Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mazher Mahmood is not the real enemy

I'm afraid I am going to have to take issue with some of my most prominent fellow bloggers on the issue that currently seems to be dominating the political blogosphere - whether or not "fake sheikh" Mazher Mahmood's identity should remain secret.

For those not in the know, Mahmood is the News of the World's investigations editor, and is currently being subjected to an attempt to "out" him by publishing his picture on the internet.

The attempt is being spearheaded by an unholy alliance of George Galloway, the most ridiculous man in British politics, and Roy Greenslade, the most ridiculous man in British journalism.

The NoW originally obtained an injunction banning publication of his photograph, but this has now expired and three of what I consider to be the top political blogs in the country, Guido Fawkes, Recess Monkey, and Bloggerheads are all carrying various versions of his picture.

I respect their reasons for doing so. Guido is a libertarian and any attempt to gag him is going to be met with this sort of response. Recess Monkey is first and foremost a satirist, and so anything is fair game. I'm not entirely sure where Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads is coming from on this issue, but I assume he has good reasons for branding Mahmood a "tosser."

But I am frankly puzzled by a claim on Guido's site that he and Tim are standing "shoulder-to-shoulder against the common enemy."

I assume they mean the "common enemy" are the lawyers who were seeking to enforce the terms of the NoW's original injunction and get Mahmood's picture taken off their sites, but I think that in this case they're shooting the messenger.

Isn't the real enemy those who, like Greenslade and Galloway, want to neuter investigative journalism and remove the threat that it presents to those who abuse their positions of privilege and power?

Let's remind ourselves of some of the services that Mazher Mahmood has performed in the interests of the Great British Public over the past few years.

It was Mahmood, for instance, who revealed that Sven Goran Erikkson was a duplicitous little turd who was planning to abandon England after the World Cup to go and manage Aston Villa of all teams.

It was Mahmood who revealed that Countess Sophie Wessex was a money-grabber prepared to abuse her Royal connections in pursuit of a few bucks.

And it was Mahmood who revealed to Newcastle United supporters what their club's chairman Freddie Shepherd and then deputy chairman Douglas Hall really thought of them - and their women.

More seriously, it was Mazher Mahmood who was responsible for the jailing of a husband and wife in Huddersfield who were sexually abusing children in a council-run home.

He later received a letter from a 13-year-old girl who had been involved saying: "Thank you for saving me from this evil couple. Thank you for saving my life."

Guido is himself an investigative journalist of some distinction as his coverage of the loans-for-peerages affair has demonstrated, so I am particularly puzzled as to why anyone with his track record would align himself with a prat like Greenslade.

This is a man who calls himself a "media commentator," but his brand of commentary invariably consists of defending the Establishment against the depredations of a nefarious media, even to the point of becoming the mouthpiece of Alastair Campbell in his long campaign to persuade the public that it was really we who were guilty of "spin."

I have never met Mazher Mahmood, even though he went to the same journalism college as me, and I certainly hold no brief for the NoW or the Murdoch Empire as those who know me well will certainly testify, but I do believe that the kind of subterfuge Mahmood employs is sometimes a necessary tool of good journalism.

This attack on Mazher Mahmood is nothing less than an attack on journalism and an attack on freedom.


Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

Interesting points which are worthy of serious consideration.

A lot of his work is getting z-list celebs to take coke on camera, struggling starlets exposed as hookers and Royals stitched up. We love that kind of stuff, even if it does ruin lives.

He is only a journalist, he has no God given right to anonymity. He is a master of disguise anyway - he can just get a new disguise.

And if Mahmood could curtail freedom of the press, what would our rulers claim, they would claim they could as well.

He is fair game and a fool to think it would work. Freedom is absolute. Mahmood is big enough and ugly enough to look after himself.

Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

This attack by Mazher Mahmood on freedom of the press is nothing less than an attack on journalism and an attack on freedom.

Beth said...

An attack on freedom, you say. How so? And how was he using his "investigative" expertise in the Galloway case? By trying to entrap Galloway with offers of money and trying to engage him in anti-semitism? Of course Galloway wants revenge on the Sheikh, wouldn't you in these circumstances? Or would you say, "the sheikh tried to destroy me, he failed, but he is nonetheless an investigative journalist, so I will forgive him"?

Well, Paul Linford, what would you do in Galloway's circumstances regarding the Fake Sheikh?

Beth said...

And by the way, WHY did't the News of the World, publish an article saying that they had tried to entrap Galloway with offers of money, etc. but had failed? They would have published if he had fallen for the scam, but why didn't they publish a story owning up to what they did, eh? No journalistic integrity, maybe?

Steve Guy said...

When Mahmood used subterfuge in the past to expose serious wrongdoing, he was widely applauded. But using such tactics to produce cheap NOTW headlines at the expense of humiliating people in the public eye, he debases journalism and the free press. Guido's right to go after this one.

stalin's gran said...

