A lot of hyperbole is given over in this country to the idea that we’re somehow drifting into a police state. Some of it is valid, much of it isn’t – Jacqui Smith may have justified the Metropolitan Police’s arrest of shadow cabinet member Damian Green earlier in the year, but where is she now? The police may have been used a number of times this year to attack violently protest groups which the state decided were behaving contrary to its interests, but the furore was so great they’re certainly not operating overtly in such a way at present. Peter Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill however in its current form would give him powers the likes of which the Chinese would envy:
What is the problem with clause 11 that I am getting so alarmed about it? It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H which would, if passed, give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State. It begins:
(1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—Pausing there. Note that this says nothing at all about copyright infringement. For example the power could be used to:
- order ISP’s to block any web page found on the Internet Watch Foundation’s list
- block specific undesireable sites (such as wikileaks)
- block specific kinds of traffic or protocols, such as any form of peer-to-peer
- throttle the bandwidth for particular kinds of serivce or to or from particular websites.
In short, pretty much anything.
I do not exagerrate. The definition of a “technical obligation” and “technical measure” are inserted by clause 10:
A “technical obligation”, in relation to an internet service provider, is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against particular subscribers to its service.A “technical measure” is a measure that— (a) limits the speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber; (b) prevents a subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material, or limits such use; (c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or (d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.As you can see blocking wikileaks is simply a matter of applying a technical measure against all subscribers of any ISP.
Surely something must limit this power you ask? It seems not. The Secretary of State may make an order if “he considers it appropriate” in view of:
(a) an assessment carried out or steps taken by OFCOM under section 124G; or (b) any other consideration.Where “any other consideration” could be anything.
Francis Davey’s superb analysis of the bill is truly terrifying. The Digital Economy Bill would not just give Mandelson (or his successors) the power to ban say child porn sites immediately, but Wikileaks or any other site the state had issues with as well – on a whim. The power would not be limited by judicial or parliamentary scrutiny – it would be absolute. You’d have no idea he’d blocked the site, you’d have no comeback against him, and in short this would give government the ability to censor the internet as and when it saw fit in the most draconian manner imaginable. Davey’s right when he says this isn’t even about censorship – it’s a continuation of the regular New Labour attack on the rule of law and evidence based policy making. He (and they) must be stopped in this mad quest, because freedom of speech really is under threat, and if passed for example all the twitter campaigning the likes of which have shown some effectiveness against particular villains in the last year would be made futile by this bill.
No doubt the government will trot out it’s common spiel that there are no current plans to use this element of the bill, but if such powers aren’t needed then why develop them? History has always shown that powers when available are always used – RIPA, SOCPA, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, you name it. Government agencies will line up to say the abuses of such powers weren’t what they intended, yet their very existence has led to local government and the Home Office to stamp all over civil liberties, be it against photography of public buildings in public areas or the right to protest itself. If Mandelson is allowed to bring about what’s contained in this bill we will move one step further towards a genuine police state, and that’s something we should all fear.
It would be unthinkable to see laws passed in Washington or EU advocating the death penalty for homosexuality, but Uganda is rushing headlong into a homophobic abyss:
The proposed law is more a rant against homosexuality and the west than a workable piece of legislation intended for Uganda itself. Much of it consists of a list of unfounded claims, starting with the statement that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic”. Infamously, it calls for the execution of gay men found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – by which it means those who are HIV positive, or who have sex with someone who is under 18 or disabled. The bill may be amended during its passage through parliament to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, but that change would be only a gesture to spare the blushes of Uganda’s aid donors. If passed – which looks likely, since its sponsor is a member of Uganda’s ruling party – the bill will continue to write hate into law.
To say that acceptance of homosexuality is a ‘liberal’ or ‘Western’ perspective is essentially to collude in the abuse of gay people around the world. Of course being gay is an innate and immutable characteristic, and to propose the death penalty for HIV positive men and jail for everyone else isn’t just immoral it’s backward. Some will say such a statement is racist, but when was it true that all Ugandans, Africans or black people were homophobic? On the contrary, considering the wide-ranging dangers the bill poses, should we not be allying ourselves with Ugandans opposed to this hate law?
David Bahati, Ndorwa County West minister of parliament, tabled the Bill saying Uganda needed comprehensive legislation to prohibit any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex.
The Bill, according to Bahati, seeks to plug gaps in the Ugandan constitution, and stipulate that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Other unions will not be recognised. And if same sex couples are married abroad, they face life imprisonment.
Practising homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda and is listed in the penal code, though police say it is hard to investigate this crime because “homosexuals operate under cover”.
But the new Bill now forces people in authority to report offences to the police within 24 hours, or they themselves will face fines or up to three years in prison.
Anyone found guilty of committing homosexuality, or advocating homosexuality to a group or assembly, will face a prison sentence. The penalties are up to 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $5,500 or both.
The Bill also seeks extra territorial jurisdiction and will apply to any Ugandan involved in a LGBT relationship outside of the country. The Bill also seeks to extradite any Ugandan guilty of the offences it lists.
Under the terms of Britain’s Extradition Act Uganda is covered as a category 2 territory, which, whilst not allowing the extradition of an HIV positive Ugandan, would certainly allow for the extradition of any other Ugandan covered by the country’s gay hate legislation. Should it pass, the Home Office must make it clear that the Act will not be used to allow the infringement of human rights by the Ugandan government, and separately that gay asylum seekers will under no circumstances be returned to Uganda.
This is a law attacking basic human rights and should it pass it must have consequences. The Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL) acknowledges the scope of this attack:
“In reality this would involve Uganda withdrawing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
The Swedes, who currently hold the rotating EU presidency, and who donate $50 annually to Uganda, have said they’ll rescind their annual contribution should the law pass. Britain should not just call for the country to be immediately suspended from the Commonwealth, but she should follow Sweden’s lead.
Do you think it’s an act of insanity for a police officer to stop and search someone taking a photograph of a sunset? Tell that story to any reasonable person and they’ll say you made it up, but the truth is stranger than fiction. Matthew Parris recounts the story:
He [BBC photographer Jeff Overs] was there [Andrew Marr Show] to describe an attempt by the Metropolitan Police to stop him photographing a sunset over St Paul’s Cathedral. The officer had been acting, she said, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. She’d been stopping loads of people taking pictures that afternoon “and nobody’s complained”. I mentioned that I’d been moved on from among the pigeons in Trafalgar Square when recording (into something no bigger than a Dictaphone) for a radio programme about wild animals in London. Mariella said she thought it was sinister.
