech .

The California law means that courts in all the most important U.S. cities now have laws to shield Americans from damages and gagging writs ordered in the High Court in London.

New York and the state of Illinois have already passed libel tourism legislation and other states, including Florida, are in the process.

The California law gives its courts the right to refuse to enforce defamation judgements made abroad unless it is shown that the foreign court had the same or better freedom of speech protection than is given by the US constitution.


14th October   

Update: Growing Up...

Tate Modern replace Spiritual America exhibit
Link Here

From a Tate Modern press release regarding the Richard Prince work Spiritual America:

In consultation with the artist, Richard Prince, Tate has replaced Spiritual America 1983 with a later version of the work made by him in collaboration with Brooke Shields, Spiritual America IV 2005 . The room reopens to the public on Tuesday 13 October 2009. Tate is in ongoing discussions with legal advisors about the catalogue.

Well, if the work is deemed to be indecent, the Tate will have no option but to destroy all copies of the catalogue. Maybe they could call in the Met to do the burning...


14th October   

Update: Fitna for Travel to Britain...

Wilders wins appeal against Home Office ban on visiting Britain
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-right politician, has won his appeal against the Government's refusal to let him enter Britain.

Wilders challenged the decision by then home secretary Jacqui Smith which led to him being turned back at Heathrow Airport.

The ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal means the head of the Freedom Party, who is accused of Islamophobia, could now be allowed into the country.

He was due to show his short film Fitna , which criticises the Koran as a fascist book , at the House of Lords in February. But Smith said his presence had the potential to threaten community harmony and therefore public safety .

A Home Office spokesman said the Government was disappointed by the ruling: The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence. We still maintain this view.'


11th October   

Royal Book Banner...

Fergie has change of heart over uncovering brutality in Turkish orphanages
Link Here

A book about the brutality of Turkish orphanages that landed the Duchess of York in a diplomatic row is to be published - even though the Queen's lawyers tried to get it banned.

Sarah Ferguson penned the preface to Under Cover , written by ITN investigative reporter Chris Rogers, when she initially fully co-operated on the book with the backing of Buckingham Palace.

But she later instructed lawyers to halt its publication after her involvement sparked a major row between Turkey and Britain. Turkey claims the Duchess, who has also made a television documentary about conditions in orphanages there, entered the country and filmed illegally.

Last month she appointed Farrer & Co, the Queen's lawyers, claiming much of the book was her copyright.

But last night publishers Authentic Media insisted the book, which contains in-depth interviews with the Duchess about the state of Turkey's orphanages, will be published early next year.

Lawyers acting for author Rogers and his publishers are understood to have given Farrer & Co a 30-day deadline to present their full case for a ban. The deadline has now passed and a spokesman for the publishers said: We are passionate about highlighting the issues raised in the book and were disappointed there was a move to block its publication. We are happy that publication is going ahead.

The book would not have been possible without Sarah Ferguson's dedication and unstinting co-operation. The fact she has pledged so much of her life to helping these children is a tribute to her and her family. Had the book not been published it would have been a tragedy for the children's charities to which much of the proceeds of sales will go.


10th October

 Offsite: What Do You Think?...

Link Here
Taking the banned picture of Brooke Shields to the Tate to let gallery visitors decide for themselves.

See article from


9th October

 Offsite: Threatening on YouTube...

Link Here
Can a rap song pervert the course of justice?

See article from


8th October   

Online as On-Air...

BBC online news to follow broadcast guidelines
Link Here

The BBC Trust today unveiled a new set of editorial guidelines that could lead to changes to the content its journalists can post online.

The draft guidelines state that: Nothing should be written by [BBC] journalists and presenters that would not be said on-air.

Some industry observers are already referring to that as the Jeremy Bowen clause . The BBC's highly-regarded Middle East editor, was censured by the Trust in April for loose phrasing in a potted history of post-war Israel, which appeared on the BBC News website.

Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists and presenters on such matters, the new guidance says. This applies as much to online content as it does to news bulletins. Nothing should be written by journalists and presenters that would not be said on-air .


