Saudi prince Nayef wins libel damages over alleged publication

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Saudi prince Nayef wins libel damages over alleged publication

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Analysis of the story

Saudi Arabias interior minister, Prince Nayef, wins damages at London’s High Court for fake charges libeled against him by a newspaper The Independent accusing him of ordering police firing against unarmed protestors. Prince Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saudi will donate a substantial amount to charity.

The publishers Independent Print Ltd, not only offered sincere apologies for the false publication but also undisclosed damages to the Prince.

The newspaper and its East correspondent reporter Robert Fisk accepted the “order” and confirmed that the report was fake.

Arab revolt and Saudi troop movement

Rupert Earle, who appeared for the prince, told Mrs Justice Nicola Davies the fake allegations arose after Saudi Shia activists sought to organize a demonstration on 11 March described as the “Hunayn Revolution”, after a battle fought by the Prophet Muhammed in 630 AD.

Hundreds of Saudi troops had entered Bahrain to help protect government facilities amid escalating protests against the government. Sunni rulers faced weeks of protests and growing pressure from a majority Shia population to institute political reforms.

Several websites featured an order to suppress the uprising as allegedly issued by Prince Nayef. They also stated that it addressed to police chiefs before the demonstration.

The order stated that Hunayn demonstrators “should be shown no mercy, should be struck with iron fists, and that it was permitted for all officers and personnel to use live rounds,” said Mr Earle. The alleged order ended with Prince Nayef wishing the police luck.

Mr Fisk wrote a feature on Arab Spring under the headline A Long coming on revolts in the Arab world. In the article Mr Fisk stated that the Independent possessed and “extraordinary and outrageous” order from Prince Nayef and also added worthy of investigation by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Ripples

The defendants accepted that there is no truth in the allegation that the claimant had issued an order to police chiefs throughout Saudi Arabia to shoot and kill unarmed demonstrators without mercy, and therefore deserves to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for a crime against humanity.

Helen Morris, solicitor for The Independent, told the judge that Mr Fisk accepted there was no truth in the allegation and withdrew it “unreservedly”. She said The decision to refer to the order was made in good faith, albeit in the mistaken belief that the order was genuine. She also stated Both the Independent and Robert Fisk offer their sincere apologies to Prince Nayef for the damage and distress caused by the article and the inevitable coverage it received.”

Overview

Arab revolution raised hopes ushering in economic change and reverting decades of relative stagnation in the region. Media has an important role in reporting the developments in the region.

However, the recent scandal that rocked U.K. media industry made it clear that newspaper could stoop to any level for sensational scoops.

The victory of Prince Nayef over fake publication hopes to make a radical change in both reporting and publishing of news in both print and visual media.

Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera, AG

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