I think it’s worse than sinister. It’s plumb stupid. Is there anything you could call a presiding human intelligence at work in our counter-terrorism operations? Has nobody in the Met heard of Google Street View? Do senior officers talk to junior officers about priorities, and if so, do they think it likely that al-Qaeda would use operatives carrying professional photographic equipment, rather than disguised as tourists with mobile phones? Do they think that if an officer has reason to suspect someone of taking pictures for the purposes of terrorism, the appropriate response could ever be just to tell them to stop?
For those of you eager to find out what the plods are and aren’t allowed to do as regards photographers and Section 44 have a read of this:
* If police stop and search you, the first thing you should ask is on what grounds they are conducting the search and under what powers.
* Police are able to conduct searches under a number of different pieces of legislation but they usually use either the Public Order Act, the Criminal Justice Act or under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
* Unless you are stopped while driving a car, you do NOT have to give your name or address.
* Police officers are obliged to ask for your given ethnicity. Once again, it is up to you whether you choose to answer or not.
* If police use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act they are entitled to view any images you have taken but they are NOT allowed to delete them. They can only do so with a court order.
* Under Section 58a of the Terrorism Act, police are only allowed to stop a photographer taking pictures of officers if they reasonably suspect the photos are intended to be used in connection with terrorism.
* Whether you are stopped and searched, or merely stopped and accounted for, the police officer should hand you a record of your stop.
Yet of course abuses under Section 44 continue. Take photographer Jerome Taylor:
I was on the South Bank of the Thames trying to compose a shot of the Houses of Parliament last week when two police officers stopped me.
Despite living in London for the past five years I had never photographed the Houses of Parliament before. I wish I’d never bothered. Just as I’d finished fine-tuning my first composition, two officers appeared. “Excuse me, sir,” said one. “My colleague and I would like to perform a stop-and-account on you. Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong.”
For the next 10 minutes I was questioned about my evening and asked to give my height, name, address and ethnicity – all of which was recorded in a form that will now be held at the nearest police station for the next year. The form explained why I had been stopped: “Using a camera and tripod next to Westminster Bridge,” it read.
When asked about Taylor on the BBC, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Britain’s for-profit advisory quango for the police said:
On BBC One, [Chief Constable Andy] Trotter reaffirmed that the two police officers should not have used Section 44 powers to stop Taylor. ‘It’s hard to understand why Jerome was stopped,’ he said. ‘There was no need to do a stop-and-search in that case.’
He added that it was not ‘an offence to take a photograph in a public place. ‘These powers were brought in to protect the public, not to oppress,’ Trotter told BBC One.
Trotter’s comments only reaffirmed guidelines issued by the Home Office that specifically say that photography is legal in the UK and that powers given by the Terrorism Act 2000 shouldn’t be used to prevent photographers from taking images in public.
ACPO says Section 44 was brought in to protect, not to oppress, however yet again when push comes to shove, the police (and Met in particular) do everything in their power to oppress. Matthew Parris is right later in his article when he says all the surveilling a terrorist need do can be done in complete privacy on Google Earth – it’s not just absurd to suspect numerous, clearly law-abiding photographers of terrorism, it’s just plain stupid. But hey that’s the standard of policing we have in this country. They have guidelines from the Home Office and ACPO not to behave like this, yet they persist with next to no accountability.
It’s really simple America. Out gay megastar and ‘American Idol’ runner-up Adam Lambert has caught out your homophobic hypocrisy. So he grinds his crotch against a male dancer’s face, he snogs a male band member – much much more overtly sexual behaviour by women is shown on the music channels every single day and has been for a long time. There’s no noteworthy outrage from that because it doesn’t offend heterosexual men’s tastes. George Michael never took the risk of being demonstrably gay on stage, any more than Will Young does now; it’s partly because their musical style is completely different to Glamberts, but it’s also because they don’t have the stomach for a media storm such as the one unleashed after this performance. I’m not a huge fan of Lambert’s – that sort of music really isn’t my sort of thing, but to attack him for a sexualised performance is to expose your own homophobia. Good on Adam for not holding back for the sake of the ‘moral majority’ and for being the same kind of artist for which every other heterosexual pop artist is celebrated. But perhaps this letter in the LA Times sums the controversy up better:
Re “Adam Lambert Causes a Fuss,” Quick Takes, Nov. 24: When Elvis Presley first performed a bump and grind on national television, millions of older Americans were apoplectic in their response. After Adam Lambert planted a kiss on a male keyboard player at the American Music Awards, 1,500 people complained to ABC. We’ve come a long way. Haven’t we, baby?
Be your own judge here:
Over the span of this Labour government we’ve seen the degradation of the rule of law and attacks on evidence-based policy making, but now we have full-blown pre-criminalisation:
He said the [human genetics] commission had received evidence from a former police superintendent that it was now the norm to arrest offenders for everything possible. “It is apparently understood by serving police officers that one of the reasons, if not the reason, for the change in practice is so that the DNA of the offender can be obtained,” said Montgomery, adding that it would be a matter of very great concern if this was now a widespread practice.
The report says there is very little concrete evidence on the importance of the DNA match in leading to a conviction and whether the suspect would have been identified by other means anyway.
It argues the database creates “pre-suspects” who are the first to be checked whenever a new crime is entered. This leads to a “no smoke without fire” culture that may be pervasive and hard to overcome.
Whatever happened the presumption of innocence? How can this database have been allowed to ‘function creep’ this severely, when its to crime detection is falling, despite an exponential increase in the number of profiles retained on it? And given the way in which the database is being used, how can any of the near-million innocent people on it be confident that their genetic information won’t be misused? Over three-quarters of black men between 18 and 35 having profiles still on the database suggests something has already gone horribly wrong. There is an attitude in the criminal justice system that anything goes in avoiding risk and preventing the public from danger, but also incredible laziness by the police, who seem to think that DNA matches are the catch-all solutions to crime detection. The figures sadly prove them completely wrong. The Home Office blusters:
“DNA samples are taken on arrest for recordable offences carrying a prison sentence. The Government is clear that this is the right threshold for taking and retaining DNA. We know that the DNA database is a vital crime-fighting tool, identifying 410,589 crime scenes between 1998 and March 2009 with a DNA match and a possible lead on the possible identity of the offender.”
Yet look at the figures:
Figures show that for the past six years the number of crimes solved using DNA evidence has remained static at between 0.34 and 0.36 per cent – about one in 300 of all recorded crimes.
The number of crimes which were solved by a DNA match fell by 13 per cent to 17,614 last year as recorded crime fell overall, according to figures contained in Parliamentary answers.
Over the same period the number of people’s whose identity was on the national DNA database more than doubled in size from 1.9million people to 4.1million.
