Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 15:31 UK

How injunctions threaten press freedom

An injunction served on the Guardian would have had the effect of stopping any reports by the paper that the MP Paul Farrelly had tabled a Parliamentary question about the oil traders Trafigura and its solicitors Carter-Ruck. Subsequently, the banned question was spread by bloggers and on micro-blogging site Twitter. Commentators across the web look at what so-called super-injunctions mean for the freedom of the press and if sharing news on the web makes injunctions meaningless.

Niall Paterson in the Sky News blog says the injunction highlights the rise of common law privacy protection and the effect that judge-made law has had on the journalist's ability to function.

Professor of journalism Roy Greenslade says on his Guardian blog and in the Evening Standard that the injunction had the polar opposite effect of its intention. But the super-injunction obtained in secrecy that must then remain secret is a severe inhibition on press freedom, especially considering newspapers are now finding it too costly to fight off injunctions.

Ian Douglas in the Telegraph says that when Trafigura became one of the most commonly-occurring words on Twitter it became clear that the court was powerless against public communication.

The editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop, published the parliamentary question. Hislop says on Radio 4's PM programme the idea of a firm of London lawyers changing an ancient parliamentary right was disgraceful. He adds that in the last few years lawyers have given up on using libel and now use privacy laws, which in his experience can take six months to appeal, making it censorship through judicial process.

The Editor of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger says Trafigura thought it was buying silence but a mixture of old and new media made this case notorious and one which should be taught to would-be journalists.

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