3rd October   

Update: A Hard Life...

Hardcore images at the Tate Modern wind up the nutters
Link Here

The Tate Modern is displaying dozens of hardcore pornographic images in an exhibition already dogged by controversy over a naked picture of Brooke Shields.

However, visitors to the opening day of the Pop Life exhibition were confronted with other, far more explicit imagery, including a video installation of a female artist, Andrea Fraser, who paid a stranger $20,000 to have sexual intercourse with her on camera.

A room devoted to the artist Jeff Koons features giant canvases of hardcore sexual acts, while another room is lined with images taken from pornographic magazines. They are the work of Cosey Fanni Tutti, a one-time porn actress formerly known as Christine Newby.

The installations carried an over-18s warning but gallery staff made no attempt to verify visitors' ages, and many of those viewing the exhibition on its first day were teenagers.

Hugh McKinney, chairman of the National Family Campaign, said the works had no place in a gallery visited by families. You have to ask if this is appropriate material for a gallery as prestigious as the Tate. There is a fine line between art and pornography in some cases. Families visit the Tate, and there is a real possibility that under-age and impressionable young people could see these works.

The room which was to have displayed the Brooke Shields picture by artist Richard Prince stood empty yesterday. The Tate temporarily withdrew the image following a visit by officers from the Metropolitan Police obscene publications unit, but is debating whether to reinstate it with a more detailed warning about its content displayed on the wall outside.


2nd October   

Comment: Over-reacting Plods...

Converting a grey area into a definite no-no
Link Here

What have we come to when Mr Plod can walk into a major art gallery and demand the withdrawal of a work on display?

I wish that the management had had the courage to tell Plod to do his worst.

An attempt to prosecute the director of the Tate galleries for paedophile pornography might just have made people wake up.

Offsite: Were police right to warn Tate Modern?

See article from by John Ozimek

As the law stands, the Met almost certainly have a point. The Protection of Children Act 1978 makes it illegal to possess or distribute indecent images of children. Indecency is not defined precisely in law, that is for a jury to determine, but over the years the courts have evolved a categorisation of imagery that ranges from level 1 (least serious) to level 5 (most serious).

For an image to be deemed illegal at level one, Crown Prosecution Service Guidelines require only that it include elements of erotic posing.

Level one is problematic. First, because it is at the lower end of what society considers wrong: in fact, it includes images that significant sections of society do not consider to be wrong at all. So it is the place where police and authorities are most likely to be accused of over-reacting. full article


1st October   

Update: Spiritual America and Miserable Britain...

Brooke Shields image taken down at Tate Modern exhibition
Link Here

A display due to go on show to the public at Tate Modern has been withdrawn after a warning from Scotland Yard that the naked image of actor Brooke Shields aged 10 and heavily made up could break obscenity laws.

The work, by American artist Richard Prince and entitled Spiritual America, was due to be part of the London gallery's new Pop Life exhibition . It has been removed from display after a visit to Tate Modern by officers from the obscene publications unit of the Metropolitan police.

The exhibition had been open to members of the Tate today before opening to the public tomorrow. A Tate spokeswoman confirmed that the display had been temporarily closed down and the catalogue for the exhibition withdrawn from sale. The work had been accompanied by a warning, and the Tate had sought legal advice before displaying it.

The decision by officers to visit Tate Modern is understood to have been made after police chiefs saw coverage of the exhibition in newspapers, rather than as a result of complaints.

Officers met gallery bosses and are also understood to have consulted the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether the image broke obscenity laws.

A Scotland Yard source said the actions of its officers were common sense and were taken to pre-empt any breach of the law. The source said the image of Shields was of potential concern because it was of a 10-year-old, and could be viewed as sexually provocative.

The work has been shown recently in New York, without attracting major controversy, where it gave the title to the 2007 retrospective of Prince's work at the Guggenheim Museum. Prince has described the image as resembling a body with two different sexes, maybe more, and a head that looks like it's got a different birthday.

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