T + 392 Twitter > Trafigura + Carter-Ruck

First a brief medical update. You'll pleased to know that the extra dose of different steroids, hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, have helped get my energy back. It's gradually got better over the last week and today I got up at 07:40 to test if I can manage a whole day vertical.

I'm pleased to say I have managed just fine including a walk up the hill to the shop and a brief ride out in Arthur to do a couple of errands. I'm at the transplant clinic tomorrow and then hopefully logging back on to work on Thursday.

Of course the question remains how I get weaned off these new steroids that I am that help wean me off the original prednisolone steroids. But one step at a time.

Now for the real meat of this post.

Soap Box

It's not that often, I hope, that I get on my soap box in this blog. The last time I can recall was for the Atheist Bus Campaign almost exactly a year ago.

So perhaps you can indulge me once again. I should declare at this point that I am a typical left-wing middle-class wooly liberal ( small "l" ). As such freedom of speech and expression are important to me. Also as a geek, rationalism and the scientific method are important too.

This results in me following several blogs and campaigns and sometimes participating in them ( though only online, I'm an armchair left-wing, etc. etc. afterall)

Some of the key blogs, sites or newsletters I follow are:-

  • No2ID - Against the government ID scheme. For me this is not just a card it's a whole insidious and unsafe database that will cost billions and achieve little except a further erosion of civil liberties.
  • BadScience - Ben Goldacre's excellent commentary on the appalling mis-use of science in the media
  • British Humanist Association - They have excellent campaigns to stop the rise of religious dogma getting into schools unchallenged.

Unfortunately it can feel rather depressing at times when things seem to be getting worse in relation to all of the above and the other infringements to civil liberties perpetrated by this government. ( One I voted for incidentally and don't let the Tories fool you into thinking they'd be any better, just more subtle and commercially orientated).

It's easy to feel "what is the point? Nothing is ever going to change". So it was very gratifying today to see a small victory in "our" favour. This relates to the "Trafigura" scandal with respect to alleged dumping of toxic waste in Africa by the Anglo-Dutch-Swiss oil company.

I was alerted to this issue this morning via a tweet from @stephenfry on twitter

Outrageous gagging order. http://tr.im/BCA2 It's in reference to the Trafigura oil dumping scandal. http://tr.im/BCAm Grotesque and squalid.

Carter-Ruck is a legal firm who specialise in libel and privacy law but more often than not it seems mostly on behalf of large corporations or rich individuals seeking to suppress information that would be in the public interest, not for a poor person picked on unfairly by the press ). These unconscionable lawyers had a judge issue a gagging order on the Guardian reporting on the proceedings of parliament, namely a question about the trafigura report and how it has been subject to an injunction itself.

This is a quite incredible attack on democracy and freedom of speech. You can read about the details from the two links in the quote from Stephen Fry. Just to be clear here, the Guardian was going to be prevented from reporting on the proceedings of parliament, namely a published question in the order paper.

It soon started being reported all over twitter ( or trending as they say) and the 'net in various ways. The LibDems (bless ;o) were going to ask for an emergency debate about this issue in the House of Commons.

By lunchtime the gagging order was effectively lifted or withdrawn by Carter-Ruck . The whole thing had been a PR disaster and attracted far more attention to Trafigura and the injunctions they have been getting than would have happened without this parliamentary gag attempt.

Surely it can't be coincidence that the 'net and the twitterverse was awash with comments about it.

It was nice to be however small a part of this by my re-tweeting of the story and if anyone ever thinks twitter is just about banal subjects like what I had for dinner ( Delia's Smith's stuffed peppers and rice since you ask ), then this shows you it can be so much more.

When Stephen Fry speaks (tweets) 800,000 people hear.

Now this is only one small victory and even in the Trafigura story there is still much to be done to find out the truth, which they are still trying to suppress but even so it was very gratifying.

Thank you for listening.

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