Technology website The Register has won a libel payout from a computer sales chief executive who accused it of publishing “fake news”.
According to court documents, Aria Taheri defamed Register UK editor Paul Kunert and reporter Gareth Corfield with a series of highly defamatory Twitter messages, articles and a paid-for Google advert.
Taheri is the chief executive of Manchester-based computer hardware retailer ATL. The defamatory Google advert was bought to appear next to searches designed to surface The Register’s reporting of a court case involving Aria Technology.
Taheri evidently took umbrage at Corfield and The Register for reporting accurately that it his company had fraudulently obtained £750,000 from the UK taxman by participating in a VAT carousel fraud scheme.
Taheri accused The Register of producing “clickbait journalism”. And he warned other businesess not to advertise with The Register on the grounds that any association would harm their reputations.
He also published several “unsavoury cartoons” which depicted Corfield (pictured below) and Kunert in an unflattering light.
A statement in open court said: “Mr Taheri now accepts that his tweets, online articles, the Google Aavert and the cartoons were false and highly defamatory and should never have been published. He deeplyu regrets having done so and apologises unreservedly.”
He has agree to pay significant damages and costs to Corfield and Kunert.
Corfield (pictured left) said: “I am proud that Situation Publishing, owner and publisher of The Register, stood firmly behind me and my editor Paul Kunert during the campaign against us. Today is a good day for journalism.”
The Register took on Aria Taheri in the Upper Tribunal and won after he tried to stop the title from seeing case papers during the hearing of his second appeal against the VAT fraud ruling.
Co author of Essential Law for Journalists Mark Hanna said: “Obviously, on most occasions it is not worth journalists resorting to law. But it is good to see that happening when the libelous attack is very serious and persistent, and seeks to undermine accurate reporting.”