Students of press misbehaviour will know the case of businessman Andy Miller, who was libelled by the Daily Mail over a contract his then firm won to supply IT services to the Metropolitan Police. Miller was a personal friend of the then Commissioner, Ian Blair. The Mail decided that this meant the contract had not been won by fair means, and moreover, splashed this all over its front page. The story was totally untrue.
But rather than other parts of the Fourth Estate learning that there are dangers in playing the guilt-by-association game, the Sunday Telegraph’s former “London editor”, Andrew “Transcription Error” Gilligan, did more or less the same thing as the Mail when going after former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman, when he wrote of “Borough of Tower Hamlets: a byword for sleaze” in January 2014.
Rahman, according to Gilligan, had “close links to Islamic extremism”. This was only because Gilligan kept doing the linking. The Mayor was overseeing a “sinister redistribution of wealth by Britain’s most disturbing local authority”. Then he smeared the company which successfully tendered to buy Poplar Town Hall, because two of its shareholders know Rahman. And that is where he came unstuck.
It was the same excuse the Mail used for libelling Andy Miller. And the result was not dissimilar: there has now been a grovelling apology. “In our coverage of Lutfur Rahman, the former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, we reported on the sale of Poplar Town Hall to a company controlled by Mujibul Islam, a local businessman, and the subsequent granting of planning permission for a hotel. Our articles suggested that Mr Islam was a willing beneficiary of Mr Rahman’s corruption. This is untrue”. Oh dear!
So no need to guess what comes next: “We accept that Mr Islam bid for the property on the open market and did not manipulate the planning process. We apologise to Mr Islam and have agreed to pay him damages and costs”.
Andrew Gilligan got the BBC into serious trouble over his shoddy reporting in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. He clearly hasn’t learned his lesson from that ruckus, which led to his departure from the Corporation. As Zelo Street regulars will know, he has not learnt from his smear of Mujibul Islam, as he was caught recently talking well, but lying badly, about Byline Media, an article that has been the subject of a complaint to IPSO.
Economy with the actualité seems to be a recurring and serious problem for Andrew Gilligan. Unfortunately for Telegraph readers, his employer continues to tolerate that.