East London paper publishes 'fake sheikh' picture

By Sarah Lagan

The East London Advertiser has become the second newspaper to publish a picture of the News of the World’s investigative editor, Mazher Mahmood, released by Respect Party leader George Galloway.

Galloway is one of two local MPs in the Tower Hamlets area covered by the Advertiser.

Editor Malcolm Starbrook told Press Gazette: "The story is of limited appeal; it’s what I would have called an old Fleet Street village issue, but it played out very big in Tower Hamlets. It’s a time when Galloway’s party is becoming very active in local elections.

"I took into consideration the fact that there were several more identifiable photographs of him [Mahmood] already widely available on the internet.

I was also mindful of the fact that the people he had most to fear from were people he would already have met.

"Many of these stories tended to be agent provocateur in terms of showing people’s propensity to be swayed, such as Sophie Wessex and the remarks she made about the Royal family. So on balancing these elements I decided to run with it."

Pictures of Mahmood had already been published on several websites before the NoW gained a temporary injunction stopping its publication.

After the injunction was overturned by Galloway on appeal, the NoW requested that the media not publish the picture, saying Mahmood had received death threats after helping to put 130 criminals behind bars.

However, The Guardian published a picture of him the following day. The Advertiser was also ready to publish a picture of Mahmood, but the injunction wasn’t lifted until just past the weekly paper’s deadline.

Starbrook stressed that the Advertiser had tried to contact the NoW so that it could verify the death threats against Mahmood and the claimed jailing of 130 criminals following his investigations, but the paper did not respond.

The NoW told Press Gazette it is not commenting to any media organisations on the matter.

Galloway was joined by media commentator Roy Greenslade in the fight to identify Mahmood after the NoW journalist posed as a potential backer of the Respect Party offering illegal funding.

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