Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Guardian gagged

Picking up my copy of the Guardian this morning I was shocked to see the front page headline “Guardian gagged from reporting parliament” which is quite chilling. You can read this piece here, but in essence it is that: 
The Guardian is prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds;
The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question;
The Guardian is prevented from saying what the question is;
The paper is prevented from saying which government minister might answer it, and where the question can be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament.
It takes less than two minutes on the web to find further details – reported by a site other than the Guardian -  and a link to the official parliamentary website which lists today’s parliamentary order paper.  Here you can find the four questions being raised by Paul Farrelly MP, the Labour member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. See questions nos. 60-63
The key word in those questions is ‘Trafigura’ and that leads right back to the major story the Guardian reported earlier this year. Trafigura is a company trading in energy, including oil.  The following is extracted from a longer piece in the Guardian 14th May 2009
Documents have emerged which detail for the first time the potentially lethal nature of toxic waste dumped by British-based oil traders in one of west Africa's poorest countries.
More than 30,000 people from Ivory Coast claim they were affected by the ­poisonous cocktail and are currently bringing Britain's biggest-ever group lawsuit against the company, Trafigura.
The firm chartered the ship, Probo Koala, which transported the cargo to Ivory Coast in 2006. An official Dutch analysis of samples of the waste carried by the Probo Koala indicate that it contained approximately 2 tonnes of hydrogen sulphide, a killer gas with a characteristic smell of rotten eggs.
The documents have been obtained by the BBC. One chemist told BBC Newsnight last night that if the same quantity and mixture of chemicals had been dumped in Trafalgar Square: "You would have people being sick for several miles around … millions of people."
Trafigura, which claims to be one of the world's biggest independent oil ­traders, originally issued statements in 2006 denying the tanker was carrying toxic waste. It said it merely contained routine "slops" – the dirty water from tank washing. Executives of the company lined up to specifically deny that the waste contained any hydrogen sulphide.
The full story, including internal emails, letters and video reports from Ivory Coast is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/trafigura-probo-koala   Having prevented the Guardian from reporting the story (or indeed, the story about the story) it is now all over Twitter and the wider web.

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