Care to mention anything else?

So, I’ve already mentionned the Guardian and Trafigura in my earlier blog post

Now enter Charlie Brooker and his very interesting article,”If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it, can Carter-Ruck ban all mention of the sound?”

Looking back at the whole the Guardian vs. Trafigura affair, two very important issues have arisen:

  • the importance of freedom of speech
  • are there any other super-injunctions

Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explains that freedom of speech is:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

A simple Goggle search for “freedom of speech” brings up all matter of interesting articles and websites.

The Telegraph published this article on 12 February, 2009 asking what had happened to free speech. Looking at the comments, someone had written: “free speech is dying a slow death in the UK”. Is this true? And if it is, what can a journalist do to combat it? This I will need to figure out very soon…

On 26 November, 2007 Julian Joyce of the BBC wrote this article about the limits of free speech. Joyce includes an alternate viewpoint, where some people think they should be allowed to say whatever they want regardless of the offence they may cause. Couldn’t that viewpoint just be defined as “contraversial”? Couldn’t that be defined as what a blogger is?

Going back to Brooker, the Guardian being able to talk about the Minton report and Trafigura was an important victory for freedom of speech. The power of the internet meant that “Trafigura” was a word on everyone’s lips. The Twittersphere allowed for a vast amount of people to become part of what was happening.

This brings me round to my second point which Brooker also makes: are there any other super-injunctions that are in place?

A super-injunction is the ultimate legal gagging tool. Names, places, every single little detail is unknown. We, the public, remain completely oblivious to what is happening.

This got Brooker, and myself, thinking: what else don’t we know? The possibilites could, literally, be endless.

Brooker has summed it up perfectly –

“God knows. But he’s not allowed to tell you.”

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Trafigura and the super-injunction

On 12 october, 2009 the Guardian newspaper published a front-page story explaining that they were not allowed to report a question posed in Parliament regarding the oil trader Trafigura. 

This was the beginning of a national scandal which involved journalists, web users and MPs.  

The Guardian has this article online which explains how the story, which Trafigura never wanted to be told, was broke.

Trafigura’s lawyers, Carter-Ruck, had gone to court to have an emergency super-injuction imposed against the Guardian to prevent them from publishing details about the Minton report. The report had been commissioned in 2006 by Trafigura to investigate a toxic-dumping incident on the Ivory Coast.

This super-injunction gagged the Guardian from saying what the injunction was about altogether. It effectively attempted to make the whole thing a secret.

The Guardian explains the whole episode better than I can but basically the front-page story published by the Guardian caused a huge backlash of activity from bloggers and other web users. People wanted to find out what it was that the Guardian were unable to talk about.

Twitter was incredibly busy with thousands of people posting tags such as “Minton report”, “Trafigura” and “Carter-Ruck”. Within the space of a few hours more and more people were finding out what had happened.

In part due to web users, other newspapers and more MPs becoming informed, the super-injunction was lifted on 16 October, 2009 after Carter-Ruck announced that the Guardian should “treat these orders as discharged”. Carter-Ruck’s attempt at gagging the Guardian on reporting parliamentary proceedings had failed.

The Guardian has now been able to publish the details of the super-injunction. More questions have been raised regarding the freedom of the press and what else could still be remaining secret away from the eyes of the public…

Embracing the online revolution

Journalist Alison Gow has these fantastic words of wisdom “online journalism shouldn’t be a chore, it should be exciting, different, interesting, and fun.”

After reading Alison’s response to the translated version of the Internet Manifesto by a team of German journalists, the importance of online journalism has been clarified for me.

The Internet Manifesto explains, in 17 easy to read points, how the internet is a different form of journalism which we, as journalists, need to understand.

I agree with Declaration 1 that “the media must adapt their work methods to today’s technological reality”.

The technological advances in the 21st century are fantastic. News can be spread worldwide in literally seconds. If something interests you then you can write a blog about it, have a quick Tweet or email the information to a friend. The exchange of information has become instanteous.  

News reporting is no longer limited to just words. Videos, photos and comments from readers can now accompany an article. Anyone can have a blog. Anyone can comment on that blog.

This is the 21st century beginning of “Journalism as a Conversation”. As Declaration 17 explains, “the internet makes it possible to communicate directly with those once known as the recipients – the readers, listeners and viewers.”

