Standing up to bin Mahfouz

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A couple of clarifications must be made about last Sunday's column.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, Director of American Center for Democracy, who was one of the subjects of Sunday's piece wrote to say that the film on YouTube titled "The Libel Tourist" was initiated, funded and produced by the Moving Picture Institute, and not by Ehrenfeld herself.

"I am glad they took the initiative, and hope that many others would follow their lead as well as Mr. Mosley's and your paper," she said via e-mail this past weekend.

Also, it would appear that information contained in a Boston Globe story I referenced about Dr. Ehrenfeld's legal troubles is incorrect. James M. Dorsey of the Wall Street Journal writes to say that his paper "is the one major Western publication that has not succumbed to Saudi libel litigation efforts and deserves credit for that."

Dorsey says that a 63-page ruling by the House of Lords in the UK from October last year, "has changed British libel law albeit insufficiently and has enhanced protection of journalists and writers in the UK. It was achieved after a 4.5 year, GPB 4 million legal battle." he wrote.

"The case was the Wall Street Journal vs. Jameel and involved a story of mine over funding of terrorism, in which among others Khaled Bin Mahfouz was among five Saudis mentioned alongside Mohammed Abdellatif Jameel and Al Rajhi. The House of Lords ruled that the story was an example of a story in the public interest and a model of reporting and editing. A second case brought against the Journal over this story by Al Rajhi was settled out of court in the Journal's favor."

"Ironically, Bin Mahfouz did not sue the Journal despite being mentioned in the story. There have been in recent years two major allegations against Bin Mahfouz that have been contested: that there is a relationship through marriage between Khaled Bin Mahfouz and Osama Bin Laden and that Bin Mahfouz is a financier of terrorism. The Wall Street Journal on May 29, 2002 ran a correction to a story it published that said there was a marital relationship. That relationship has never been proven and consistently been denied by Bin Mahfouz. It is now generally acknowledged that it is incorrect. The WSJ, contrary to others, did not correct or apologize for any suggestion that Bin Mahfouz may have been involved in terror financing."

Many thanks to Dr. Ehrenfeld and Mr. Dorsey for their clarifications on this matter.

Also, Dr. Ehrenfeld was interviewed by Frontpage Magazine this week where she stated that Bin Mahfouz's legal "victories" in London, which he has never won on merit, "had the desired affect he and other Saudi terror financiers sought: silencing of the media even in the U.S. where the First Amendment protects writers and publishers."

"But most American book and newspaper publishers are not willing to risk expensive lawsuits in London," she told Frontpage. "In fact, most refuse to publish even the most comprehensively documented reports on alleged wealthy Middle Eastern funding terrorism. And most refrain from writing about this case."

I'm proud to say that the Shelbyville Times-Gazette is not one of them. It's unfortunate that the big guns in American journalism won't step up and do the same.

You would think that reporters would have a huge problem with stories being killed due to legal action from Britain. The last time something like that happened involved a fellow named John Peter Zenger, who was indicted, tried and acquitted of libel and sedition after printing the truth about the Colonial Governor of New York in 1735.

You guys with the major papers might want to look that case up the next time you decide not to report on such an important issue.

It has a lot to do with freedom of the press.