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23 January, 2006

Libel and litigation

Dear Iqbal,

Well, you've lost your case, and is anyone surprised? No - but most of your media associates are likely to be relieved and delighted.

The best thing for you would be a course in basic journalism and media law. You don't currently seem to understand the difference between accuracy and libel, which has sadly wasted your money, effort and time:

"“The fabricated Gulf News report published on February 25 mentioned that the assault could be motivated by my political or ethnic background, but this was totally wrong. I don’t have any enemies or political problems. I am carrying a Jordanian passport but I am of Palestine origin. The report also stated that I got stabbed when I was leaving my home at midnight, but this was inaccurate because I was attacked when I came back from a meeting with my colleague at Inter News Agency where I work as correspondent. Al Jandly reported that I was stabbed in the back, close to my spinal cord which is also wrong. I was actually stabbed on the side of my back where I had 20 stitches at the Al Kuwaiti hospital."

These are predominantly issues of accuracy, not libel. You're also nitpicking: "in the back" vs "side of my back" - does this inaccuracy really offend you? Nor do you seem to have much regard for the role of journalism in exposing public danger and even assisting the police:

"She spoke for more that 45 minutes, telling reporters that Gulf News lacked basic journalism ethics and is dangerous for state security because it published a report on the crime before it was solved by the police."

So when a dangerous criminal is on the loose, the press should button its lip and not warn anyone of the danger, until the time if/when the police manage to apprehend them? Scaremongering is one thing, but alerting the public to a clear and present danger is quite another. Perhaps what you were really upset about, though, was losing your job:

"On February 25, I was shocked to read the fabricated report published by Gulf News which contributed to damaging my reputation. My services were terminated from several media establishments where I was working as a contributor, because I refused to give them my comments and then it had appeared in the Gulf News."

Well, it's sad when anyone loses their job. But at this stage, it doesn't sound like journalism was or is the happiest career for you, so good luck with whatever else you choose to do in life. The only real damage to your reputation, if any, has arisen from your own litigation, not as a result of Gulf News' article. Certainly no one in their right mind would have thought any the worse of you after reading it, just sympathy for the assault you suffered.





Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Iqbal a man's name?

23 January, 2006 10:49  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

She expected accuracy from a jounalist? And a Gulf News journalist at that?

If every journalist could be sued for inaccurate reporting, there would be lengthy queues outside every courtroom the world over.

23 January, 2006 11:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading that news clip, i was just thinking from the other side.

Pleaasee correct me if i'm wrong on any point.. this is what happened as i understood from the reports..

- Someone slashed her..
- Sharjah police asks her to keep mum about the incident may be esp. to news reporters.. since "it will interfere with investigations"
- she cannot create a news story herself, eventhough she is a media related person.. nor she doesn't give comment to others..
- a smart gulf news reporter gets a detailed account from other sources. that somebody H.Y told someone M.I that something like this happened....
- lady looses her job since the GN reporter quotes her and publishes news, whereas she didn't give comments to anyone else. (I'm not sure if GN reporter wrote as quoting her or just reported the incident)

I agree on press freedom claims.. In this particular case, shouldn't we also think from the point of view of that individual? She lost her job.. because she did something what police asked her to do..

If what i understood as written above is correct.. then who is to be blamed?

you guys must be having more information on the incident.. being related to media..

is it fair to fire someone because other reporters weren't smart enough to get news from other sources..

23 January, 2006 11:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm completely in favor of freedom of the press but I think there's one point to be made on the other side here. Crime victims don't choose to be in the news, it just happens to them. It can be a real invasion of privacy, especially when the case is spectacular, as it was here.

But being reported in the press as a crime victim can be much worse than an annoyance, especially if you're a women. I don't think there are many honor killings occur in the UAE but they do occur in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, etc. Sometimes even the suspicion of rape is enough to trigger an honor killing. Short of that, women everywhere can suffer social stigma just for being a victim.

Therefore, while I'm in favor of freedom of the press, I'm also sympathetic to the rights of crime victims and their privacy. Maybe publishing the names of crime victims isn't such a good idea.

23 January, 2006 12:28  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I agree with both the above points: it is sad she lost her job, but that doesn't mean she was defamed. She wasn't.

Re: naming victims - the victims of sex crimes usually aren't named anyway (laws forbid it in UK for example). I think it would have been more appropriate if she wasn't named: "one of the victims, a journalist in her 30s" etc would have been fine.

