Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

SUPER INJUNCTION MADNESS CONTINUES: Ryan Giggs named in Parliament

After Parliamentary privilege upset Fred Goodwin’s retirement party back in March, the debate over super injunctions has gathered pace. The role of Free Speech VS family privacy; freedom of the press; Parliament VS Judiciary over law making have continued to ramp up in intensity.

I have to admit to being a little uneasy over the whole thing.  I am in, shall we say two minds over the issue.

What is for certain however, is the law as it stands is ridiculous and is being made an ass of.  Which in one respect makes me belly laugh, but on the other hand is rather disconcerting.

John Hemmings has just been told off in Parliament for using his Parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs, making even the BBC to discuss if they can name him in their reports which they have decided so far not to do since the Sunday Herald published his picture on the front page yesterday.

The immediate problem is how the law is completely useless because anyone who really wants to know, can find out about the juicier of the super injunctions. The internet and social media have usurped the courts and the law in this regard.

The fundamentals however, have not changed.  It is still up to the courts to decide the balance between freedom of speech and privacy as laid down in the human rights act.  If they cannot use a super injunction, what are they to do?

Some say that anyone in the public eye should just deal with it.  Some celebrities take the view that you take the rough with the smooth.  However, when I hear the likes of Kelvin Mackenzie going through the motions basically arguing the great freedom of the press line, when actually we are talking about, on the whole, tabloids making money out of peoples private lives – who shagged who – and in many cases simply lies to sell newspapers, is it really about freedom of the press?

There is a certain section of the press who will stop at nothing to get a story regardless of who it hurts or the lies it tells.  This part of the press gives everyone else a bad name and encourages those in the public eye to seek these injunctions.  In some ways I don’t blame them.

Then this leads to another problem.  Only the rich can do this, which means, as with Imogen Thomas, that can take the flak, while the rich celebrity is protected.  This leads to other aspects of the law, where you need masses amount of money to sue the newspapers.  There is redress and privacy for the rich and not for ordinary mortals.

Then there is the problem outlined by many Parliamentarians stating that the courts should not be bringing in a privacy law.  Yet this is the fault of the very same Parliamentarians who have refused to face up to this problem by passing a human rights act and leaving it to the courts to interpret the law.  In effect, Parliament has passed legislation and considered the implications, they just didn’t consider it very well! Who’d of thunk it.

Then there are those like Ian Hislop who think that judges being a part of the establishment will more than likely impose an injunction and are not the best to adjudicate on the problem.  If the Judges are not the ones who should adjudicate then who should? If we cannot trust judges should we trust Parliament to bring in a privacy law?

Could you imagine anything worse than politicians deciding what should remain private, especially after what they would see as being victimised by the press over the expenses scandal.

The whole thing is a mess, and the law is about 30 years behind the times.

The press often cite the Trafigura incident and the super injunction obtained.  A disgrace that put into jeopardy the public interest.  But does that justify a free for all on the private lives of anyone who ends up in a newspaper?

I don’t think anyone has an answer, maybe a free for all is all we can have, but this will rumble on as the courts seem determined to at least try to maintain their authority on this matter.  The sad truth however, is that the rest of us living in the 21st Century have realised that they don’t really have any.

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ANDREW MARR BAILS OUT OF THE SUPER-INJUNCTION ELITE

Andrew Marr, the BBC senior journalist has admitted that he felt “uneasy” over seeking a super-injunction to prevent the reporting of his extra-marital affair 8 years ago. He has now relented and allowed the cat out of the bag.

Other high profile BBC presenters and journalists have been identified on the grapevine of twitter and blog sites of obtaining these super-injunctions allowing the rich and famous to gag the press and any discussion whatsoever over their affairs.  One injunction has even stated that the injunction is against the “whole world” making it the most widespread and indiscriminate injunction yet.

David Cameron unwisely waded in earlier in the week when he stated that Parliament should be the body that decides on privacy rather than the judiciary. Of course this concept is completely inaccurate.  In one sense Parliament has already ruled on this by incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights and allowing the courts to make judgements on whether information has a right to be private or is in the public interest for people to know.  Balancing these 2 articles of the convention, between a right to family life and press freedom is difficult (articles 8 and 10). Parliament by sanctioning this convention HAS given it’s consent.

The problems with privacy laws goes to the heart of democracy and open society.  On the one hand deciding what is “of interest to the public” and what is “in the public interest” are 2 different things.  People do have a right to privacy for their families.  However, we do not want to stifle investigative journalism and freedom of speech which is important to the way our democracy works. Yet the title tattle and dishonesty of journalists that we have seen over the phone hacking scandal calls into question what really is in the public interest.