Trust the Home Office on this? I think not. Independent oversight over the National DNA Database must happen immediately. As Liberty quite rightly points out, leaving it as a tool for the police to do with as they wish is leading to abuses of people who still have the right to be presumed innocent.
Secretary of State Peter Mandelson is planning to introduce changes to the Digital Economy Bill now under debate in Parliament. These changes will give the Secretary of State (Mandelson — or his successor in the next government) the power to make “secondary legislation” (legislation that is passed without debate) to amend the provisions of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988).
What that means is that an unelected official would have the power to do anything without Parliamentary oversight or debate, provided it was done in the name of protecting copyright.
Of course it’s not unusual for New Labour to sidestep the rule of law. They did it with the Extradition Act, for which Gary McKinnon is paying a price, they’re doing it with the Independent Safeguarding Authority, for which we’re all paying a slow price, and they did it with Iraq, for which the whole world has paid a price. Unelected Peter Mandelson plans to give himself unlimited power to make laws and not have them subjected to scrutiny or approval by a single elected representative. It’s not just unfair, it’s a crime against democracy. To expand:
1. The Secretary of State would get the power to create new remedies for online infringements (for example, he could create jail terms for file-sharing, or create a “three-strikes” plan that costs entire families their internet access if any member stands accused of infringement)
2. The Secretary of State would get the power to create procedures to “confer rights” for the purposes of protecting rightsholders from online infringement. (for example, record labels and movie studios can be given investigative and enforcement powers that allow them to compel ISPs, libraries, companies and schools to turn over personal information about Internet users, and to order those companies to disconnect users, remove websites, block URLs, etc)
3. The Secretary of State would get the power to “impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement” (for example, ISPs could be forced to spy on their users, or to have copyright lawyers examine every piece of user-generated content before it goes live; also, copyright “militias” can be formed with the power to police copyright on the web)
These are all basic constitutional infringements – and for what threat? With the ISA it was to combat paedophilia which is apparently so widespread it threatens every vulnerable person in or around a workplace. Except it doesn’t. With Iraq it was to protect us all from weapons of mass destruction. Except there weren’t any. Now Mandelson is gunning for absolute power because piracy threatens what? Our culture? No. Our creative industries? Have you seen just how well the film industry is doing? He’s been told file sharing threatens the excess profits of New Labour’s corporate friends, and he’s making an unprecedented power grab to stop it. Andy Robinson of the Pirate Party UK asks:
What exactly is the ‘first tier tribunal’ referred to in the Digital Economy Bill? If that phrase does not mean ‘a court of law with a judge, jury and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty’, what is the justification for throwing out one of the major pillars of the British legal system?
Why should consumers not open their internet connection over wifi as a service to the community, and why shoul they not be treated as common carriers when they do so?
Why are libraries being given the right to ‘lend’ audio books digitally, but not the right to lend music and films digitally?
Why is file sharing good when libraries do it and bad when the public does it?
How will disconnecting people from the internet possibly help the bill’s stated goal of ‘securing the UK’s position as one of the world’s leading digital knowledge economies’?
Why did the text of the bill appear on a record industry owned website before it appeared on any government site?
The bill includes a provision for unappointed, unelected, monopoly collecting societies to “assume a mandate to collect fees on behalf of rights holders who have not specifically signed up to that society.” Why should doing this be considered anything less than criminally defrauding the people these fees will be collected from and stealing copyright (in the true sense of claiming ownership, not the way it is misused as a synonym for infringement)?
Why does the government see file sharing as both to trivial that it can be dealt with by just sending a letter and simultaneously so serious that it warrants the imposition of a new £50,000 fine?
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, why does the bill not even mention the concept of ‘fair use’?
These are vital questions which should concern us all. In addition to constitutional norms, Mandelson is attacking basic cultural norms. My question is this – why should the concerns of Big Media trump a) the rule of law and b) the concerns of internet file sharers, whom it has been shown spend more on films and music? Rupert Goodwins quite rightly says:
industry bodies, such as the BPI, FAST and so on, [will be given] powers of investigation tantamount to those of the police force. The risk of copyright infringment would be enough to force any company to patrol its actions and offerings, closing down anything that might land them in the dock. The freedom of the Internet would be gone. It is placing the future of the Net, with the force of law, in the hands of those who depend on artificial scarcity. It is antithetical to everything that matters in the digital world.
Freedom in the real world has been under concerted attack by these people, and they’re now extending their control to the digital world. They must be stopped at all costs.
Guilty of ‘lavat’ (i.e. sexual conduct between two men, regardless of penetration), the three teenagers do not yet have dates set for their state-sponsored murders, but according to Human Rights Watch and Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees it could happen any day with no warning.
They are Mehdi P., from Tabriz; Moshen G., from Shiraz; and Nemat Safavi, from Ardebil and who has been detained for over three years.
Under Iranian law lavat is “punishable by death so long as both the active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will” — something that not only conflicts with the boys’ age at the time of the alleged ‘offenses’, but also a gross violation of international law, which forbids, under any circumstance, the executive of juvenile offenders.
In 2008, the Deputy Attorney General of Iran announced that Iranian judicial authorities would ban the juvenile death penalty for non-murder-related offenses, effective immediately, pending parliamentary approval. Iran has signed two international treaties on the protection of children.
Nemat Safavi is part of the list maintained by Amnesty International of minors tried and awaiting execution in Iran. The European Parliament, the UN, and the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi have all urged Iran to end juvenile executions.
Read more about the cases in the Human Rights Watch report.
What can I do
This blog (in Spanish) is devoted to the cases http://nematsafavi.blogspot.com/ and has suggestions on what can be done, primarily:
- alerting the media (there has been virtually no media coverage)
- contacting Iranian embassies (it has links)
It also has an avatar (‘I ♥ Nemat’) for use in social media.
Spanish, French and Italian gay sites as well as some progressives in those countries and a few elsewhere have been reporting their cases.
IRQR are asking for donations which they say will help with the legal case in Iran. They are also calling for “all human rights organizations to take up this urgent cause. We ask that people write, fax, call, or email to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and any LGBT and/or international organizations to support Nemat and vigorously oppose his execution and the laws against homosexuals.”
There is a Facebook group: Save Nemat Safavi
Youtube video about Nemat (in Spanish)
If there is any action you can take please do. As far as we are aware, these gay kids haven’t been hung yet.
This is a repost from exactly a year ago about the government’s policing and crime bill, which contains provisions to outlaw the purchase of sex from ‘coerced’ prostitutes and should become law next year.
Whilst looking at the follow-up to the Guardian’s revelations about the government’s misinformation around the trafficking of women I thought I’d check to see if the impact on gay men had acquired any mentions following my year-old post. Bar a brief mention in an Iain Dale post I could not.
