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UK journalist wins £80k damages after being hired ‘to smear’ UAE and Egypt critics

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UK journalist wins £80k damages after being hired ‘to smear’ UAE and Egypt critics

A journalist has been awarded over £80,000 in damages against a London-based investigative website and its CEO – a press freedom campaigner – after claiming she was duped into joining the organisation only to find out that it was a propaganda vehicle for the UAE and Egypt.

Jane Cahane said she was told in her job interview by Mohamed Fahmy, who was imprisoned in Egypt for over a year for disseminating “false news” in a case that caused a public outcry, that the Investigative Journal (TIJ) was a publication of independent investigative journalism.

But Cahane, who was editor-in-chief between December 2018 and July 2019, said TIJ received funding from the UAE and pursued an agenda intended to further the interests of the Gulf state and Egypt.

In the particulars of her claim, Cahane said Fahmy was “assisted and directed” by representatives or agents of the UAE and, in June 2019, met with the authoritarian Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, under whose regime Fahmy was imprisoned , “to discuss TIJ’s editorial line and content”.

After neither TIJ nor Fahmy presented a defence, a judgment in default, seen by the Guardian, was entered and Cahane was awarded £80,735.92 for fraudulent and/or negligent misrepresentation plus costs.

Sitting at the high court in London, senior master Fontaine said in her written judgment: “This was a particularly difficult and sensitive area relating to journalism and the funding of journalism for purposes that were alleged to be political rather than independent and relates to alleged funding from Middle-Eastern sources … the reputation of the claimant as a journalist of integrity was at stake and for her that concern was likely to have been as important as the financial claim that she has made, and that has to be appropriately reflected [in the remedy].”

Fahmy, a Canadian citizen, hit the headlines when he was convicted in Egypt in 2014 alongside two fellow Al Jazeera English journalists, Egyptian national Baher Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste. He was sentenced to seven years in jail for endangering national security and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, despite independent observers saying there was no credible evidence.

Fahmy, who has also worked for CNN, the LA Times, and BBC, was awarded a prize by the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom during the trial. He was later represented by Amal Clooney and he and his colleagues were all pardoned in 2015. In 2019, he was a speaker at the Foreign Office’s inaugural international media freedom conference in London.

Cahane had previously worked on travel website Culture Trip and renewable energy news title Recharge before joining TIJ.

Her particulars of claim said that her job description at the TIJ stated she would “work with leading journalists and a team of editors to help create and manage a top-tier, investigative online publication”. But she said the reality was different. “At no time has TIJ covered, nor did the defendants intend TIJ to cover, a wide range of topics and a diversity of viewpoints from an independent and objective standpoint,” the document stated.

“Articles, reports and social media content published by TIJ have focused and focus primarily on aggressively targeting, attacking and smearing those perceived to be opponents of the United Arab Emirates and the Arab Republic of Egypt, including particular countries such as Turkey, Qatar and Iran and particular organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.”

At the time of going to press TIJ’s website was not working. The court heard that the company is going into liquidation, while Companies House says it has not filed accounts due in October last year. The journal and Fahmy are jointly and severally liable for the sums owed to Cahane.

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Chukwudi Ajaegbu, 35, Arraigned For $11,000 Fraud

A 35-year-old importer, Chukwudi Ajaegbu, has been arraigned before the Ogba Magistrate’s Court for allegedly obtaining $11,000 fraudulently from one Austine Ukaoha in the Ikeja area of Lagos State.

Ajaegbu appeared before Magistrate F.M. Onamusi on a three count charge.

The defendant, with others at large, were said to have conspired to commit felony, to wit stealing, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 411 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, Nigeria 2015.

According to the police, sometime in 2010 on Bread Fraint Street, in the Balogun area of Lagos, the defendant, with others at large, conspired among themselves to obtain the sum under false pretences.

The charges read in part, “That you, Chukwudi Ajaegbu, on the same date, time and place, in the Lagos Magisterial District, did fraudulently obtain the sum of $11,000 from one Austine Ukaoha, under the pretence of importing goods from China, the presentation known to be false, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 314 (3) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, Nigeria 2015.”

The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Magistrate Onamusi adjourned the matter till December 7, 2022.

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2023: NBC Tasks Broadcasters On Professionalism

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has tasked broadcasters to handle political campaigns with professionalism.

The director-general of NBC, Balarabe Ilelah said this on Monday at a multi-stakeholders dialogue held in Abuja.

As campaigns for the 2023 elections are set to begin on September 28, Ilelah asked broadcasters to ensure not to allow hate speech or fake news on their platforms.

“This is in addition to ensuring equity in airtime allocation and coverage of political parties’ activities, particularly during prime times,” he said.

“It is also the time for you to make money from political adverts and campaigns, but ensure that this is done within the ambit of law.

“Broadcasters are also required to handle live political rallies with care and due professionalism. This is in addition to studio-based live political interviews/broadcasts. Because of the sensitivities of such programmes, broadcasters are advised to install delay mechanisms.

“Remember that broadcast stations are held responsible for any breach. The stations shall, therefore, assume and accept editorial responsibility”, he added.

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IPOB Accuses Police Of Blackmail

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has reacted to a statement credited to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, linking ESN and IPOB to a planned attack on political campaigns and the forthcoming 2023 elections.

Director of Media and Public Relations of the group, Comrade Emma Powerful, in a statement on Monday, said the IG of Police should “leave IPOB volunteers and ESN Operatives alone to focus on things that matter instead of trying to get them involved in Nigeria Government and its fraudulent political processes.”

He also added that Nigeria’s security agencies were fond of blackmailing the organization with allegations of sundry crimes.

The statement read: “If Nigeria Police have concluded their plans to commit crimes during political campaigns and tag it on IPOB and ESN they will fail as usual.

“Any time Nigeria Security Agencies raise a false alarm, know that they have planned attacks to blackmail IPOB and ESN Operatives but we cannot allow them to continue their business of blackmail.

“These Security agencies have allegedly killed innocent people in an effort to blackmail IPOB but Chukwu Okike Abiama (God) has always vindicated us,” they said.

“We have always maintained that we are not interested in anything that has to do with Nigeria let alone taking any side in their fraudulent political process. IPOB are not Zoo politicians. The only political process that IPOB will participate in is an UN-supervised Biafra Referendum that will usher in Biafra Sovereignty and Independence”, he added.

 

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