But naming her still didn't defame her. It was a really stupid suit. And like many ill-advised libel cases, it's only made her look worse. Now all future employers will be aware that she is litigious: not a risk many want to take in these days of workplace litigation and employment tribunals.

23 January, 2006 13:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is the original, which shows that the gulf news journalist should certainly have called the victim for comment. but that's about it

By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter

Unknown assailant stabs woman near her home -->

A journalist working for an Arab channel at Dubai Media City was stabbed by unknown suspects as she was leaving her Sharjah home at midnight.

I.T., a Palestinian in her forties who works for a pan-Arab TV channel, told police that she could not recognise the assaulters and does not suspect any one.

The assault could be motivated by her political or ethnic background, she said.

The incident happened about two weeks back when someone whom the woman could not recoginse stabbed her in the back, close to her spinal cords.

Police sources said I.T.'s life could be saved because she was rushed to Al Kuwaiti Hospital immediately. She is still in the hospital for treatment.

Police, however, have advised I.T. who is also a well-known poet not to speak about the incident until they find out who is behind the assault.

Sources said there have been a number of similar complaints where the targets of assault were women, but there was no police confirmation of the claim.

23 January, 2006 13:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if she had that much to say about gulf news, she'd certainly be able to fill a book about khaleej times.

23 January, 2006 14:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""secretdubai said...
I agree with both the above points: it is sad she lost her job, but that doesn't mean she was defamed. She wasn't.""

- Yes, the suit should have been against her employers for firing her, because she was acting according to what she was told to do by the police.

anonymous@23 January, 2006 13:26,

thank u for the report. If we read the original report, and consider the errors in grammar, translation. etc. that always happen in the dubai's english newspapers, the report can be found to refer only to police sources.. :-)

23 January, 2006 15:02  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Re that report:

I do think they failed to protect her identity. Using her initials is bad enough, but details such as "well-known poet" are just extraneous.

Interestingly, that article quotes police sources and mentions that the victim had been told not to talk about the case. Nowhere does it quote her directly, or even suggest that she spoke to GN.

I fail to understand why Iqbal didn't sue the "police source" for revealing her identity, rather than Gulf News.

I feel sorry for her, but I would hate to work with someone so misguidedly litigious. If she really felt offended, why not request an apology from Gulf News and ask them to make a donation to a victims' charity on her behalf?

I find it odd she lost employment from this article (if indeed that is why she lost it) but I would expect her to lose future employment from her lawsuit.

23 January, 2006 15:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every one wants an exclusive! In the UK, The Sun will pay you for stuff like that! Out here, this GN reporter scored valuable brownie points I'm sure!

23 January, 2006 15:15  
Blogger archer14 said...

Wow journalists against journalists. Shouldn't she be actually sue her employer for sacking her for no fault of hers? Well, I congragulate her for her newfound state of permanent unemployment.

23 January, 2006 15:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unfair dismissal is great in this country. there is nothing you can do about it

23 January, 2006 17:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All i see here is secret making quite an effort to defend Gulf News by unleashing a scathing attack on Iqbal.

Interesting to see your polar views on KT and GN.

Nevertheless it's your blog and you can write, love and hate whatever and whoever you damn well please.

23 January, 2006 20:10  
Blogger secretdubai said...

unleashing a scathing attack

Good lord - that is surely both inaccurate and defamatory of my rant powers! As if expressions that lame and mild would ever constitute a "scathing attack" in this place. That was "mild disapproval".

I felt sorry for her, so I held back. When I decide to scathe, believe me, you will be well aware.

23 January, 2006 20:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I thought it was a scathing attack on poor Iqbal.

24 January, 2006 01:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha! very interesting comments from SD and the others, Yes i noticed as well that usually SD always has contradicting comments on gulf news articles, but he seems to be defending it on this one.

but i wouldnt blame him. Ms. IT has lost her job only because she was a journalist due to herself being a subject reported.

she has made an impulsive decision on taking out her frustration of her employers on gulf news...hmm maybe gulf news should employ her then :o).

In any case I prefer gulf news to khaleej times as well

24 January, 2006 10:24  
Blogger the shadow said...

I can understand that she has been through hell at least, must have been pretty traumatic, being stabbed and then sacked because of it.

I don't understand at all why she lost her job and it's seems that she's totally lashing out at the wrong people.

She should set her sights on the balls of her employer I think. Who is it anyway? MBC?

24 January, 2006 18:43  

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