The woman from the ECP didnt defend the sex industry on Newsnight. She said the anti-trafficking crusade, premised on false statistics, has been used, first of all to justify raids, prosecutions and convictions of sex workers working together from flats. It seems that immigrant women have been particularly targeted as anti-trafficking laws have been used as an extension of immigration controls to get them deported. www.prostitutescollective.net. Secondly, she said that this crusade has been used to justify the Policing and Crime Bill which under the guise of targeting demand, that is clients, would push prostitution underground and sex workers into more danger.
Those who claim that the Policing and Crime Bill would somehow increase womens safety say nothing about the other measures which would: change the definition of soliciting on the street to make arrests easier, introduce forced rehabilitation of those arrested, and the targeting of brothels for raids and closure (It is well established that working from premises is much safer than working on the street, as women can work collectively and support each other), increase police powers to take sex workers hard won earnings.
Where are the expressions of concern or action to oppose this increased criminalization from those that claim to be concerned about victims? Did those women stop being victims when they decided to sell sex? What about the women working in Soho who were all raided a few months ago and were shouted at, called liars, threatened with prosecution. Or the women near Oxford Circus, one of whom had to lock herself in the toilet to stop the police taking (probably) illegal photos of them. Or the women in Baker Street who are raided three times in the last few months and who think they are being targeted because they are Black. Or the Black women from Leeds who was dragged out of her home in handcuffs where she worked ON HER OWN and prosecuted for running a disorderly house. Or the Brazilian woman who was convicted for trafficking for working with a few friends who she helped come over from Brazil, got imprisoned, nearly lost custody of her young son and is now facing deportation. Abuse of women doesnt seem to count with some people, who claim to care about victims, if the abusers are the police.
Convictions for offences like brothel-keeping (used against women working together with others) are soaring. More and more women are getting criminal records for what is essentially consenting sex, preventing those who may want to leave prostitution from getting other jobs, even when they are qualified for them. When New Zealand decriminalised prostitution five years ago the most dramatic change was that sex workers felt like they had more rights both to report violence but also to take action against harassment from employers. It seems that more women are saved from traffickers by other women in the sex industry than any government anti-trafficking crusade (especially if, when you look at how victims are treated, protecting vulnerable women doesnt seem to even be the aim.)
It is no accident that the Policing and Crime Bill is happening at the same time as the Welfare Reform Bill. That Bill abolishes Income Support, the only benefit single mothers and other carers have been able to rely on. Most prostitute women are mothers, especially single mothers. How many will be driven into prostitution by benefit cuts? So feminist ministers proud record will be to have driven women onto the streets with one bill, and arrest them with another.
Is this happening to gay male prostitutes, particularly migrant ones? I simply don’t know but there’s no reason to think it might well be. And, given the widespread disinterest, infact the frequent hostility, shown towards similarly marginalised LGBT asylum seekers, even those from places like Iran, there’s no reason to think that the ‘gay community’ would rush to defend them if it did.
News that Jacqui Smith – bless – has found a compromise and will outlaw hiring prossies who have pimps.
This is a somewhat watered down version of what was being pushed by various Labour ‘feminist’ MPs – the so-called Swedish model of ‘prostitution law reform’, which completely outlaws paying for sex.
I’m indebted to blogging colleague Cosmodaddy who has dug up research showing that this ain’t working:
Again it’s a seductive argument, but bear in mind (which Prostitution Reform do not) that although the criminalisation of men using female prostitutes in Sweden (the model being adopted by Jacqui Smith) was accompanied by legislation decriminalising the selling of sex, there have been undesirable outcomes:
When the prostitution market disappears underground it is harder for the authorities to intercept the persons that really need help. In Gothenburg many young women seek help to detoxify because of their addiction to heroin and almost all of them have sold sexual services. But the city’s prostitution group (social workers) seldom comes in contact with these women because they don’t show up on the streets today.
The risk of infection have gone up because if a sexseller gets infected with a sexually transmitted disease, and the authorities advise customers to the sexworker to contact them, many are afraid to do so.
If a client meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is in need of help the client is scared to contact for example the social services. Anf if a customer meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is the victim of sexual trafficking that person is today scared of going to the police. Before you could obtain evidence against traffickers and pimps based on customer’s testimony. These days they aren’t likely to participate in trials and if they are forced to testify as the same time they are prosecuted for buying sex their testimony are not credible in the same way.
I used to work in HIV prevention, OF COURSE driving sex underground isn’t a good idea! Any HIV worker worth their salt will tell you this.
If you want to stop trafficking of women the answer is policing of criminals. Full, stop. Anything else (‘let’s make a law!’) is showboating.
But further, I found the original proposals from Harman et al anti-gay. Yes, anti-gay. Not ‘good for the gays’ as the Jews might put it.
I immediately thought when the Labour ‘feminists’ trumped up this idea – they’re forgetting the gays. Again.
Gay male prostitution is not generally pimp-driven, it’s a small business. Of course there are issues (self esteem and body fascism to name but two) but just as with Andrea Dworkin and her 80s fantasies about what gay male porn was it’s not the equivalent of the heterosexual version.
Largely from my Australian experience, I had numerous friends who dabbled or supported themselves for a while or did it for a one-off. It didn’t make them community outlaws. The experience wasn’t damaging, as it might be with women. Yes, some guys on heroin do it but they weren’t even gay. Gay male prostitution is part of a sexualised culture which many feminists plain don’t like.
Just as with Dworkin the collateral oppression of gays passed Harman et al by. That they actually have ‘oppressive’ power – despite being supposedly power-less women, despite being cabinet members – passed them by.
Must be the gay=male thing.
And they were trusting that Laura Norder will play fair (if they were thinking of us at all, which I doubt). When experience tells us otherwise (just look at Terror law misapplication).
Feminists are not always the allies of gay men. Lesson.
Postscript: I note that this proposed law apparently has something about funding ‘drug dealers’ in it – that is. it’s not just about pimps. Laura Norder will make a meal of gay prossies using this ‘law’. Bless Ms. Harman + Smith et al for creating this … not.
Postscript: Harman and Smith’s incompetence gets more obvious:
Human trafficking police unit to close
Britain’s only specialist police human trafficking unit is to be shut down after two years because of a lack of funding, the government said today.
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that money for the Metropolitan police team, which totalled £1.8m in the first year and £700,000 in the second, would no longer be available after April.
Experts and campaigners reacted to the move with dismay. Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Poppy Project, which helps trafficked women after they have been rescued, said she was appalled at the decision, which would have a “hugely detrimental impact”.
“This is at best foolhardy and at worst discriminatory,” she said.
