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Gag on UK's "Guardian" newspaper lifted

IPI's UK National Committee chairman calls ban 'surreal'

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, Tuesday 13 October - The United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper was on Monday slapped with a gag order preventing it from reporting on a question a parliamentarian is due to ask in the House of Commons later this week, the newspaper reported. The gag order was lifted late on Tuesday morning.

The question relates to an injunction brought against the Guardian by the law firm Carter-Ruck on behalf of commodities traders Trafigura, preventing the newspaper from reporting on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura ( ).

The question, tabled by Labour MP Paul Farrelly and published in Monday's Commons order papers, concerned whether press freedom had been taken into account before the imposition of the injunction.

According to the Guardian, a ban on reporting on parliamentary proceedings would have "called into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights."

Speaking to IPI before the ban was lifted, Peter Preston, Chairman of IPI's UK National Committee and former editor-in-chief of the Guardian, said: "This ban is not only unique in any journalist's memory, it is also surreal. Britain likes to think of itself as a place where freedoms are cherished - but British law, as a matter of first instinct, suppresses news until it is forced to think again, often by Europe.

"And now the right of a MP to question a minister and have that questioning reported is now put in pawn. Somebody out there is weeping for the reputation of British justice - but they are also laughing derisively at this pathetic spectacle. The louder the laughter sweeps round the globe, the quicker our judges will have to think again."

IPI Director David Dadge said: "Although we are obviously pleased that the gag order has been lifted, we are still concerned about the precedent set here.

"As it appears that the ban was not overturned by the court, but rather by those seeking to silence the Guardian, the possibility remains that others may seek to use the same measures to restrain newspapers from reporting on parliamentary proceedings, if those proceedings shed critical light on them.

"It is fundamental to a country's free press that journalists are permitted to report on the issues discussed by their lawmakers in parliament."

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