Sunday 14 November 2010

Super-injunction imposed news blackout on Chandlers' kidnap ordeal by Somali pirates

The BBC has revealed that a 'super-injunction' imposed a news blackout on the media covering Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple who spent more than a year kidnapped by pirates in Somalia.

Jon Williams the BBC World news editor writes on the BBC Editors' blog: "Some months ago, the family of Paul and Rachel Chandler sought what is known as a "super-injunction", prohibiting the media from reporting any developments in their case.

"Lawyers for the family argued that speculation about their health, about any possible ransom and on the negotiations about their release might prolong their captivity. The injunction was designed to protect the safety of the Chandlers - and prevented us from referring even to its existence.

"Some other news organisations did not - which is why, for some hours, during the Chandlers' dangerous journey through Somalia to the safety of Kenya, the BBC stayed silent while pictures of the couple could be seen elsewhere.

"While it wasn't a comfortable position for us, or our audience, to be in, it was the law and a restriction put in place to try to ensure the safety of the Chandlers. Had we done otherwise, we would have been in contempt of court.

"At its simplest, journalism is about telling people things they don't know - so it's always difficult for us not to report a story. But sometimes there are good reasons. There is no public interest in breaking the law, simply to claim a scoop."

Mark Stone of Sky News has also blogged about the super-injunction.

He writes: "In June, a ransom was paid to those thought to be holding the couple [the Chandlers]. The expectation was that they would be released soon after but they weren't.

"At that point, with the advice of many hostage negotiation specialists including, no doubt, some working for the British Government, a decision was taken to seek a 'super-injunction' preventing all media outlets from mentioning the Chandlers or even the fact that the injunction existed.

"The injunction was granted and they were not mentioned in the newspapers or on the television until this morning - do a google search and you'll see the gap in coverage.The reason it was sought, granted and adhered to by the media is simple.

"A view was taken that to continue to show footage of them pleading for help and to publicise the fact that money (private, not government) was being raised sent a message to the pirates. It told them that hostage taking works: Britain was worried and willing to pay out in some form. The concern was that the pirates would simply ask for more and more.

"In short, mentioning the Chandlers existence was hampering significant behind-the-scenes efforts to free them."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prior to reading this I'd thought super-injunctions were synonymous with the smothering of democracy, a la Carter Ruck. Now I see that in exceptional cases they can be for the greater good. Welcome home Chandlers!