Postscript: I shall be continuing this meme on pinknews. In the meantime, my friend Tania Hurst has a few thoughtful comments (nod, well worth quoting in full):
At the moment in this country it’s widely seen as socially acceptable for men to pay for sex (whether with women or other men). In current law it is the prostitute selling sex who is viewed as the criminal – not the person buying the sex.
Whether a prostitute has “freely chosen” a sex industry profession, or has been forced into it (by pimps or traffickers) is largely seen as irrelevant and unimportant by the customer.
The question is: how does one change the perception that having sex with a man or woman who has been “forced” into prostitution is wrong – and that this is effectively rape? One way is to make a law against it.
This law is making a distinction between prostitutes who’ve “chosen” to work in the sex industry from those who are being “forced” to have sex (by pimps or traffickers).* [see note below]
The new law isn’t criminialising everyone who pays for sex, but it is saying buying sex from women (or men) who have been “forced” to have sex (by pimps or traffickers) is not acceptable. This woman (or man) has not freely chosen to have sex with you – you are raping them. You have a responsibility to recognise this and to know the difference when you go out to purchase sex.
I’m in agreement with (what I think is) the motivation behind this law: 1) making it socially unacceptable to purchase sex from someone who’s been forced into it. 2) reducing the demand for and ultimately the numbers of prostitutes who are being forced to have sex.
The real question is whether this law is the right way to achieve the objectives? Can the negative impacts that your article has highlighted, be mitigated? For example, maybe customers could be exempt from prosecution if they report to police that they believe a woman they had paid-for-sex with was trafficked or pimped? Are there other ways of getting HIV and substance-abuse services to prostitutes?
Or are there other better forms or combinations of legislation? Closing down the Human Trafficking police unit doesn’t seem particularly helpful if you’re trying to reduce the numbers of trafficked women. But prosecuting traffickers alone hasn’t changed the perception that it doesn’t matter whether the prostitute you pay for has been “forced” to have sex with you or not.
I have a couple of issues with your original article:
1. The UK law appears to be different from the Swedish law: the Swedish law is criminialising everyone who pays for sex; the UK one criminalises the purchase of sex from a prostitute who’s been forced to have sex. This is very different – and you can’t assume that the negative impacts will be the same.
2. I don’t see how this law is prejudicial against gay prostitution (although I accept that the original proposals criminialising all paid-for sex may well have been). If a man buys sex from a male prostitute who isn’t being forced into having sex, then no criminal offence will have taken place. If gay male prostitution is not generally pimp-driven as you say, then this law doesn’t sound like it’s going to have any impact on gay prostitution and their customers at all!
* [I've put "chosen" and "forced" in quotes: I'm not going to get into a debate about whether a heroin addict and/or a previous victim of child abuse is really making a free choice when they sell themselves; nor am I going to discuss the varying levels of exploitation/protection that may occur in prostitute-pimp relationships]
As I said in discussion with Tania this, (my point) isn’t about heterosexual prostitution (which I may have an opinion about), it’s about the ‘collateral impact’ of law on the gay ‘community’. Tania’s point “it’s widely seen as socially acceptable for men to pay for sex” is worth quoting because I don’t think this is true and another example of something I don’t think is true in the gay community!
This idea underlines the gulf in understanding of how this issue relates in these two worlds.
And this community isn’t going to give much of a s**t about people like prostitutes – there is zero comment already on this proposed law. There are a lot of issues here, but it’s unlikely that many of them in relation to gay prostitutes are being even vaguely considered. That’s my point.
Last year it was Michael Causer, this year we’ve had Ian Baynham, and now James Parkes:
A trainee policeman is critically ill in hospital after suffering multiple head injuries in a homophobic attack in Liverpool.
PC James Parkes was off duty and on a night out with friends when he was attacked outside a gay bar, Superstar Boudoir, shortly before 10pm on Sunday.
He sustained multiple “life-threatening” skull fractures and fractures of his eye-socket and cheekbone in the assault allegedly carried out by up to 20 teenagers.
Four youths from Kirkdale, two aged 15, one 14 and one 17, have been arrested on suspicion of assault.
There’s now a widespread acknowledgment that homophobic hate crime is on a massive upward spiral. The question is of course what’s fuelling it. I came to terms years ago with the reality that social attitudes would never keep pace with equal rights legislation, but even then this resurgence of violent homophobia doesn’t seem so easily explained away. Is it identity politics? Is it the old staple of minorities going for each others’ throats when there is the perception that one of them is disadvantaged and the other not? Or is it even more insidious than that – are there deeply entrenched, and unchallenged homophobic attitudes which are being legitimised and encouraged when they weren’t before?
I can’t help but notice that this increase in violence has been accompanied an equally sudden rise in militant Christianity, both perhaps a result of recent equality legislation covering both religion and sexual orientation. We’ve seen Christianists trying to avoid performing civil partnerships, counselling gay couples, and trying to avoid the sack for anti-gay behaviour on, you guessed it, religious grounds. Gay rights and religious rights have been set against one another, and I suspect this ‘rights competition’ is partly the cause of what might otherwise have remained latent homophobic attitudes to emerge back out into the open.
Take the case of Pauline Howe, a 67 year old devout Christian, who felt compelled to write to Norwich City Council to condemn its decision to allow a Pride march. It’s clear that her rant wasn’t criminal, but it was nonetheless overtly homophobic, and it was notably defended by Daily HateMail columnist Allison Pearson, who concluded of the police investigation into Mrs Howe:
There is still plenty of mindless hatred out there. Trying to silence those who express their religious beliefs will not make it go away.
No doubt Pauline Howe, who has led a blameless life for almost seven decades, is now a juicy statistic in some smug Hate Crimes file. Result: a law-abiding woman’s faith in the criminal justice system takes another knock. And so does ours.
Sure Pauline Howe was entitled to her freedom of speech, but as with the Jan Moir debacle, she also has to take responsibility for what she has written – she shouldn’t expect a free ride just because she has devout religious convictions. Pearson accuses those who investigated Mrs Howe (and presumably those who attacked Jan Moir) of attempting to silence the devoutly religious (even if they criminally incite hatred), yet nothing could be further from the truth. She casually dismisses Howe as ‘blameless’ and officers who investigate hate crimes as ‘smug’, yet doesn’t challenge her hatred, nor what drove it – was it deep rooted homophobia, heterosexism or an underlying attitude that belief has the right to trump everything? This refusal to challenge these deep rooted attitudes further legitimises the upsurge in anti-gay violence. Is it being challenged elsewhere in the media? No. Is it being challenged in schools? No. While Pearson, Moir and their ilk casually trivialise hate crime, gay people are getting killed.
