Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Banned In The U.K.

It’s illegal in Britain for the media to report anything prejudicial about a defendant facing a criminal trial, so when the New York Times ran an article titled “Details Emerge in British Terror Case” it agreed not to sell any print copies of the story in the U.K. But this isn't censorship or anything:

I think we have to take every case on its own facts,” said George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company. “But we’re dealing with a country that, while it doesn’t have a First Amendment, it does have a free press, and it’s our position it that we ought to respect that country’s laws.”
Get it? They don’t have a first amendment but they do have a free press, and to respect that the Times is censoring this news.

Sounds like Brits who want print copies of the story are out of luck. But what about the Internet? The Times thought of that, and blocked British addresses from its site. Any Brits who click on the above link will get the following message: “On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.”

I learned all of this from a Times article about its own self-censorship, Times Withholds Web Article In Britain. Well, not really. Actually I read the story where it had been cut and pasted onto this guy’s blog, which is accessible from Britain. And if you scroll down below the censorship story you’ll find a perfectly mirrored copy of Details Emerge in British Terror Case, photograph and all. The centuries-old (I’m guessing) British censorship law has officially lost its teeth.

So do you think Britain will rescind the don’t-write-about-trials law, now that the Internet makes it useless in regards to its intended purpose? Or will it maintain the hypocritical stance that so long as print versions aren’t available, that’s reason enough for the law to remain?

P.S. Three cheers for metafilter, where I found this story.


Anonymous Alex said...

Wait, I'm confused. England, with a long tradition of tabloid press, doesn't permit press coverage of crimes before they go to trial? Huh?

5:55 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

England, with a long tradition of tabloid press, doesn't permit press coverage of crimes before they go to trial? Huh?

Serious and for true. There was a knife attack which was video'd and made it to the internet. I saw it, and actually used a bunch of it in martial arts classes as threat avoidance lectures. These guys, if in the US, would have been villified by the press. Not a word over there but for an occasional comment a to the results of certain proceedings.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Stuart said...

Britian does allow limited coverage of crimes before they go to trail, the reason it dosent allow full coverage is to prevent the press in some way perverting the course of justice. the logic is that the jurors should get there information from the court, not from the press (this dosent mean the press dosent report, just that the press has to be carefull to only report facts opposed to hearsay, opinion or things that could later to be found untrue)

4:41 AM  

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