After the Telegraph told its readers that the prominent public figure accused of workplace and sexual harassment they had been investigating for some months could not be named because of one or more Non Disclosure Agreements, the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun came over all righteous about the situation. They, too, knew the name in the frame was Philip Green, but they too couldn’t name him.
So it was that an editorial told readers “Sir Philip Green bullying and harassment case shows that we have an analogue justice system in a digital age … The gagging order judges put on the Telegraph was destined to be pointless - with social media revealing the odious tycoon as the man behind hush money deals”. There was more.
“Neither we nor any other newspaper were able to tell you - even though … this was a matter of the most profound public interest … Our judges look like Dickens characters. It’s time for our judiciary to join the 21st century”. The paper even roped in Mick Hume of Spiked, so called because it should have been long ago, to whine about the matter.
“THE right of a rich man to buy the silence of employees who say he abused them is more important than the freedom of the Press to report allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse … The excuse given for this gagging order is that the businessman signed controversial non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with five former employees … In other words, he paid them to keep schtum”. Terrible, eh? And on he droned.
“The case could seriously affect workplace relations and strike another blow against freedom of the Press … NDAs were originally used for legitimate business purposes … Now they are being deployed as rich men’s personal weapons, to protect powerful individuals … It is as if we are going back to a dark age when the rich and powerful could keep their scandals secret … The media must have the right to publish, and be damned”.
And, d’you know what, on this occasion I Agree With Mick. Non Disclosure Agreements are being abused by the rich and powerful to silence others. The problem that Mick Hume has - and indeed anyone else writing for the Sun - is that those rich and powerful people abusing NDAs include the bloke who owns the paper.
Yes, Rupert Murdoch, via his executives, lawyers and others, has imposed NDAs on scores of people. Who might they be? Well, every one of those recent settlements for phone hacking - which happened not just at the late and not at all lamented Screws, but also at the Sun - has come with an NDA attached.
As Peter Jukes has pointed out, “All @TheSun phone hacking settlements have NDAs attached. Claimants can’t even reveal the quantum of the settlements … The stench of hypocrisy is overpowering”. News UK buys off the claimants before cases can get to court, and forces them to sign NDAs. So they can’t say how much they got in compensation.
When Mick Hume says that NDAs are “deployed as rich men’s personal weapons”, he is absolutely right. His problem is that he fails to mention one of those rich men.
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