“Nationalist Activist Loses Defamation Case in London High Court over Misidentification in News Reports”

Nationalist Activist Loses Defamation Case in London High Court over Misidentification in News Reports
Nationalist Activist Loses Defamation Case in London High Court over Misidentification in News Reports
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Nationalist activist Shah Muhammad recently lost a defamation case in London’s High Court against Geo News, Daily Jang, The News International, and a correspondent. The court ordered Muhammad to pay the defendants’ legal costs of approximately £20,000. The case was related to a protest by Afghan protesters outside the Pakistan High Commission in London in May 2021. Muhammad claimed that he was defamed in the report and named as one of the organizers of the protest. He further alleged that the words in the report meant that he was a terrorist, relying on the definition of Enemy Agent in accordance with Pakistan’s The Enemy Agents Ordinance 1943 and terrorism in accordance with Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act 1967 and the UK Terrorism Act 2000.

However, the report published on The News, Jang, and Geo News’ websites did not refer to Muhammad at all. Instead, it mentioned a “Shah Mahmud Khan” who was not the claimant Muhammad. Muhammad claimed that some of his friends also call him Shah Mahmud Khan, and therefore, he was defamed. However, the reporter argued that this was a false claim and had no foundation in truth.

At the hearing before the London High Court, the defendants’ lawyers successfully argued that Muhammad’s claim form be set aside and the case not proceed for various reasons. The judge, Master David Cook, agreed and threw out the claim. The judge ordered that Muhammad must pay full legal costs of around £20,000, inclusive of VAT.

During the trial, the judge told Muhammad that there was a dispute as to whether he was actually named in the article, and he had stretched the meaning of the article to claim he was called a “terrorist” when there was no such allegation in the publications anywhere. Muhammad sought the right to appeal, but the judge refused permission. The judge was also critical of the manner in which Muhammad dealt with the claim and was not convinced that Muhammad tried to rely on the case of Geo and Jang Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman against ARY Network Limited, in which Rahman had won a major defamation case and been awarded one of the highest compensatory awards granted by the English courts.

Muhammad has worked for Pashtun nationalist and human rights groups, including the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). However, none of these groups had anything to do with this defamation claim. The protest in May 2021 was held soon after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the removal of President Ashraf Ghani’s government. During the protest, several individuals turned violent, pelting stones and throwing water bottles at the Pakistan High Commission building, and this reporter and Geo News cameraman Naseer Ahmed were assaulted.

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