London libel payout for Arab newspaper journalists

The London publisher of pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat and two senior editorial staff were today awarded libel damages totalling £85,000, their lawyers Carter Ruck have announced.

The payout follows allegations they received millions of pounds in secret payments to publish interviews with former Iraq president Jalal Talabani.

According to Carter Ruck, publisher HH Saudi Research and Marketing – based in Holborn – was awarded £20,000 in libel damages, while editor-in-chief of Tariq Al-Homayed received £30,000 and senior journalist Maad Fayad £35,000.

The defendant, kurdistanpost.com editor Alan Merdini, was also forced to pay the claimants £40,000 in costs at the High Court.

Libel proceedings began, Carter Ruck said, when Merdini published an online article headlined “In order to publish his diaries Jalal Talabani has given 4 million dollars to Asharq Al Awsat newspaper”.

The article falsely alleged Fayad had accepted $1m for conducting and publishing interviews with Talabani in 2009 and that Al-Homayed had accepted the same sum to publish the interviews.

Speaking after the judgment, a representative for the claimants Adel Ellithy said: ‘Such was the absolute falsity of these allegations that we had no hesitation in bringing these proceedings to protect the good name of our company and our journalists.

‘We prize our reputation extremely highly and are very glad that the judge has made awards which properly reflect the damage and distress caused to the claimants by the wholly fictional claims posted on this website.”

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