Alison also places emphasis on how journalists need to engage with the recipients and to become proactive within multimedia journalism. By adding extra digital content to an online article the content is more “dynamic and memorable” and recipients will willingly give up their time to look at it.

With this in mind, Alison promotes the “get-on-with-it” approach. The world is changing fast but we all need to catch up and live that well-known cliche of “getting with the times”.

In her “five phrases to outlaw in newsrooms” Alison makes a point that not everyone understands the significance of the internet. By not appreciating the extensive possibilities the internet has to offer, in Alison’s words, some journalists are “limiting themselves to one avenue of story-telling – text.”

Extending your journalistic toolkit through the use of online journalism is important and, at some point of your career, inevitable. It is time to knuckle down and understand and appreciate what online journalism has to offer.

The power of the blogger

After logging into Facebook today I found that one of my friends had posted a very funny video onto his profile. Clicking on it I discovered that it was a video note that had been posted by the actor Zach Braff.

In the video Zach lets the world know that he isn’t dead.

I hadn’t actually heard that Zach Braff had ‘died’ so maybe all the commotion was happening across the pond. Anyway, I watched the video and then Googled ‘Zach Braff dead’. What I found was many articles on different websites (3am online, Chicago Tribune and E! Online) explaining that Zach had been the victim of an internet hoax.

I went to the Glastonbury Festival this year and I remember what happened the night that Michael Jackson died.

All around us people were saying things along the lines of  “it is true because my friend who isn’t at the festival says it is”. I didn’t know what they were talking about but then I heard “I can’t believe Michael Jackson is dead”.

Many people, including myself, believed that it was simply a festival rumour so any news from the outside world was definitely a confirmation that it was true.

Looking back now I realised that this was a fantastic display of the power of “word-of-mouth”. For the five days I was at Glastonbury I really was in my own little festival bubble. I hadn’t got a clue what the news headlines were in the outside world. When Michael Jackson died, this huge surge of information poured in through conversations with other people at the festival, texts from friends and checking for myself on the internet.

Going back to Zach though, this was just an internet hoax but it is very interesting to see his response and the apologetic response of the blogger who started the rumour. The blogger, Chris Laganella, admits he created the webpage as a practical joke to fool his friends, and that he never meant for the page to cause such an uproar.

Nevertheless, it did cause great uproar both by journalists covering the story and the amount of Twitter responses.

This has certainly got me thinking about the power that bloggers and citizen journalists hold. Zach says that his mother was upset and I’m sure that he would have received many worried phonecalls from his friends too. To go from a simple “practical joke” to then having a video response by the celebrity themself is a very big deal.

Numerous telephone calls would have been made, tears possibly shed, hundreds of people talking about it and definitely a lot of people reading about the whole saga online.

Perhaps this incident should serve as a warning to all would be citizen journalists: if you write something, be it true or false, there could well be repercussions. People will read what you have written and they will comment.

I am studying journalism and learning about many things including ethics and media law. My course leaders have explained that what seperates journalists from citizen journalists is that we are part of a profession which has an ethical code. I want to be a professional journalists who sparks debate and interest. I will be accurate in my writing and will endeavour to meet the ethical code.

Time to get a calendar…

I’m nearly at the end of the introduction week at Cardiff and I’m 100% sure about one thing: I need to buy a calendar.

I have always been very good at sticking to deadlines, be it for essays or articles. Whether it was the night before or the week before, I always got my work done. However, it suddenly dawned on me today during our last lecture that I am going to have much more work to do. Certainly more work than I did in my undergrad course. This undoubtedly means many more deadlines and my brain (and small pocket calendar) can only cope with so much.

Today I was set the task of coming up with ideas for articles to go on our alt:Cardiff website (please note that in time I will figure out how to do a link to the website!) I can cope with this one deadline but soon I will have work set for my other modules, and soon enough they will start piling up.

Hence you see my need for an upgrade. Come the weekend you will find me browsing the Cardiff shops trying to find a poster calendar big enough to sort my life out on. Birthdays, visits to / from the boyfriend, essay deadlines and exams will all be noted, and probably in different coloured pens or highlighters to make it that bit easier too.

So, wish me luck in my quest to find the perfect calendar.

Now this is my first blog done, and hopefully keeping this updated won’t be another thing to add to my calendar :]

A collection of film-related thoughts from a fantasy and sci-fi obsessive.