Homophobic Daily HateMail columnist Jan Moir would like you to believe that it’s mischievous of those of us who seem to be part of an ‘orchestrated internet campaign’ to believe her hatchet job on Stephen Gately had ‘homophobic and bigoted undertones’. Does that make Stephen Fry ‘mischievous’? What about Phillip Schofield? A selection of Tweets:
Schofe Sat down to read up on the day. Dear God Jan Moir I hope when you lie in your bed tonight reflecting on your day you feel utterly ashamed
stephenfry …mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.” UNDERTONES??!
Let me refer you to Charlie Brooker, who has a way with words, particularly for filth like Moir:
It has been 20 minutes since I’ve read her now-notorious column, and I’m still struggling to absorb the sheer scope of its hateful idiocy. It’s like gazing through a horrid little window into an awesome universe of pure blockheaded spite. Spiralling galaxies of ignorance roll majestically against a backdrop of what looks like dark prejudice, dotted hither and thither with winking stars of snide innuendo.
Read the whole thing. It’s a great piece, and as usual he’s right about absolutely everything. Fortunately the outrage has caused HateMail sponsors Marks & Spencer and others to withdraw from the online page at least, suggesting she’s caused considerable damage to her employer, who might think twice in the future before printing an article quite so horribly hateful again. There’s simply no money in it after all. A national newspaper, even a rag like the HateMail can’t really afford over 1,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission either.
What an odious cow. I sincerely hope she loses her job.
If the famous media gaggers, the libel law firm Carter-Ruck, scourge of Private Eye, thought they’d scored another famous victory (these guys are big on bragging) suppressing news they hadn’t reckoned with social media.
#trafigura is as I type the #1 trending topic on Twitter (that’s in the whole world). The Spectator has already broken the wall between what the blogs will say and what the print media thinks it can get away with … and many, many more people are now aware of the very story a very rich set of bastards running a polluting company is paying them – presumably – many millions to kill.
In a few hours American bloggers will start picking up on the story enmasse. What’s Carter-Ruck going to do then? As @ElrikMerlin just pointed out to me ‘this is Streisand Effect in action’ – something which I have blogged about before.
When Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov tried the same trick, and created the same effect, it generated this quote from Boris Johnson (one of those inadvertently whacked by Usmanov’s ‘take-down’ action):
We live in a world where internet communication is increasingly vital, and this is a serious erosion of free speech.
This is what Carter-Ruck did:
The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.
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.
This feels like another significant turning point for social media.
My updates throughout today
Nick Clegg has tweeted ‘Very interested concerned about this #trafigura / Guardian story the @LibDems are planning to take action on this’
Trafigura was deleted from trending topics, despite the fact it was obviously the top-trending topic. One minute it was top, the next it had vanished. Twitter’s trend explanations were also absent from any topics relating to Trafigura.
I don’t blame them, British libel laws are notorious for being swingeing, and Carter-Ruck’s efficacy in the area is well-know.
[#trafigua has now come back up trending topics]
@arusbridger #Guardian editor tweets: hoping to get into court today to challenge ban by #carterruck on reporting parliament. Watch this space
BBC finally reporting #guardiangag , fourteen hours after Guardian published.
Carter-Ruck are on Twitter (nb: could possibly be imposter). The tweets are unreal:
@carterruck is looking for a new slogan. “Defending the indefensible” #carterruckslogan
LibDems have tabled an urgent question.
The huge US liberal website Daily Kos is now onto #trafigura.
We want to put the Streisand Effect to work, and make hashtags #carterruck and especially #trafigura the top trending topics on Twitter. Please include these hashtags in your tweets of the next 24 hours.
First satirical take: Carter-Ruck successfully preserves Trafigura’s online reputation:
“We at Carter-Ruck are proud to be so effective in protecting such deserving clients, and look forward to working just as effectively for the reputations of similarly environmentally well-behaved companies around the globe,” said Carter-Ruck’s new directors of marketing George Monbiot and Julian Assange.
MP, who Guardian is currently prohibited from identifying, said he would ask the Speaker to consider taking action against Carter-Ruck for contempt of parliament.
The media lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said Lord Denning ruled in the 1970s that “whatever comments are made in parliament” can be reported in newspapers without fear of contempt.
He said: “Four rebel MPs asked questions giving the identity of ‘Colonel B’, granted anonymity by a judge on grounds of ‘national security’. The DPP threatened the press might be prosecuted for contempt, but most published.”
The right to report parliament was the subject of many struggles in the 18th century, with the MP and journalist John Wilkes fighting every authority – up to the king – over the right to keep the public informed. After Wilkes’s battle, wrote the historian Robert Hargreaves, “it gradually became accepted that the public had a constitutional right to know what their elected representatives were up to”.
Ungag the Guardian twibbon campaign.
Should there be any restrictions placed on the reporting and analysis of what is said (and written) in the Palace of Westminster? I’d argue not, save perhaps for those rare occasions when national security is truly at risk.
Yet this “sensitive” question appears on the Order Paper and the answer will appear in Hansard.
Gagged? This journalist is gagging at the court’s decision.
Carter-Ruck now under attack on Google Maps
journalism.co.uk commentary and background on past Carter-Ruck gagging attempts.
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to enshrine in law the absolute right of the media to report the proceedings of The House in full at all times.
Tell your MP to stand up for the media’s right to report on politicians in Westminster: e-mail them in two minutes, now.
Newsnight will report on this case and the prevalence of media laws being used by large companies to restrict information on Tuesday 13 October 2009 at 10.30pm on BBC Two.
BBC media correspondent Nick Higham for BBC website, When is a secret not a secret?:
In the anarchic, anything-goes world of the internet, where freedom of speech is a frequently heard rallying cry, injunctions banning publication of anything are unpopular. This one seems to have acted like a red rag to a bull.
There is no doubt that the events of the past day have been profoundly democratic, entirely in keeping with the Bill of Rights’ sweeping away of kingly powers and its assertion of the primacy of openness among the governors of the people. In a parallel universe, attempts to muzzle parliament might be seen as treasonable – but while we’ll never have libel lawyers hearing the axe being sharpened in the Tower, the end result – a chilling effect on the silencers – is just as welcome, and welcomingly just.
Tweet from @wikileaks : Remember the UK press is STILL GAGGED from saying the toxic dumping report is on WikiLeaks HERE: http://bit.ly/v5rDJ
James Mackintosh for Financial Times, People power 1, Carter-Ruck and Trafigura 0:
Let’s hope Jack Straw, secretary of state for justice, listens: the trend towards ever-wider gagging orders gives big companies and the rich and powerful yet another way to strangle investigative journalism – as if the overly-restrictive libel and confidentiality laws were not bad enough.
