The Telegraph has issued one of those all too rare apologies, to a man called Haras Ahmed. It has explained “In an article on 31 January 2016 ‘Muslim extremists’ “campaign of lies” to undermine the government’s fight against terror’, we referred to Haras Ahmed in the context of Islamist extremists seeking to undermine the government's Prevent strategy … The article suggested Mr Ahmed had, in an interview with the BBC, presented himself as an ordinary parent when in fact he was engaged in a campaign to undermine the government’s anti-terrorism policy”. And there was more.
“We accept that Mr Ahmed’s BBC interview was given in good faith. We also accept that, whilst he is critical of the Prevent strategy (elements of which he believes are highly discriminatory), he does not support Islamist extremists and is in no way himself an extremist”. And then Press Gazette revealed who had written the article.
After letting slip that the Tel had to pay Haras Ahmed £20,000 in damages, and probably a lot more in legal fees, it tells “Haras Ahmed sued over an Andrew Gilligan story which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 31 January 2016. It said: ‘Islamist activists linked to Cage, a group known to sympathise with terrorists, are using coordinated leaks to mainstream news organisations, including the BBC, to spread fear and confusion in Muslim communities about the Government’s anti-terror policy, Prevent’”.
Haras Ahmed had engaged the services of Carter, Ruck (that means it was expensive for the Sunday Tel), who observed “the story falsely alleged that ‘Ahmed had sought to mislead the public by falsely stating to the BBC that Waltham Forest Council had mistakenly released the names of children thought at risk of radicalisation … The Telegraph was provided with demonstrable evidence that this was in fact false, and has now accepted that these allegations were, and are, completely unfounded’”.
Tellingly, PG also lets us know “It is at least the second libel payout stemming from the piece”. But for Gilligan watchers, and especially those at Byline Media who were treated to a righteous yet defensive response when complaining about Gilligan’s amateurish hit-piece after the John Whittingdale revelations, there is a truly eyebrow-raising coda.
The initial response by the complainant had not been to take legal action, but to make a complaint to press regulator IPSO, under clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 12 (Discrimination). IPSO, to no surprise at all, had wiped Gilligan’s ample backside and shooed away the Scary Muslims (tm). Only then did Haras Ahmed go to Carter, Ruck.
Andrew Gilligan’s tendency to shout “liar” in his articles is well-known; it was one of his favourite weapons when going in to bat for London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson against Ken Livingstone in the 2012 Mayoral election campaign. The Tel were told they had defamed Byline Media, yet they and IPSO both waved away the complaints, even though the article was demonstrably defamatory.
Haras Ahmed’s libel victory is a nailed-on demonstration of how useless IPSO really is - except for the press establishment, for whom it is an obedient poodle.
IPSO is not fit for purpose. Nor is Gilligan. But you knew that anyway.