Andrew Marr has created a new problem in that he is someone who is meant to seek out the hypocrisy and untruths politicians tell us yet has nullified the press in reporting on his own private life.  It puts him in a difficult position which he now acknowledges.

The libel laws in this country are also a sham, as the libel tourism shows by the rich and famous.  The super-injunction culture has now got out of control when Fred Goodwin can get an injunction to prevent people calling him a Banker! 

One of the problems as pointed out by Ian Hislop is that Judges are often happy to impose the injunctions siding with the establishment and privacy.  While it is generally only the rich who can afford representation to either sue publications or seek the injunction allowing ordinary mortals to be out in the cold and open to the bad treatment that the rich seek to avoid.

Maybe this whole issue is becoming null and void anyway, as the internet is the real guardian of freedom of speech.  It only takes about 20 minutes to find the names of the most talked about footballers, TV presenters and actors that are rumoured to have sought injunctions.

Whatever happens, what we MUST ensure is that those with money and power can be held to account for their wrong doing.  On that basis I would have to come down on the side of public interest and press freedom pretty much every time.

HAS FRANCE BECOME THE NEW FASCIST FACE OF EUROPE?

As from today it is illegal to wear the full face veil in France.  The French have now enacted the law that prevents women from being seen in public wearing the veil, otherwise called the Burqa or Hijab, covering the face for cultural reasons.

The state has been generous enough to allow people to wear these items in the privacy of their own homes or as a passenger in a car.  Some reports have stated that they would not be able to “drive” the car, and they won’t be arrested for getting into the car.  How tolerant.

I sometimes feel I am walking into a 3D Monty Python sketch, in short you really couldn’t make it up.

Personally, I do not care for these pieces of clothing.  They seem backward looking and repressive in nature, but really that is not the point.  To ban a piece of clothing because somehow it is not deemed French enough just seems ridiculous.

Having read a piece in the Telegraph by William Langley which I personally felt was quite shocking, what was worse however was the almost unanimous points of view expressed in the comments.

I will no doubt be roundly set upon for writing this piece, and branded one of the PC brigade, but the intolerance, arrogance and nationalistic nature shown by this law and those that support it sounds like a throwback to a bygone era.

I applaud the French for separating their state from religion and for keeping religion out of their education system, a secular society in my view can only be a good thing, but is this really to do with being a secular society?

I could understand the need to insist on people not covering their faces in airports or banks for security reasons.  Having a reasonable and proportional response to genuine practical difficulties would be a sensible action by any society.  However, to completely ban a cultural item of clothing, however distasteful we may deem it is surely simply an act of intolerance and nothing to do with any real problem at hand.

The press are alive with talk of the need for Sarkozy to appease the rising right wing for his electoral success.  Is this a good enough reason to ban the veil?

The rhetoric we continually hear over the Muslim faith in some quarters is alarming.  We are told that Islam is intolerant and seeks to usurp other religions.  To dominate societies in which it breeds.  But is this not exactly what all religions do?

Certainly, Christianity has been one of the most intolerant and reprehensible religions in the past, wanting to spread it’s word and replace other faiths at will.  It’s history is littered with genocide and torture.

Other religions have an arrogance that their religion is the right one and everyone should see the “light”, and follow their prescription of faith and life.

Should we then ban all religions?

Or perhaps we should just ban certain aspects of life we disagree with and ensure that people only practice these hideous ways of life in a private residence.  We could outlaw homosexuality again, but allow it in blacked out cars or private homes, just so long as you don’t have a gay “lifestyle” in public.  Would that make us feel more British or French?

It just seems ridiculous to me that a society should ban an article of clothing from all public places however disagreeable we may find it culturally.

We all make mistakes in life, and modify or change our beliefs.  I profoundly disagree with women being subservient to men or feeling that they have to hide their face or bodies because men will not be able to control themselves if they do.  It is insulting to men and women. But in the end, it is a matter of choice and personal beliefs.

The narrative which is being written by this type of law is more divisive and unhealthy.  It will not deal with the underlying problems of French society which is divided socially and culturally because of a multitude of reasons.  Ghettoisation of communities is a problem in many European countries, including the UK.  In France it is particularly prevalent.  Banning the Burqa will not address the problems of inequality and discrimination, and may well add to it.

