Tag Archives: bbc newsnight

Independent publishes Trafigura story correction

The Independent published a correction yesterday concerning its front page story from September 2009 ‘Toxic shame’, which contained claims of individuals who alleged they had been injured as a result of illegal dumping of waste in the Cote d’Ivoire by a Trafigura ship:

The article stated that claimants had been maimed and wrongly suggested that, due to the settlement, claims of more serious injuries including miscarriages would not be tested in the High Court case. In fact such claims had already been withdrawn earlier last year. A joint statement issued by both parties in that case said that independent experts have been “unable to identify a link between exposure to the chemicals… and deaths, miscarriages, still births, birth defects … or other serious and chronic injuries”. The story featured the photograph of a woman with a severely scarred face, a condition which Trafigura says, and we accept, cannot therefore have been caused by the waste. We are happy to set the record straight.

Full correction at this link…

Trafigura and its lawyers Carter-Ruck were at the centre of last year’s super injunction debate after Carter-Ruck abandoned an attempt to prevent the Guardian from reporting a parliamentary question about the company.

In December the oil trader ended its legal dispute with BBC Newsnight. The programme agreed to: apologise for allegations made about waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire on air and pay £25,000 to a charity of Trafigura’s choice, as well as legal costs.

Comment: A black day for British journalism

Padraig Reidy is news editor of the Index on Censorship. The Index on Censorship and English PEN also issued a statement at this link. The BBC’s statement in open court can be read at this link.

Yesterday was a black day for British journalism, when the BBC, perhaps through fear of expense, or perhaps simply because of the uncertainty and lack of backbone that has plagued the organisation for years now, conceded in a libel case brought by oil traders Trafigura.

This was a matter of the utmost public interest. The BBC should have held its ground and in a court of law a clear vindication of Trafigura or otherwise should have been made. It’s a terrifying prospect that even the nation’s biggest broadcaster can’t face up to big business in our libel courts such are the costs involved.

newsnight2Trafigura and its solicitors Carter-Ruck have now become synonymous with attempts to stifle free expression in the UK. First it gagged newspapers who attempted to report on waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire with an injunction. Then it attempted to gag Parliament itself over the reporting of a question on the matter by Labour MP Paul Farrelly. Now, acting with confidence of its advantage as a claimant in England’s rotten libel courts, it has forced the national broadcaster to apologise, rather than face a potential £3m court case.

Libel laws are, most would agree, necessary. People should have a right to defend themselves from outrageous and injurious accusations. But this is quite different from corporations protecting themselves from investigation of their practices and the consequences of their practices.

Through the libel law and the ad hoc privacy law emerging from Mr Justice Eady’s courts, foreign companies, like Trafigura and Kaupthing, the Icelandic bank, can scare off British reporters, and in turn deprive British people of information.

This state of affairs cannot continue, which is why Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science, has formed the Libel Reform Campaign, offering 10 simple recommendations to make libel laws fairer for all – claimants and defendants. A petition launched last week at libelreform.org has already attracted thousands of signatures, and there have been some favourable noises from Westminster. But favourable noises only go so far: now is the time for all our politicians to take action and end the UK’s status as a global free speech pariah.

BBC Newsnight to broadcast Trafigura apology on tonight’s programme

Carter-Ruck has issued its response (via PR firm Bell-Pottinger) to today’s high court hearing resolution that ended the legal dispute between oil trader Trafigura and BBC Newsnight.

The BBC has agreed to apologise for allegations made about waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire on air tonight; pay £25,000 to a charity of Trafigura’s choice, as well as legal costs.

[Full story at this link]

In a Newsnight programme in May 2009, the BBC alleged that waste dumped in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 had caused deaths, miscarriages and serious long term health effects.

“Faced with such grave, yet wholly false, allegations, Trafigura was left with no alternative but to commence libel proceedings,” the British-based oil trading firm claimed today, through its solicitors.

Although the feature published in May 2009 disappeared from the BBC’s site last week
, the text and video has been made available via the whistleblowing site Wikileaks.

In a statement today, Eric de Turckheim, founder and director of Trafigura, said:

“Trafigura has always maintained that the slops cannot have caused the deaths and serious injuries alleged by the BBC. We informed Newsnight of the detailed evidence before the programme was aired – yet they chose to proceed with their highly-damaging and false assertions. We are pleased the BBC has now acknowledged that it was wrong.

“Trafigura accepts that the Probo Koala incident is a matter of public interest. However, there is no public interest in the BBC reporting damaging untruths. Such is the international reach and high-regard of the BBC, we were left with little choice but to bring these proceedings – the only libel claim we have brought anywhere in the world against any media outlet.

“With the benefit of the facts, Mr Justice MacDuff advised the media earlier this year to take note of the evidence and approach their reporting of these matters more responsibly. We hope that, in future, they do.”

The BBC statement can be read at this link. It says: “the BBC has played a leading role in bringing to the public’s attention the actions of Trafigura in the illegal dumping of 500 tons of hazardous waste in Abidjan in 2006. The dumping caused a public health emergency with tens of thousands of people seeking treatment.”

The corporation, however, has backed down by retracting its earlier claims. It now says that “the evidence does not establish that Trafigura’s waste caused deaths, miscarriages or serious or long term injuries”.

Trafigura agreed to pay victims of the waste dumping around £30 million in compensation in September 2009, having previously paid compensation of over £100 million to the Ivory Coast government. However, the company denies liability.

In October, Trafigura’s injunction on the ‘Minton Report’ – which looked into the effects of waste dumping – was lifted, following a five week legal battle with the Guardian.

Where has the BBC’s Trafigura feature gone?

In May 2009, Guardian head of investigations, David Leigh, reported that Trafigura was suing the BBC’s Newsnight programme for libel.

Seven months later on 10 December, Richard Wilson, of the Don’t Get Fooled Again blog, claimed that the BBC’s Trafigura feature from May 2009 had disappeared from the BBC’s site. The text, however, was still available via the Google cache. A video of the missing film soon appeared on YouTube.

Journalism.co.uk followed up this latest development – the disappearance of the feature on alleged dumping of toxic waste in Cote d’Ivoire – with BBC Newsnight, via its press office on Monday.

In response, after checking with the lawyers, a spokesperson said: “We haven’t got anything to say on this. As discussed earlier we are often not able to comment if there’s a live legal action.”

Trafigura’s law firm Carter-Ruck has not yet issued a statement, Journalism.co.uk was told when we contacted them for comment.

Yesterday, the New Statesman reported that the story had disappeared; Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, among others, then shared the NS article link on Twitter.

The full text of the feature and copy of the video has now appeared on Wikileaks.