October 14, 2009, 12:40 PM — A prominent British newspaper is hailing Twitter supporters for helping quash an injunction that hampered its reporting of a toxic dumping incident that killed more than a dozen people in the Ivory Coast.
The Guardian was prevented from writing about a portion of public parliamentary proceedings related to Trafigura, a commodities trading company accused of allowing one of its contractors to dump chemical waste around the city of Abidjan in 2006.
Trafigura's lawyers, Carter-Ruck, sought to block the Guardian from writing about a question posed by a member of Parliament, Paul Farrelly. Farrelly had asked Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw about the free press implications of an order obtained by Trafigura on Sept. 11 that prevented the Guardian and other newspapers from writing about a report on the dumping, which was commissioned by Trafigura.
In its Monday edition, the Guardian said it would fight the injunction. Overnight, Farrelly's question was published by supporters on Twitter as well as in Private Eye, a political magazine. By Tuesday, Carter-Ruck had withdrawn the order, the Guardian said.
"Thanks to Twitter/all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours!" wrote Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on Tuesday afternoon. "Great victory for free speech."
Carter-Ruck representatives in London could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
In its Wednesday edition, the Guardian quoted Rusbridger as saying "I'm very pleased that common sense has prevailed and that Carter-Ruck are now prepared to vary their draconian injunction to allow reporting of Parliament."
In 2006, a ship charted by Trafigura was used to refine a dirty petroleum by-product bought from a state-owned oil company in Mexico, according to a BBC report. The cleaner product could be sold for a profit, but the process left dangerous waste.
The Netherlands rejected the waste. It then was shipped to the Ivory Coast, where it was offloaded and eventually dumped in various spots around Abidjan. People near the sites experienced diarrhea and breathing problems, the BBC reported.
The Ivory Coast has said that as many as 17 people died as a result of the dumping and more than 100,000 were sickened. Last month, Trafigura agreed to pay £30 million (US$49 million [m]) to about 31,000 people. As part of the out-of-court settlement, lawyers for the claimants accepted that there was no link between the dumping and resulting illnesses and deaths.