Oil-trading company Trafigura knew that waste dumped in Ivory Coast in 2006 was hazardous.
Trafigura had persistently denied that the waste was harmful but internal e-mails show staff knew it was hazardous.
The chemical waste came from a ship called Probo Koala and in August 2006 truckload after truckload of it was illegally fly-tipped at 15 locations around Abidjan, the biggest city in Ivory Coast.
In the weeks that followed the dumping, tens of thousands of people reported a range of similar symptoms, including breathing problems, sickness and diarrhoea.
Mark Pack spots an unfortunate quote being served up on the Carter-Ruck homepage and says I think Carter-Ruck might be changing this quote, don’t you?.
NBC News’ @AnnCurry tweets:
Victims of alledged toxic waste dumping by Trafigura Co. Its legal firm CarterRuck tried to stop this story: http://bit.ly/3jU0vD
Ian Douglas for the Telegraph, Context overcomes the law for Trafigura and the Guardian:
A search in Google News for Trafigura yielded the Guardian’s piece reporting the order, despite the word never being mentioned. So many people had linked to it using the name of the company that there was no need for the Guardian to break the order themselves, as the search engines determine the subject of a page by analysing those that link to it as much as the page itself.
Tweet from @BristleKRS:
Today’s twictionary words: 1: to #CarterRuck up; vb tr, to fail in exponential relationship to invoiced fee
Tory Politico is reporting that The Independent has removed a story, published on September 17, relating to Trafigura’s dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. The story is still available through the google cache of the page.
Here you can see how the gagging of the Guardian was rapidly overwhelmed by mentions of Trafigura on Twitter, via Trendistic.
BBC Newsnight [Video], Dirty tricks and toxic waste in Ivory Coast.
Philippe Naughton for the Times, Twitter-power wins gagging victory over Carter-Ruck and Trafigura:
“Wow,” said one Twitterer among the deluge of comments. “Never heard of Trafigura before today.”
Tweet from Guardian Editor @arusbridger : Now support #Newsnight which is being sued by #Trafigura and #carterRuck over toxic waste expose http://tinyurl.com/pqf4dt
[Via PoliticsHome]: In the Commons this afternoon, Speaker John Bercow was urged to block future legal attempts to prevent the reporting of parliament, or to curtail MPs parliamentary privilege to speak freely.
Labour MP Paul Farrelly, whose question regarding Trafigura was the subject of the gag, asked Mr Bercow to investigate whether the Trafigura’s reprentatives, Carter Ruck, had acted in contempt of parliament.
Other members, including Lib Dem frontbencher David Heath and former shadow home secretary David Davis, also raised concerns.
Mr Bercow told MPs he would reflect on the matter, but insisted that the moves to gag The Guardian, which were dropped this afternoon, “in no way inhibited” parliamentary procedure.
“There is no queston of our own proceedure being in anyway inhibited. If the honorable member wants to pursue this as a matter of principle there is of couse, as he will doubtless know, an established procedure of raising it with me in writing,” he said.
#trafigura has now dropped off the top ten Twitter trending topics.
Marc Ambinder for The Atlantic Online, The Guardian Gets To Speak, But Britain Deserves A Free Press:
In practice, when compared to, well, almost every other country in the history of the world, Britain’s press has flourished. But it has done so without the type of prior right that gives the press in the U.S. its moral force. While the press cannot print anything it wants in either the U.S. or Britain, it is much easier in Britain for an entity to obtain a pre-publication injunction, or for some to win a libel lawsuit, or for parliament to bottle up debate, or for government to prevent journalists from publishing secrets. It is much harder to obtain information from the government. Still, it should be remarked that, believe or not, the Supreme Court of the United States did not formally agree that the government could not prevent the press from revealing “scandalous and defamatory” matter until 1933, in Near v. Minnesota.
It’s not so much that an expressed free press right would have resolved this dispute the right way.We’re still debating the limits of the bill of rights in this country. And in the U.K., the right to report on what someone says in parliament — or on the questions submitted to be answered by a minister of government — is already established in statute. But the existence of a constitutional right would shift the burden away from the interests with relatively less power than the state, the lawyers and the company.
Ian Reeves for Centre for Journalism, The injunction that failed, thanks to Twitter:
The digital revolution is about to lead to a legal one.
Tweet from @DistantHopes : Holy crap. Unless I miss my guess, check out how the disgraced #Trafigura literally had its name wiped from Twitscoop. [YouTube]
LONDON (AP) — Bloggers and Twitter users thwarted a legal attempt Tuesday to stop Britain’s media from reporting the questions posed by a lawmaker in a parliamentary debate, spotlighting the power of new media to influence public policy.
Alan Brookland, My advice to Trafigura – just wait it out:
Before everyone gets too self-congratulatory, does any of this brief flirtation with online interest ever actually change anything? True, right now, lots of people who had probably never even heard of Trifigura will now be reading up on the dumping story, but, come tomorrow or next week, how many will still remember much about it? The bloggers will chalk up a victory and in this case the gagging order was actually lifted, but this is still an on-going case and nothing will have actually changed.
Sites like Twitter are excellent for catching a wave and occasionally rallying a large number of people behind a cause, but it’s yet to become the force for social change that it’s being made out to be. Real issues sadly aren’t resolved in an afternoon and a normally more complicated than 140 characters. If social media is really going to make the impact that it could, then we all need to keep an eye on the issues which we find important and persue them, not just jump on while it’s in the news and let it quietly die. Nag your MP, pester the mainstream media and ask the annoying questions, not just when the issue is in the news, but repeatedly. It’s only by proving that we can stay interested in an issue that change happens, otherwise people will just wait till the dust settles and everything will stay the same.
Tweet from @pauloCanning : BBC #Radio4 news *finally (and briefly) reporting #gagcarterruck Fry gets quoted
Mike Butcher for Techcrunch, There’s nowhere to hide if your name trends on Twitter. Is there, Trafigura?
With the traditional media gagged, the new media had kicked in. That created a story which plenty of trad media outlets and blogs outside the UK could not ignore and started reporting on.
In other words, this kind of censorship is over. And I hope that British Libel law will change as a result. It must now move into the 21st Century and reflect new technology. After all, there is now a new defence. Feel libelled? You can defend your case just as much as the other guy online. Except of course if you are dumb enough not to register @carterruck, for instance.
Today’s UK Parliamentary questions over #trafigura gag order [YouTube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_J4ypytxaE
Labour MP Paul Farrelly told the speaker, John Bercow, attempts by lawyers Carter-Ruck to gag the media could be a “potential contempt of parliament”.
The Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris said there was a need to “control the habit of law firms” of obtaining secrecy injunctions, and his colleague David Heath told the Commons a “fundamental principle” was being threatened: that MPs should be able to speak freely and have their words reported freely.
On the Conservative side, David Davies criticised the rising use of “super-injunctions”, in which the fact of the injunction is itself kept secret. He said courts should not be allowed to grant injunctions forbidding the reporting of parliament.
Catherine Mayer for Time: Twitter Triumphant: Attempts to Gag Newspaper Are Thwarted By Tweets:
Twitterers across the world colored their avatars green to show support for the protestors who took to Iran’s streets after the country’s disputed elections earlier this year. Users of the micro-blogging site might now consider overlaying their avatars with a film of sludge brown as a mark of their spontaneous, collective action to help undermine an attempt by the international oil traders Trafigura to gag a British newspaper reporting on a toxic dumping case.
Daily Mail, Law firm’s ‘Kafkaesque’ bid to block reporting of Parliamentary question is defeated – makes no mention of either Trafigura or Twitter!
Professional journal The Chemical Engineer has also been served with an injunction by Carter-Ruck for Trafigura.
Channel Four News report, Parliamentary question ban lifted.
Jon Snow talked to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and asked him what had happened after the publication of this morning’s paper.
He told Channel 4 News: “The blogosphere went berserk about a story that we published on our front page this morning, in which we said we can’t report a story for reasons we can’t tell you.
“After which there was about 16 hours of mayhem out there in the Twitter-sphere; and about an hour before we were due in court we received a letter from the lawyers saying ‘we give in’.
“What has changed was that for the past six weeks we have been faced with an injunction – a so-called super injunction – which not only meant not only could we not tell anyone we had been injuncted, but that we could not mention the company involved either – I think this is a very dangerous phase in English law.”
Tweet from @friendsofdarwin No mention of #trafigura or #carterruck on BBC 10 o’clock News. 5 minutes about racehorse’s retirement. #bbcfail
Gillian Shaw on canada.com, Twitter backs Guardian newspaper in fight for free speech: A win for all:
Today marked a watershed moment in which social media stepped in to quash an attempt to gag a newspaper.
Libel lawyers Carter-Ruck and Schillings have proved adept at persuading judges that injunctions should now be granted on privacy grounds. Some tabloid newspapers are being served with “a handful” of such orders each week, according to media lawyers. The Guardian has been served with at least 12 notices of injunctions that could not be reported so far this year, compared with six in the whole of 2006 and five the year before.
The motivation is straightforward, according to Mark Stephens, a partner at law firm Finer Stephens Innocent. “As the libel and privacy capital of the world, people are coming here [to London] to bully the media and NGOs into not reporting on their nefarious activities,” he said.
Financial Times, Web’s effect on media law put to test:
Media lawyers, however, focused on the fact that the rulings of UK courts were not enforceable in the US.
Many of the servers hosting websites such as Facebook and Twitter are based in the US, meaning information cannot be suppressed.
Keith Ashby, head of litigation at Sheridans, said: “The difficulty is that injunctions cannot readily be obtained in the English courts against overseas internet service providers which would prevent them making the information available.”
Mr Ashby added: “If people get a whiff that publication of information has been injuncted in the print media, they are getting more canny about how to find the information on the internet.”
Michael Smyth, head of public policy at Clifford Chance, said: “We should not be surprised that the law finds it difficult to keep pace with technological advance and it is no answer in an era when judges are required to act proportionately to make a blanket order directed at the whole world.
“It is common practice for an injunction obtained against one newspaper to be copied to the whole of Fleet Street so that the market is aware of its terms and also bound by it. That’s the easy bit. What, however, of electronic publishers offshore about whom one knows next to nothing?” he added.
Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent agreed: “The issue with Twitter and SMS [text messaging] is that injunctions are not enforceable as you can’t stop people talking and in any case the servers which host these websites are in the US and outside the jurisdiction of the English courts.”
He pointed out that the order covering The Guardian was enforceable in England and Wales only, meaning that the Scottish and Irish media could report the parliamentary question.
Gary McKinnon’s appeal to the nascent UK Supreme Court against extradition to the United States has already been turned down:
The High Court ruled the case was not of “general public importance” to go to the UK’s highest court.
Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon, 43, of Wood Green, London, is accused of breaking into the US’s military computer system.
Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, insists he was just seeking evidence of UFOs.
In July he lost a High Court bid to avoid extradition.
Giving the court’s decision on Friday, Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, who heard Mr McKinnon’s latest appeal earlier this year with Mr Justice Wilkie, said extradition was “a lawful and proportionate response” to his alleged offending.
There was no real prospect of him succeeding with his claim under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights that extradition would breach his right to a private and family life.
Nor did the court think, on the evidence it had seen, that he had an arguable case that extradition to the US would result in a breach of his Article 3 right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.
What we have is a terrible situation where a man’s rights are being systematically violated by anti-terror legislation, which was never intended for cases such as this, and wasn’t even voted on by Parliament. We have a Home Secretary who admits he could block the extradition but who prefers not to set a precedent for genuine terrorists in the future. We have a High Court which believes that this situation doesn’t count as inhuman or degrading treatment for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.
The US hasn’t made a case against him because they don’t have to under the 2003 Extradition Act, and the Department of Public Prosecutions itself doesn’t think the case would stand in the US (and that it definitely would not in the UK. So why is Gary McKinnon now forced to try the European Court of Human Rights to prevent this mean-spirited and entirely unnecessary extradition?
From the British Journal of Photography:
One day after Malcolm Dike took pictures of a sunset from his window, two Community Support Officers questioned him over claims that he could be a paedophile.
A member of the public reported Dike’s actions to the police, as his flat overlooks a youth centre, and it was feared that Dike was taking pictures of kids. ‘It was absolutely outrageous – I have been taking photos for years and never had any problems before,’ Dike told the Daily Mail. ‘My home overlooks the Oasis Youth Centre and apparently whoever complained was afraid I might have been taking photos of the children. That was completely untrue, of course, but the police have no right to come round here asking questions anyway.’
I’m floored. This paranoid, busybody behaviour is setting us against one another in ways we’ve never previously conceived. In the last 10 years many of us have come to the opinion that photographers are either terrorists or paedophiles, and that photography should be tightly controlled (or prohibited) – all without a shred of evidence to back such attitudes up. We prohibit photography on public land, we assume that anyone photographing a building wants to blow it up (and terrorist photography scouts are an as-yet undiscovered phenomenon), and anyone with a camera near children wants to take sexually objectifying pictures of them. I’m fed up with said ‘member of the public’ and sickened by the tin-pot police substitutes who actually gave this more than a second’s thought.