To an interesting Media Society debate last night, on whether journalists and lawyers are enemies or natural bedfellows – focusing on the hot topic of the all-encompassing ‘super-injunctions’, which prevent papers from even whispering that they exist, let alone the allegations they concern. They have become an effective method for the rich and famous to prevent publication of inconvenient information. The Guardian’s investigations supremo David Leigh was naturally indignant about the costly efforts to use this technique to silence the paper over the Trafigura affair. But the gag was ultimately rendered ineffective, thanks to the continuing ability of MPs to raise such matters in the Commons, under the cloak of Parliamentary Privilege. More recently, news coverage of footballer John Terry’s extra-marital interests was massively ramped up thanks to the fact he had tried, but failed, to gain a super-injunction to prevent any reporting. This made it the item far more interesting – ‘the story he tried to stop us printing’. Media Lawyer Mark Stephens said he believed John Terry would have retained his England cap had he just let the News of the World publish and be damned. Most interestingly perhaps, Nigel Tait of Carter-Ruck, the media litigation specialists, admitted he was now more cautious of advising clients to go ahead with such injunctions than he had ever been, with their potential to backfire spectacularly. Even without possible changes in the law, could their days as a cure-all gag be numbered?
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