Expelled editor in out-of-court settlement with Foreign Press Association

An editor who claims he was expelled from the Foreign Press Association for acting as a whistleblower by highlighting irregularities in its finances said he has accepted a £2,500 out-of-court settlement.

Mohamed Ben-Madani, editor of the The Maghreb Review — a quarterly journal on the Maghreb, the Middle East, Africa, and Islamic studies — took the FPA to the Central London County Court alleging loss of income, distress and defamation caused by losing full membership of the Association.

He was originally awarded £1,100 in January by the county court in default after the FPA did not respond within the court’s deadline. The FPA, which receives around £100,000 a year in funding from the Foreign Office and has an elegant headquarters in London’s Carlton House Terrace, lodged an appeal and the new settlement was reached last week.

Under the terms of the settlement, Ben-Madani has agreed to withdraw the allegations and not apply for membership of the FPA for 10 years. The FPA has withdrawn a statement that said the Maghreb Review had ceased publication.

It says no compensation has been paid as part of the settlement, but a “without prejudice” contribution has been made to Ben-Madani’s legal costs. It has not confirmed whether the sum is £2,500.

Ben-Madani said he was expelled in February last year for being “disruptive”, after he raised questions about the FPA accounts while sitting on its governing committee for 18 months.

Among the issues he said he raised was fines incurred for late payment of VAT.

He told Press Gazette: “I informed the committee that unless action was taken I would make my information available to all members. Then I was expelled, the first member ever to be expelled in the history of the FPA.”

An investigation was carried out into the accounts last year which concluded there had been irregularities in the FPA accounts. The FPA’s honorary treasurer, Uday Bajekal, had resigned.

The report, published last September, said settlement was agreed, and a total sum of £40,000 was recovered to cover the return of unauthorised payments drawn for accounting services, reimbursement of fines and penalties incurred and costs of investigations into Bajekal’s activities.

Ben-Madani said of his settlement: “The 10-year ban on applying for membership of the FPA doesn’t bother me. I don’t want anything to do with them.

"I acted as a whistleblower and I was expelled for embarrassing them. Given the findings of the report, I feel I have been proved right.

“Most of the £2,500 will go to my lawyer. I don’t want money. I am happy — all I wanted was justice.”

The FPA said of the out-of-court agreement: “The Association made a ‘without prejudice’ contribution to legal fees in order to bring this unfortunate matter to a close, to reduce costs for the FPA, to foster reconciliation among the members, and to bring back all the energy and focus of the Association to the real issues that concern our membership.”

The FPA said it was bound by the out-of-court settlement not to comment further on the case.

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