‘Fake Sheikh’ faces exposure by MP

News of the World fails in injunction bid to stop Galloway photographs of reporter

The News of World has failed in its efforts to prevent George Galloway from puiblishing pictures of its top investigative journalist on the Internet.

The paper went to the High Court yesterday not as Defendant but as Claimant, to apply for an injunction to prevent exposure of one of its top investigative journalists, Mazher Mahmood. Known as the ‘Fake Sheikh’, Mahmood is responsible for many of the paper’s most notorious celebrity exposes.

Mr Galloway intended to publish the photographs (one passport photograph, and the other showing Mahmood in Arab get-up) as part of his campaign to expose the journalist after the ‘Fake Sheikh’ allegedly attempted to get the MP to accept illegal political donations and make anti-Semitic remarks at a recent meeting as part of a sting.

Lawyers for the paper argued that publication of these photographs would create a substantial risk to Mr Mahmood’s personal safety, especially from those whom he had exposed in the past, and would prevent him from carrying on his work as an undercover reporter, as well as constituting a breach of his copyright in the photographs, and being unlawful under the Data Protection Act 1998.

During the course of argument, Mr Justice Mitting expressed surprise at the paper’s argument that Mr Mahmood had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Refusing the injunction, he held that the true purpose of the injunction application was to not so much to protect the journalist, but to protect his commercial value to the paper as an undercover reporter.

The Judge granted a temporary 23-hour ban on any further publication of the two photographs of Mahmood circulated on Tuesday by the Bethnal Green and Bow MP to allow an appeal against the decision. However, the newspaper confirmed this afternoon that it would not be appealing.