A Significant Victory ... but the Fight for Free Speech Goes on; ANALYSIS
Byline: JOHN KAMPFNER CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF INDEX ON CENSORSHIP AND AUTHOR OF FREEDOM FOR SALE
JOHN TERRY may earn himself a place in history as the man who brought to an end one of the most sinister tactics used to stifle free speech in this country.
He didn't, of course, mean to do it. He employed the showbusiness law firm Schillings, which specialises in ensuring that individuals and media are discouraged from publishing information that might inconvenience its clients.
His lawyers obtained a superinjunction ensuring that nothing, repeat nothing, could be mentioned about his affair - even the existence of the injunction itself.
The super-injunction is a mighty tool that would do many a dictatorship proud. It has become a catch-all device simply to stop the media reporting facts that might embarrass companies or individuals.
The most outrageous example came last October when Carter-Ruck, another law firm that feeds off curtailing free expression, sought to prevent a newspaper from reporting a question in Parliament about a super-injunction granted to the oil trading firm Trafigura, which was alleged to have dumped toxic waste in the Ivory Coast.
The Trafigura case amounted to a direct attack on centuries of constitutional history and the supremacy of Parliament. Such was the popular outcry from ordinary people outraged at the censorship that Carter-Ruck was forced to drop the injunction.
In the Terry case, common sense has also, belatedly, prevailed. Mr Justice Tugendhat's decision may presage a change of direction by judges who in recent years have bent over backwards to accommodate the wishes of those seeking to gag the media.
Tugendhat seems to be beginning to understand the extent of public misgiving about the state of affairs.
The balance between the right to know and the right to privacy - both enshrined in the Human Rights Act - had previously shifted hugely to the rich and powerful.
The seemingly inexorable march towards greater censorship in the UK reached its peak in 2009. A combination of zealous law firms, sometimes cash-strapped news organisations and a public that is encouraged to think the worst of the media has created a situation where the right to know seems optional - unlike in America, where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech as an inalienable right. …