Spectator and Mad Mel apologise to Mohammad Sawalha and pay damages

Mohammad Sawalha –v– The Spectator (1828) Publishing Limited and Melanie Phillips

The Spectator and Melanie Phillips have apologized to Mohammad Sawalha and paid him substantial compensation for damages and all legal costs over an article falsely alleging that he made an anti-Semitic remark.

On 2 July 2008, the Spectator website published an article by Melanie Phillips entitled “Just Look What Came Crawling Out” (“the Article”). The Article falsely stated that Mohammad Sawalha had referred to Jews in Britain as “evil/noxious”. Mohammad Sawalha has worked hard to build strong relations between communities of different faiths and no faith both in Britain and internationally, and was therefore shocked and outraged to read such a false and offensive accusation. It was immediately pointed out to the Spectator and Ms Phillips that this was a mistranslation of a transcript of an interview, which contained a typographical error, rendering the relevant phrase meaningless. It was also pointed out that the publisher of the original transcript of the interview had corrected the quotation already, making clear that Mr Sawalha had made no such anti-Semitic comment.

Rather than carrying out the reasonable and obvious course of action of amending the Article, Melanie Phillips instead chose to go on and publish a further article, entitled “Taking the Airbrush to Evil”, repeating the highly insulting false allegation made in the Article and casting doubt on the suggestion that there had been a typographical error.

As neither the Spectator nor Ms Phillips agreed to deal with the matter amicably, despite requests by Mr Sawalha to do so, Mr Sawalha had no option but to seek vindication from the High Court.

An independent expert, jointly commissioned by Mr Sawalha, theSpectator and Ms Phillips, confirmed that the phrase in the original transcript of Mr Sawalha’s interview was meaningless and that it could not be translated as referring to Jews as “evil/noxious”. Nonetheless, the Spectator and Ms Phillips continued to defend Mr Sawalha’s claim.

However, we are pleased to report that the Spectator and Ms Phillips have now agreed to remove both the offending Articles and have undertaken never to repeat the allegations complained of. They will pay Mr. Sawalha substantial compensation for the damage to his reputation as will as paying all his legal costs and publishing an Apology on the Spectator website in the following terms:

Mohammad Sawalha: Apology

On 2 July 2008 we published an article entitled “Just look what came crawling out” which alleged that at a protest at the celebration in London of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Mohammad Sawalha had referred to Jews in Britain as “evil/noxious”. We now accept that Mr Sawalha made no such anti-Semitic statement and that the article was based on a mistranslation elsewhere of an earlier report. We and Melanie Phillips apologise for the error.”

Mr Sawalha is delighted that he has been cleared of this false allegation of anti-Semitism.

Mr Sawalha was represented by Farooq Bajwa & Co Solicitors and instructed Adrienne Page QC and Richard Munden of 5 Raymond Buildings.