Europe appears to be heading toward a confrontation with Islam, largely due to fear and maybe a realisation that the future may well be toward the east and no longer with the west in so many ways.  Culturally, economically and politically.

The banning of the veil is a retrograde step that is fascistic in nature, discriminatory and unhelpful.  Those calling on the ban here in the UK are fighting the wrong battles within our society and are going to cause more and not less intolerance.

In the end this policy is intolerant, authoritarian and right wing; it panders to the worst of human nature, that is fear of something they do not understand.  Just because we do not like something does not mean we have to ban it.  To make matters worse it is of course unenforceable.

MARCH FOR THE ALTERNATIVE: March 26 London 2011

The time has come for an alternative to be put forward.  Labour has failed to make the case, impotent Balls and Miliband have left it to the rest of us to shout loudest and make a case.

Sadly I cannot be with the marching thousands today in London, I feel very guilty about this, however I am certainly there in spirit and thinking of the ways we can oppose the devastating cuts we are about to endure and how we can challenge the economic orthodoxy we have endured for the last 30 years which marches on in all the political parties.

The Virtual Protest site gives an opportunity to be involved which is an excellent idea.  have a look if you have not seen it.  The images are very creative.

I sincerely hope that there will be a big following at the march so that the government realises what it is up against.  This will probably be the only time society can show just how against the course this government has taken we are, and how the lies it has espoused and the lack of mandate it has, de-legitimises it’s actions.

A big turn out today, without violence will show the coalition it has tough times ahead.

May the 5th will also be a key date in the diary.  But with such few alternatives to vote for, it will be difficult other than a protest vote to make a dent in the arrogance of the coalition.

Good luck with the March.

FRED THE SHRED, FRED GOODWIN THE BANKER AND SUPER-INJUNCTIONS: There are many worse names he is called!!

For the article on Fred Goodwin losing his Knighthood see here

So here we go, this may end up being a rant on a Thursday afternoon, but why not?

According to the Guardian article here http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/mar/10/fred-goodwin-superinjunction-banking the Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has used his Parliamentary privilege to announce that Fred Goodwin has applied for and . . . er . . . . yes been granted a Super-Injunction to prevent him from amongst other things being identified as a Banker!

Has the world gone completely mad, or am I turning into a middle aged Daily Mail reader all of a sudden?

So now the press is not allowed to call him a banker, or report on the fact he has an injunction preventing him from being identified as one.  The full details of this particular injunction obviously cannot be discussed, so we don’t know what indiscretions he wishes people not to know.

Not content with contributing to the near complete collapse of the financial sector of the UK economy; or indeed the entire UK economy; and causing thousands of redundancies; public sector pay freezes and billions of pounds of public sector cuts that will harm the economy and harm the most vulnerable in our society – apparently this is all a trifle and he needs to spend MORE of our money, taking up the judiciaries time to allow a super injunction for the super rich to not be called by his previous profession.

Some have called this “absurd”, I would use slightly stronger language than that.  It certainly shows how certain people in our society who have all the privileges in the world, show how detached from reality they really are.

This comes after more news this week showed a massive gap between bonuses for bankers in the UK and the profits obtained by their institutions, see http://bit.ly/fugCbd. After Mervyn King confirmed how detached from reality the Bankers are, see http://bit.ly/h9YW2X.

Today the chat on the likes of Twitter is of Bankers waving pound notes at the save the NHS protests, just another insult to many already received.

Super-injunctions are:

An injunction obtained in a secret convening of the court where in the result, the court file, the names of the parties and even the terms of the injunction order are secret except as between parties, counsel, the judge and court staff.

They prevent the disclosure of the identities of those involved and the disclosure that an injunction exists at all. They tend to be used by the rich and famous to prevent their “dirty linen” being aired in public.  But more insidiously  can be used by multinational companies to prevent the reporting of disgusting acts of corporate vandalism as with the oil trading firm Trafigura gagging the Guardian over its reporting of the dumping of toxic waste being in Ivory Coast.

The UK is a laughing stock throughout the world as we are used as a libel tourist destination.  When newspapers dig around for a story somewhere in the world, they are told to stop digging or they will “see them in court”, in the UK that is.

The government is so keen, like many previous governments to pass as many laws as possible, to carry through an agenda before they lose an election. Maybe they should spend a little time to deal with the misuse of laws first before labouring us under the weight of yet more.

As asked by the Liberal Democrat MP in Parliament today –  is it that “there’s one rule for the rich like Fred Goodwin and one rule for the poor?”.  I think we all know the answer to this sadly.