New York Times blocks UK access to terror suspect story

The New York Times is blocking access to one of its stories for UK-based internet users amid concerns that it could be held in contempt of court for prejudicing the trial of terror suspects.

The story, published on the paper’s front page on Monday (28 August), details the evidence against the suspects being held over the alleged plot to bomb aircraft flying from Britain to the US.

Attempting to access the story from a UK-based IP address leads to an error message reading: “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.” However, one website, which is wellknown among journalists for flouting British reporting restrictions on national security matters, is republishing the story in full, as are several bloggers.

The story was also published on the website of one Canadian newspaper that syndicates New York Times content.

Written by reporters Don Van Natta Jr, Elaine Sciolino and Stephen Grey, the story is based on interviews with at least five “senior British officials”, a chemist and “others briefed on the evidence”, all of whom “spoke on condition of anonymity, citing British rules on confidentiality regarding criminal prosecutions”.

Some of the details in the New York Times piece had already been reported in Britain, but the story also contains new details about the evidence gathered by police and intelligence services.

Some British newspapers appeared to be less concerned about the legal implications of the story than The New York Times. Both the Daily Mail and The Times picked up details from the story this week, reporting on the contents of the “martyrdom videos” recovered by police.

The story was also omitted from the British circulation of the International Herald Tribune and was made available to nytimes.com readers in the rest of the world later than usual.

The delay was apparently due to the time needed to adapt software normally used to target online advertising at particular geographic regions to limit access to the story.

Geolocation software can be imprecise, and a Press Gazette reader based in the Republic of Ireland reported being unable to access the story.

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