Noor Hanif’s letter to Alex Salmond

Posted by Tim Ireland at 17 September 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

This entry was posted on
Wednesday, September 17th, 2008
at
2:39 pm and is filed
under UK Libel Law.

As off-putting as this not-very-appealing appeal was, the claim that someone had again silenced bloggers with the mere threat of legal action did get my attention, so I’d like to share the following with you:

August 8th onwards:

Evening Times – Councillor Kalashnikov: This is Glasgow councillor Jahangir Hanif caught on camera firing a deadly Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle at a military-style camp in Pakistan. The 46-year-old SNP councillor, who was last month reported to be a slum landlord, took five of his six children – including his five-year-old daughter – to learn how to fire the weapon in mountains in the Kashmir border.

Another tabloid more familiar to those of us south of the border also ran with the story the next day, as did The Times and the BBC.

Jahangir Hanif’s reported actions appear to have been within the law, but the SNP are big on gun control, and the death of two-year-old Andrew Morton is a major factor in the gun debate.

Even as a bystander it’s easy for me to see why Hanif should have been history the moment it emerged that he’d put an assault rifle in the hands of children, even if [rolls eyes] he had done so before becoming a councillor… but it’s also obvious that the SNP is not a party with a lot of ground to give. So on we go to the land of few surprises; Hanif gets a slap on the wrist, resulting in outrage (both feigned and genuine, depending on where you get your news from)…

August 31st onwards:

Sunday Herald – SNP refuse to kick out ‘Kalashnikov councillor’
Times – Anger as the SNP fails to sack assault rifle councillor
Evening Times – SNP accused of disgracing Glasgow over Councillor Kalashnikov
Scottish Unionist – Councillor Kalashnikov gets off lightly

It is sometime soon after this that a letter by Noor Hanif, the 17-year-old daughter of Jahangir Hanif, was sent to Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland… and (somehow) also released to the press/public:

Telegraph – Daughter calls for Alex Salmond to sack Kalashnikov-firing SNP councillor: The Scottish Nationalists decided this week not to expel Jahangir Hanif for showing his children how to use the gun during the trip into the mountains near the Kashmir border in 2005. But his outraged daughter, Noor, has pleaded with Mr Salmond, the SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, to throw her father out of the party. In a letter to Mr Salmond, the 17-year-old wrote: ‘I cannot believe he has been let off. My siblings and I were put in an environment where people were pointing loaded AK47 guns at each other. I think he should be fired to make an example, so that other people think twice before playing with guns and putting children in harm’s way. I don’t think you have taken this matter seriously enough. How can a man who can’t look after his children be allowed to represent the public?”

Evening Times – MSPs in fresh call to kick out gun councillor: Meanwhile, the row took a fresh twist today after councillor Hanif’s 17-year-old daughter Noor reportedly wrote to Alex Salmond calling on him to be thrown out of the party. She is claimed to have said: “I don’t think that you have taken this matter seriously enough I cannot believe he has been let off. My siblings and I were put in an environment where people were pointing loaded AK-47 guns at each other. He should be expelled he should be fired to make an example, so other people think twice about playing with guns and putting children in harm’s way.”

Daily Record – Daughter of SNP gun councillor tells Alex Salmond: Please fire my dad: Noor wrote: “If we had known he was taking us to somewhere like that, we’d never have gone. But my dad is a dominating man and we lived by his rule of law.” Noor was only 14 when she was taken on the trip in 2005. She said: “I still have nightmares about that day. The people were scary with their faces covered like in the movies. The gunshots were deafening – it really hurts your ears – and you never forget that sound. People were pointing the guns in each other’s directions. Anything could have happened. I was very nervous.”

The Daily Record goes on to use further extracts from the letter, but stops short of printing other allegations that are, quite frankly, tangential to the central issue here *and* a matter primarily for the authorities until the moment Noor Hanif turns 18.

If at that stage she still wishes to publish these allegations herself and is unfairly silenced, she will enjoy my complete support. I’ll even help her to build the website.

Until then, all I’m inclined to offer is this:

Jahangir Hanif is a total hypocrite for moaning about what his kids have may or may not have been dragged into, the more recent counter-claims of racism (1, 2, 3, 4) stink of the worst kind of political desperation, and Alex Salmond won’t be able to claim that he has yet to see, read or receive Noor’s letter for much longer without looking like an absolute dick.

I am not saying that it is right that a blogger can be conveniently silenced without any actual legal action. At all.

But subsequent warnings issued to newspapers suggest heavily that Jahangir Hanif’s threats are by no means idle, empty or even drunken… and in Usmanov’s case, his lawyers completely bypassed any need to go to court by avoiding authors and instead bullying their UK-based ISPs. Bloggers who then went on to defy Schillings by hosting their response(s) on US-hosted Blogger.com weblogs received nothing more than nuisance-level complaints to that provider. Two of the blogs that have published the Noor letter and removed it are Blogger.com-based and it would appear that they were at least contacted and challenged directly about their content.

This is, arguably, still a case of a man with money being able to silence someone without the means to defend themselves (see: Curly) but the wider matter is clearly far more complicated than that, obviously party-political in nature, and a lonnnng way from being such a clear case of abuse of UK libel law that the author(s) should expect an immediate avalanche of support.

But – as you can see – I have gone to the trouble of actually explaining the background so other bloggers might better be able to decide for themselves, and that’s a step up from badgering them about not taking immediate action over a complicated game of political football nobody bothered to even notify them about in the first place.

Related:

Press and Journal – SNP councillor threatens action over internet blog: A north-east woman has been forced to remove the full text of a letter written by the daughter of a suspended SNP councillor – who was filmed firing an AK47 assault rifle – from her internet blog after being threatened with legal action… In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Hanif said: “Editors are to be advised that a Labour Party blog containing defamatory statements concerning me has been withdrawn and an undertaking granted that it will not be re-posted following the initiation of interdict proceedings. Notice is given that in the event that newspapers or broadcasters publish extracts from the blog that legal proceedings will follow.”








2 Comments

  1. Nosemonkey says

    Further to all this, and at the risk of sounding like a traitor to the blogging cause, I do feel it's long overdue that a blogger actually WAS done for libelling someone so that we can sort out our precise legal standing in a proper test case.Let's face it, various blogs genuinely do libel people every day, and thanks to the ongoing lack of legal action (combined with the US-centric view of freedom of speech that's spread around the non-American web), it's become a bit of an assumption amongst bloggers that they are somehow immune to the libel laws and can say what they like about whom they like. We can't and we shouldn't.The First Amendment applies to the US alone, like it or not. And hell, even the US has libel laws. They're an important check on the abuse of the press, and – when working well – an important contribution to any functioning democracy, as they are primarily intended to prevent the spread of misinformation. Blogs, of course, thrive on misinformation – you can see why bloggers would get up in arms, especially those who don't really know what a libel actually is.

  2. Manic says

    "I do feel it's long overdue that a blogger actually WAS done for libelling someone so that we can sort out our precise legal standing in a proper test case…"Hey, I'm a generous guy, but there are *limits*.:o)Seriously, I'm in agreement. But I recently pondered on the best ways to highlight the greatest absurdities of UK Libel Law, and almost every experiment I could think of resulted in the almost certain loss of my house.Take for example, the ability of anyone who might pass for a lawyer at first glance to have an entire site removed with a mere letter:http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2008/01/joseph-anhttp://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2008/02/tanj…If I try to do this to anyone, purely to prove a point, well… 'disaster looms' is the short version.I'm afraid we are at the mercy of (human) nature and must wait for the test case to present itself.

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