It’s extraordinary, but true, and even though we live in a image democracy where freedom of speech is a right we can enjoy, that freedom does not extend to your blog if you upset a rich and powerful person.

That is the gist of Iain Dale’s unbelievable post outlining the shutting down of Tim Ireland’s Bloggerhead’s site, as well as Craig Murray‘s, former Ambassador to Uzbekhistan.

They both spoke out against the Russian/Uzbekh billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, (pictured) who is trying to buy Arsenal FC. Lawyers letters followed which led to the webhost pulling the plug.

As Bloggerheads also hosts blogs run by Conservative MP Boris Johnson and Labour councillor Bob Piper, as well as others, their sites have vanished too, even though they did not offend the billionaire.

Iain’s article, and the comments posted, is essential reading. Good points have been made, like using American webhosts instead. And does this set a precedent which other influential people will follow if bloggers upset them?

And, as Iain says, who wants that kind of person in control of their football club? It shows him to be a person who wants everything on his terms and a bully.

This is what Craig Murray has told Iain about the extraordinary events:

“ has vanished – as has bloggerheads and bobpiper – after the server has been “pulledâ€? by services management company Fasthosts Internet Ltd of Gloucester. Fasthosts have done this in response to legal threats from libel lawyers Schillings, acting on behalf of Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek oligarch and friend of Putin currently trying to buy Arsenal football club.
“As a former British Ambassador in Uzbekistan, I know a great deal more about Mr Usmanov, and especially about his criminal record, than he finds comfortable. The principal point at issue is that he has been able to take down one of the UK’s leading political websites without anything being tested in court. Fasthosts have pathetically repeated Schillings bluster that my site is “Defamatoryâ€?, as though that were established.
“We all know that money talks. It seems it can stop other people talking, too. There appears a real danger that all the material on the site may be lost and not able to be

Newspapers are not shut down if they face libel allegations, (not in the UK anyway) there is a legal process that is followed. Surely that process applies to bloggers too. If the offending comments were not libellous – and only a court can decide this – then Mr Usmanov’s actions could be deemed illegal. He would have to pay damages. There are all sorts of legal ramifications involved with this story.

My message to Mr Usmanov is:

ПожалуйÑ?та Ñ?проÑ?ите, что ваши законоведы reinstate Ñ?ти blogs, вы не имейте никакую потребноÑ?Ñ‚ÑŒ быть иÑ?пугано они говорÑ?Ñ‚ еÑ?ли вы будете правдивой перÑ?оной.

Watch this space!

Update: This story has been spreadling like wildfire, too many bloggers to be silenced. This Chicken Yoghurt link highlights them all.