A London-based Pakistani TV network has been ordered to pay £185,000 in libel damages after broadcasting hundreds of defamatory news items about a commercial rival.
The defamatory statements were broadcast in the UK on the Urdu language ARY network.
Dubai-based Mir Shakil-Ur-Rahman, group chief executive and
editor-in-chief of the Jang group of companies, brought proceedings in
London against ARY Network Ltd and its chief operating
officer Fayaz Ghafoor.
In 1971, Mr Shakil-Ur-Rahman’s father launched the first South Asian
newspaper in this country, the Daily Jang, which remains the
highest-circulation Urdu newspaper in the UK.
The ARY group is a commercial rival of the Jang and GEO group – which
operates in the UK through Jang Publications Ltd and GEO TV Ltd –
including in relation to Urdu broadcasting in the UK.
Sir David Eady said there was no doubt that Shakil-Ur-Rahman, who complained of a campaign over 24 programmes, was
singled out for persistent abuse and ridicule over a year-long period
from October 2013.
His counsel, Matthew Nicklin QC, characterised his treatment as “nasty,
deliberate, relentless and oppressive”.
The judge, who earlier struck out defences of justification and fair
comment, said there had been no withdrawal or apology, no evidence was
adduced by the defendants at trial and it was quite obvious from the
conduct of the litigation that they held the claimant in contempt.
He said there was nothing the court could do about that – except to put
on record the falsity of the serious allegations they were making and to
award damages for the purposes of compensation and vindication.
The “limited nature” of the defence case rested on a number of
programmes said to fail the “serious harm” test and qualified privilege.
The allegations complained of were very serious, went to the core
attributes of Mr Shakil-Ur-Rahman’s personality and were published to
tens of thousands of people in England and Wales.
None of them could be successfully defended and they were clearly
defamatory, he added.
Ruling that the appropriate award was £185,000, he said that most
onlookers who were interested in the outcome of a libel action were only
concerned to know the answer to the question “How much did he get?”.
“The sum I am awarding should be enough to convince any fair-minded
observer of the baselessness of these serious charges and to afford some
measure of consolation in respect of the hurt and distress undoubtedly
caused,” said the judge.
The allegations were aired on ARY News which is available on Sky 802 and included allegations that journalists working for Jang Publications and Geo News were guilty of blasphemy.