But he always stands his round

Paul Linford said...

As I've said, I understand why Guido is treating the story in the way he is and we will have to agree to differ on it. But I am grateful to him for taking the time to reply.

Beth - you asked me a hypothetical question about what I would do if I was confronted by the fake sheikh. My answer will have to be that I hope I would not have made myself a legitimate target for such investigation in the first place. George Galloway was a legitimate target, partly because of his anti-Israeli outbursts in the past but also because of the allegations - admittedly never proven but never convincingly disproven either - that he took money from Saddam Hussein. To his credit, Galloway didn't fall for it. But that does not give the right to launch what amounts to a full-frontal attack on the practice of investigative journalism.

Steve/Guido - I accept that some of Mahmood's targets have been z-list celebs and that to some extent this sort of thing debases journalism. But I personally see nothing wrong with exposing z-list celebs as cokeheads if they are (like Richard Bacon for instance) people who are supposed to be role models for young people.

mbe said...

Sorry Paul but I am definitely with Guido on this one.
The Sven story you quote was utter BS. I'm all up for investigative journalism but to get someone to say Rio Ferdinand is lazy can't be that difficult. Sven is only a businessman who was stitched up for no other reason than to sell more copies of a newspaper. The Aston Villa line seemed flippant to me: can you imagine Nancy in Birmingham?!

IMHO, the NOTW is being pathetic but I appreciate you make many valid and interesting points.

Beth said...

Paul Linford, I think you have given the game away with your point about Galloway making "anti-Israeli comments". I see where you are coming from now.

More and more of us are with Galloway on that particular subject. If you want to get sympathy for your anti-Galloway views, you should use another example, not the anti-Israeli one. I personally am with him on that.

Paul Linford said...

Beth - if what you are implying is that where I am "coming from" is a Zionist perspective, then you are way off-beam I'm afraid.

If I am "coming from" anywhere it's simply from a desire to defend journalistic freedom against the likes of Greenslade, Campbell and others who would seek to curtail it.

mbe - don't expect me to have any sympathy for Eriksson. He has shown himself to be treacherous and disloyal both as a man and as a football manager and any success we achieve in Germany this summer will be in spite of, not because of him.

NW said...

I've always been a bit concerned about the value of catching z-list celebs taking drugs. You say that they are "supposed to be role models for young people" but I can't believe that Richard Bacon, Kate Moss and others would ever take cocaine in public or in front of young people. In fact, for people who looked up to Richard Bacon, the only way they could ever have witnessed him taking coke was by reading these newspapers.

All Guido and others are saying is that if all of Mahmood's targets are legitimate then so is Mahmood. After all, for all we know he could be a coke-snorting anti-semite who wants to manage Aston Villa.

Edward said...

I'm with Guido et al and am carrying a photo myself but I'm wary of branding this an attack on freedom per se. Nobody is arguing for complete and unmitigated freedom to destroy anyone's privacy regardless of the circumstances. That being a given, merely questioning whether the circumstances here are serious enough to stop his photos being published is tough to categorise as an attack on liberty.

What is more scandalous is the double standards of the NotW who normally like to publish anything and everything...

Richard Bailey said...

How fascinating. Take a step back and look at what we have: one cloaked conspirator trying to out another; the media, in its newest and oldest forms, tearing at each other; in-fighting and a complete loss of perspective.

I desperately want to say that "so and so" will be laughing their socks off, but I can't figure out who "so and so" is!!

Even the lawyers are going to be feeling a little bit nauseous over this one. And it can't be the politicians because the backlash would be inexorable if they got involved.

Perhaps its the public. Perhaps the once respectable and respectful bodies of politics and journalism have dragged each other down so low that the tables have turned and the public can now enjoy the spectacle of these two beasts mauling each other rather than them.

Sorry, Paul, that's a bit deep!!

Its a pretty desparate state of affairs whichever way you look at it.

Beth said...

The injunction runs out at 4pm today - so only a half an hour to go to see what the judge's decision will be. My money is on Galloway winning and pictures of the Fake Sheikh will all over the place.

Beth said...

Well, I don't know what the judge has decided yet, but pictures of the sheikh are all over the blogosphere now!

Paul Linford said...

Well, I accept I'm outvoted on this one, but at least it got me a bit more traffic than usual!

Beth said...

Any mention of George Galoway" is going to get a blogger a whole lot of traffic.

It's like the Express putting a Diana story on their front page every day to sell a few more copies.

Bloggers should run a Galloway story every now and again to keep their circulation going.

And as a consequence of the Galloway story I have visited your blog - like it - and have bookmarked it! People's hero - Galloway!

Bob Piper said...

Cheeky get! What do you mean... of all teams!!