The publisher of the Daily Mail has apologised and agreed to pay “substantial damages” to a student it wrongly dubbed a “cheerleader for terrorist groups”.
The Daily Mail made the claim about Farah Koutteineh in an article published on 20 April about a University of Westminster students’ protest against the Government’s controversial counter-terrorism programme Prevent.
Koutteineh, who is president of the university’s Palestinian Society, took part in the National Union of Students’ “Students not Suspects” campaign against the policy, which has been described as a “threat to free speech on campus”.
The Daily Mail story, which was also published online, described international relations student Koutteineh as a “middle class cheerleader for terrorist groups” in a pull-out box.
Koutteineh was pictured with others in two of the article’s main photographs, which her lawyers argued gave the impression she was a “principal organiser or orchestrator” of the protest.
It also wrongly claimed she had held events that “celebrated a female terrorist hijacker and leader of a terrorist group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine”, according to a statement read in open court on Wednesday.
It added that the suggestion she was a supporter of terrorist groups was a “serious defamatory allegation” and “completely untrue”.
The Mail’s publisher, Associated Newspapers, agreed to apologise, print a correction and pay Koutteineh “substantial” but undisclosed sum of damages alongside her legal costs.
Speaking in the High Court, a representative for Associated Newspapers offered a “sincere apology” to Koutteineh for any “distress and embarrassment” caused by the story.
A correction published in yesterday’s Daily Mail said: “We are happy to make clear that Farah Koutteineh does not in fact support any terrorist or terrorist group and apologise for any distress caused.”
Koutteineh said in a statement: “I am pleased that the Daily Mail have acknowledged that they published an unfounded yet grave allegation against me and that they have now set the record straight by not only publishing an apology, but by also agreeing a statement in open court.
“As leader of the University of Westminster Palestinian Society, I was engaged in legitimate protest and not supporting terrorism or celebrating specific terrorists as had been alleged.”
Her lawyer Zillur Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors added she should not have gone through the ordeal for “protesting against a toxic discriminatory policy” and that “thankfully she has now been vindicated.”
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville