BBC to screen Fake Sheikh expose

Published: Wednesday 12th November 2014 by The News Editor

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A postponed television expose of undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood is set to air tonight, the BBC has confirmed.

The Panorama programme, featuring up-to-date images of the ”Fake Sheikh”, was put off due to legal action brought by Mr Mahmood.

Although the High Court did not grant Mr Mahmood an injunction to stop the screening – a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal – the broadcaster pulled the programme again this week until new information could be evaluated.

The BBC’s head of news, James Harding, said the corporation had decided to hold off because it did not want to “trip up over a detail”.

But a BBC spokeswoman confirmed today that the show is scheduled for broadcast at 7.30pm on BBC One.

Mr Mahmood had argued in court that revealing his current appearance would breach his human rights by exacerbating the existing risk to his safety caused by his investigative work.

The programme, described by Mr Mahmood’s counsel Justin Rushbrooke QC as a “hatchet job”, aims to shed light on the methods used by the reporter. He exposed various personalities while working at the now defunct News Of The World, using his disguise as a sheikh.

He was criticised after the collapse of the drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos in July, when a judge said there were grounds to believe he had lied.

Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith told Panorama that Mahmood’s record of convictions needs to be re-examined.

“The fact that somebody who has been accused by a judge of apparently not telling the truth may be instrumental in those convictions would certainly be a reason to look at those convictions again and to examine them to see whether they are safe,” he said.

The programme claims that Mr Mahmood’s name came up when a 1999 covert police operation – part of a murder inquiry – revealed links between corrupt police officers, a firm of private detectives called Southern Investigations and tabloid journalists.

A document seen by Panorama said: “Source met Maz, a News of the World reporter… on this occasion Maz was with a plain clothes officer… The officer was selling a story to Maz.”

Panorama questions why a full scale inquiry did not take place into police officers selling stories to tabloid journalists.

Page Three girl Emma Morgan was targeted by Mahmood in the 1990s. She thought she was being offered a lucrative contract for a Middle East bikini calendar, but the reporter wanted a story exposing her as a drug pusher and hired a man called Billy to assist.

Ms Morgan, who was 24 at the time, told Panorama she was put under pressure for several hours to pick up cocaine from Billy and give it to Mr Mahmood.

” I was a fool, I was naive. To be foolish isn’t a crime, to be naive isn’t a crime. To do what he did is criminal,” she said.

“I haven’t had the career I should have had, I haven’t had the life I should have had. He’s a horrible, horrible man.”

Billy said: “I ‘d like to apologise to Emma for my part in stitching her up. The only real criminal was Mazher Mahmood. He gave me the money to buy the cocaine.”

Solicitor Mark Lewis, who helped expose phone hacking at News International and is now representing some of the people investigated by Mr Mahmood, told Panorama: “The damage that’s caused, the damage for people’s livelihoods, the amount of people have (been) sent to prison, it’s a far more serious thing than phone hacking ever was.”

M r Mahmood, who denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged, issued a statement yesterday asking people to “keep an open mind on any allegations”.

Published: Wednesday 12th November 2014 by The News Editor

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