Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dictating To The Media: Libel Tourism Abroad--And Journalist 'Training' At Home

We don’t need your money; we need big ads retracting the story.
Rachel Ehrenfeld, quoting Saudi prince on libel tourism

Here is a video produced by the Moving Picture Institute on what has become known as libel tourism [see New York Sun: Libel Suit Leads to Destruction of Books]. It shows how Saudi billionaire Khalid Bin Mafhouz exploited the British legal system and sued for libel whenever he was accused of involvement in terrorism.

The video explains how this time Mahfouz filed a libel suit against Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of the book Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed -- and How to Stop It. In Ehrenfeld's case, the suit was not filed in the United States, where the book was published and sold, but instead in London, where Mahfouz associates ordered 23 copies online. The judge ordered all copies of the book pulped, and ordered Ehrenfeld to pay the legal fees and damages, despite the fact that nothing in her book about Saudi funding of terrorism was ever disproved.

Her experience led to the passing of the New York State “Libel Terrorism Protection Act”[PDF] (also known as “Rachel’s Law”)--and later the SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) Act, HR 2765, which was signed into law in August.

In a phone interview, Jennifer Rubin asked Ehrenfeld about the broader implications:

I asked her if she sees a connection between “libel tourism” (the name for use of the UK courts to intimidate journalists) and the current furor over supposed, but unproven, Islamophobia in the U.S. She responds emphatically, “Wealthy Muslims are trying to dictate what the media does.” She explains that the Saudis and others go to great pains to “train” U.S. journalists, invite them on junkets, and press their view that accusations of terrorism are libelous and/or stem from bigotry. “It is very important to expose those who are enemies of both Israel and the U.S.,” Ehrenfeld says. “The same organizations are out to harm both the U.S. and Israel.” In Europe, she explains, foes of the U.S. and Israel are “supporting anti-Israel and anti-American groups. Take the flotilla incident. … Anti-Israel propaganda is increasing.” British journalists may be prevented from reporting by threat of litigation, “but here in America, we can do that without being sued.”
'Training US journalists'? Ehrenfeld seems to be onto something--just yesterday I read that Rauf's Group Claims Credit for 'Training' NY Times Reporter:
A reporter who helped write the first and positive New York Times story on the Ground Zero Mosque was trained by the group run by mosque leader Feisal Abdul Rauf, according to that group's website.

Rauf's organization, the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), touted the journalist's participation in a training program by ASMA's "Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow" (MLT).

"Media trainings showed immediate results," ASMA's 2009 year-end report said.

Rauf's group then cited Sharaf Mowjood, "a journalism student at Columbia University and trained at the MLT [Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow] conference, wrote a compelling story about the Muslim community's plan to establish a center near Ground Zero. The story was published on the front page of the New York Times with Sharaf as co-author." The article appeared in the Dec. 9, 2009, edition of the New York Times.
And then there is the story I blogged about yesterday where students in May went on a field trip to a mosque and ended up praying there:

Proselytizing, training--there is a need to deal with anti-Muslim hate crimes when they arise, but just as there is no campaign for sensitivity training to counteract the greater incidence of anti-Semitic hate crimes, there is no need to single out Muslims either for such special treatment.

And training journalists to do what they should be able to do on their own as part of their job is more than a little suspicious. In the case of Mowjood, there have been denials and further claims that have only increased suspicion.

What is needed is not 'training'--what is needed is open access to unbiased information that is complete and accurate and will not be limited to a complimentary picture of Islam.

Read more at: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2189/raufs-group-claims-credit-for-training-ny-times
It's called Freedom of Speech.

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