The Trafigura effect – vive la resistance!


I’m writing this still reeling from my Twitter experience this morning! (geek)

Flicking, as I usually do, between work and Tweetdeck (keeping in touch with the back channel) I started picking up on the #trafigura hash tag which had started trending.

Things started moving more quickly and I noticed several people I’m following mentioning it.

Between reading tweets I started Googling for background information. I clicked through on a Guardian news link that was ranking top from Google News results and was surprised to get a 404 error (page not found).

As it gained more momentum I was able to glean more news through Twitter than I found anywhere else on the web, and it started to surprise me that most of the active Twitterers that I follow were also passing round information about Trafigura and hash tagging their tweets (leading to #trafigura becoming a trending topic).

There are snippets of the story below that I have collated, but I’m sure it will unfold in the national press, and eventually be heard on Radio 4 (that’s playing beside me).

But what’s so great about this morning compared to previous bouts and rantings through Twitter is that democracy has caused international lawyers to repeal a gag order. This gag order was placed on the Guardian by an international law firm (Carter Ruck) on behalf of their client Trafigura (a global trading business).

The Guardian wanted to write an article on a toxic waste spill on the Ivory Coast in Africa from a known hazardous cargo ship, about how much damage had been done to the environment.

What I loved is how the many diverse people I follow suddenly came together with one voice. Here’s one screenshot:

trafigutra-tweetdeck

And some individual Tweets (just to mark the occasion:

tweetdeck-closeup

There’s a great article about the background to the story here: http://blogs.journalism.co.uk/editors/2009/10/13/the-journalist-and-ngo-collaboration-to-expose-trafigura-toxic-waste-dump/comment-page-1/#comment-19127 and my highlights for you below.

It can now be reported that legal firm Carter-Ruck tried to prevent the Guardian from reporting MP Paul Farrelly’s question about UK oil trader Trafigura in Parliament, butit will no longer pursue its attempt.

Last month, the Guardian splashed with the story that British oil company Trafigura had offered a £30 million ($49,056,000) payout to 31,000 victims of toxic dumping in West Africa – £1,000 ($1,635) each.

The dumping itself –  400 tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast by an oil tanker, the Probo Koala, in 2006 – was already public, but less clear was what damage had been caused and whetherTrafigura knew of its hazardous effects.

The Guardian reported the £100 million ($163,560,000) legal battle behind what it called a ‘cover-up exercise’ by Trafigura and published emails, allegedly showing that Trafigura ‘was fully aware that its waste dumped in Ivory Coast was so toxic that it was banned in Europe’.

Global reaction
Despite the legal risk, allegations and emails were published without relying on Wikileaks. But thewhistleblowing organisation did offer its own leaked document and praised the Guardian for its ’solid work,’ via its Twitter feed (@wikileaks).

Greenpeace, a leading environmental campaigning organization, wants to see Trafiguraprosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, and cites documents which it says demonstrate the waste’s high toxicity.

Vive la resistance as they’d say inthe Cote D’Ivoire :)

Update at 19:43:
Here’s the Trendsmap image that has just been shown on Channel 4 news, who interestingly are still not allowed to talk about the original Alan Minton report on the toxic spill… talk about convoluted!

trendsmap

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