Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Guardian gagging order backfires on Trafigura

The Streisand effect is when in trying to ban something you, in fact amplify it and bring it, inadvertently to a wider audience. Named after singer Barbra Streisand it is of course is not a new tactic as record companies from the 70's knew. Getting a record banned on radio or TV was great for business and often guaranteed top 10 sales.

In the latest example of the phenomenon is brought to us by Trafigura, an oil trading company based in London which has been trying to gag media coverage worldwide of illegal toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast. Despite repeated claims by the company that the waste was completely harmless Trafigura agreed to pay $100 million to 31,000 victims affected by exposure to toxic oil residues dumped just outside the country's capital, Abidjan. Since then Trafigura through it's legal representatives, Carter-Ruck has been waging a campaign across the globe to stop exposure of the incident. This has included law to gag media outlets in the UK, US, Norway and Holland. The latest round has included action against the Guardian newspaper which as it says in today's edition,

"Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to 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. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations."

If Trafigura and Carter-Ruck hope to keep the lid on this story then I think they have sadly underestimated the new media landscape that the internet is in the process of creating. Such attempts to bury a story now produce exactly the opposite results as Trafigure already knows, finding itself at the centre of a web based maelstrom. Whatever happens in courts today the deaths and injuries caused by the toxic waste in landfills in Abidjan is likely to fill front pages for days to come.

In the time it took to write this artilce over 5000 new tweets tagged #trafigura have appeared on Twitter and has become one of the top trending topics on the micro-blogging service.

2 comments:

Tosin said...

38 Degrees are currently running a campaign on this. Take action now by emailing your MP and asking them to take a stand and stop the bullying action of Trafigura. Take action now, it only takes 2 mins. Go to:

38degrees.org.uk/stop-the-gag

ahrcanum said...

Just goes to show ya that freedom of the press has taken on a whole new meaning in the internet age.