Rached Ghannouchi v. Middle East Online Limited

Rugved MahamuniCase Summary

Assessing the damages for online defamation by a news portal

Rached Ghannouchi v. Middle East Online Limited
[2020] EWHC 1992 (QB)
In the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division
Case QB-2019-004284
Before Master John Dagnall
Decided on July 23, 2020

Relevancy of the Case: Assessing the damages for online defamation by a news portal

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Defamation Act 2013 (Section 12)

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The claimant is a Tunisian national and leader of a political party called Ennahdha.
  • The defendant, a newspaper publisher, published an article in Arabic on July 05, 2019, regarding the claimant.
  • According to the claimant, the article’s contents are defamatory in nature. He sent a complaint to the defendant on July 19, 2019, asserting defamation and requesting the article’s removal.
  • When the defendant did not respond, the claimant issued the claim form on December 02, 2019. Eventually, he served the defendant full particulars of the claim wherein he sought damages and an injunction restraining further publications.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The claimant’s counsel argued that paragraphs 11 and 12 of the article were defamatory. This article caused severe distress and embarrassment to the claimant. Moreover, he has a prominent status and reputation in England, and therefore, this publication caused severe harm.
  • The defendant’s counsel submitted that the claimant is a public figure. He would attract polarised opinions; a single short article would not change that. Further, no evidence shows that any particular person’s view changed due to the article’s publication.

Opinion of the Bench

  • Politicians have some resilience to an attack of this nature. The award of damage should reflect the considerations of the percolative effect. The publication of summaries of the judgements will serve as a partial vindication and provide more reasons for the damage to be substantial in the absence of an apology.

Final Decision

  • The court awarded defamation damages worth £45,000.