The Panorama programme on the activities of Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, was perhaps most interesting for who did not appear, rather than who did. It was also blindingly obvious that John Sweeney was taking a balanced view throughout, and that, as Jack Of Kent pointed out, there was little, if any, grounds for all the legal action meant to prevent the broadcast.
Mazher Mahmood does not want you to see this photo
So who merely phoned in their no-comment comments? At the top of the heap is News UK, the empire of Creepy Uncle Rupe, the organisation that not only tolerated, but encouraged Mahmood’s behaviour – and profited handsomely from it. They bankrolled the legal actions – Maz could not possibly have done that himself – and otherwise did their utmost to protect their prize asset.
Why would they do that? Simples. The Sun On Sunday clearly saw the Fake Sheikh as valuable enough to keep under wraps so that he could carry on stinging, just as he had done for so many years. The Murdoch press has no problem with more slebs having their careers trashed in order to keep sales figures up. News UK is fine with more of the actions exposed yesterday evening.
Rupert Murdoch gives the Leveson Inquiry a traditional tabloid greeting
Also not commenting was the Metropolitan Police, and here a rather more disturbing picture emerges. That the Met was too close to part of the Fourth Estate, and especially the Murdoch titles, has been made clear by the Police’s foot-dragging over phone hacking. Mahmood claimed to have done some of his stinging in cooperation with the Met. But who polices the Police?
And, forming an unholy trinity with both press and Police, we have private investigators, and especially Southern Investigations (SI), which employs the dubious talents of those like the seriously dodgy Sid Fillery. SI worked with the Screws; it also worked with a number of corrupt serving or former Police officers. SI appears to have gone quiet right now.
Finally, there are other journalists who may have used less than ethical methods, or not asked too many questions about how the information feeding into their by-lines had been obtained. Those who condoned phone hacking, and would rather folks don’t dwell on the Fake Sheikh’s story, will face further scrutiny as a result of last night’s Panorama. They know who they are.
All of which brings one inescapable conclusion: far from being the end of the matter, John Sweeney’s expose of the Fake Sheikh is only the beginning. As with phone hacking, progress will initially be slow, there will be denials and obfuscation, but ultimately, what goes around comes around. Illegal behaviour will be punished, and the lawyers will be gearing up for compensation claims.
You takers of the Murdoch shilling still want in? You brave and foolish people.