UK readers blocked from NY Times terror article
Tuesday August 29, 2006
MediaGuardian.co.ukThe New York Times has blocked British readers from accessing an article published in the US about the alleged London bomb plot for fear of breaching the UK's contempt of court laws.
Published in the US yesterday under the headline "Details emerge in British terror case", the article claims to reveal new information about the alleged terror bomb plot that brought British airports to a standstill earlier this month.
Online access to the article from the UK has been blocked and the shipment of yesterday's paper to London was stopped. The story was also omitted from the International Herald Tribune, the NYT's European sister paper.
The article purports to contain new information about Scotland Yard's surveillance of the alleged plotters and the subsequent police operation which resulted in the arrest of 24 suspects.
The claims in the article are based on testimonies from "British officials and others briefed on the evidence, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, citing British rules on confidentiality regarding criminal prosecutions" with six reporters contributing to the piece from New York, Washington and Pakistan.
Anyone from the UK attempting to read the article via the New York Times website is met with the message: "This Article Is Unavailable. On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial. "
It is believed to be the first time that the paper has stopped British readers accessing one of its articles because of worries about UK law.
Earlier this month, the home secretary, John Reid, and the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, issued a joint warning to the media to avoid coverage of the current terror investigations which might prejudice future trials.
The statement threatened possible contempt proceedings against publications that failed to show appropriate "restraint".
Mr Reid took the unusual step of seeking the attorney general's legal advice before publicising details of the alleged plot.
Because of the "exceptional" nature of the allegations, it was agreed he could reveal a significant amount of information surrounding the arrests of the 24 suspects.
The New York Times has been contacted by MediaGuardian.co.uk but had not responded by the time of publication.
Jill Abramson, a managing editor at the paper, said: "It's never a happy choice to deny any reader a story. But this was preferable to not having it on the web at all."
"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 [the UK] that, while it doesn't have a First Amendment, it does have a free press, and it's our position that we ought to respect that country's laws."
While shelving the print versions of the article in Britain was straightforward, the issue of the publication on the web was more complicated, said the newspaper in an article published online today.
Richard J. Meislin, the paper's associate managing editor for internet publishing, said it used the paper's online advertising technology to discern the internet address of users connecting to the site.