Bloggers: Beware of the hyperlink: Ali v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2010] EWHC 100 (QB)

Azad Ali worked for the English Treasury and had a few blogs. One of the blogs was called “Defeating extremism by promoting balance” where he suggested that jihad was not terrorism.

In January 2009, The Daily Mail published articles in its newspaper two days in a row, and also published the articles on its website: “Muslim civil servant suspended over `Kill British’ Blog” and “Civil servant backed fanatic’s call to kill our troops in Iraq.”

Ali sued and claimed the publications contained an imputation that he:

is a hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq by fellow Muslims as justified.

The Daily Mail accepted that the words could be upheld by the jury as containing that meaning, but claimed that the articles were substantially true. So true, in fact, that the case was hopeless and it brought an application for summary judgment. As the Judge recognised, the application was a “bold” one.

Nevertheless, fortune favours the brave. Especially where there is a hyperlink.

Ali had asserted that jihad did justify violence in some circumstances, namely, to fight those who were in occupation of Muslim lands. He referred to the teachings of Abdullah Azzam (who died in the 1980s), who referred to this as “defensive jihad”, and then Ali hyperlinked to an Irish Times interview with Azzam’s son, who said:

If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation. If I found the same soldier over the border in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier, here he is not. This is my religion and I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.

Ali neither approved or disapproved this quote, and the Judge said that the hyperlinked article did not form an integral part of the blog, but one cannot help but think that it was important.

Ali’s Counsel argued that Ali was not hardline, he was balanced, it should be up to the jury, further evidence should be heard and Ali’s blog only related to times when Muslim lands were occupied, so after the Iraqi elections in 2005, Iraq was not occupied.

His Honour concluded that Ali’s `balanced’ view did seem to convey that killing occupying troops was justified, even in November 2008, well after the Iraqi elections, and so found that the claim was `bound to fail’.

Case struck out. One worth noting for the hyperlink.