More Appalling Guardian Journalism 13

The worst bit of journalism yet on the Usmanov case comes, unsurprisingly, from the Guardian. For arse-licking, unquestioning repetition of the claims of Usmanov’s lawyers, this takes the biscuit.

Usmanov aims legal arsenal at bloggers

Paul Kelso

Thursday September 13, 2007

The Guardian

Arsenal’s newest shareholder, the Uzbek minerals billionaire Alisher Usmanov, continues to police discussion of his past and of his intentions for the Gunners after paying ’75m for David Dein’s 14.58% share in the club.

Schillings, the lawyers acting for Usmanov, have been in touch with several independent Arsenal supporters’ websites and blogs warning them to remove postings referring to allegations made against him by Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Usmanov was jailed under the old Soviet regime but says that he was a political prisoner who was then freed and granted a full pardon once Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as president. Schillings have warned the websites that repetition of Murray’s allegations were regarded as “false, indefensible and grossly defamatory”.

Most sites have complied and removed the allegations. Murray himself is yet to receive any correspondence from Usmanov’s lawyers, though the hosts of his website have complied with Schillings’ demands. The former ambassador says that he has contacted Schillings to ensure they know where to send any writ.

Usmanov’s Arsenal investment vehicle, Red & White, has purchased further shares in the club since taking a major stake but as yet has not arranged a meeting with the club. Existing board members have become remarkably vocal since his purchase, barely a day passing without a senior figure from the club talking up Arsenal’s financial position. The club’s results, due next week, are expected to show a healthy position, with as much as ‘3m generated by each match at the Emirates.

The bit about

Schillings have warned the websites that repetition of Murray’s allegations were regarded as “false, indefensible and grossly defamatory”.

is particularly egregious. It makes it sound as though there has been some kind of judgement in the case. In fact the facts as I stated them are regarded as false by nobody to my knowlege except Schillings; other people may regard then as fals, but I am to date unaware of a single person saying so. And Schillings of course are paid to regard them as false. Has anybody else seen anything from a respectable source arguing that what I said about Usmanov was false?

Paul Kelso contacted me before writing his article, and here is the email I sent him:

Hi Paul;

no – Schillings have had no contact with me, except I phoned them to make sure they could find me for a writ! My webhost received a legal threat from Schillings, and my webhost responded to the threat of legal action by taking down one of my articles. I withdraw nothing. I want Usmanov to sue me. He is a <removed on legal recommendation>, and I know enough about him, and enough

potential witnesses, to give him a torrid time in a UK court beyond even the ability of Schillings to cover up.

Usmanov knows that, and Schillings are obviously bluffing – although they are writing that my book is “libellous”, it has been out for over a year now, sold over 25,000 copies already, and they have done nothing but spout bollocks.

As you may know, my book is being made into a film next year by Michael Winterbottom and Paramount. Don’t know who will play Usmanov – sadly Fatty Arbuckle is dead.


Now how fair and balanced was Kelso’s article?

– Legal note – 2 edits made by webhost on legal advice

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13 thoughts on “More Appalling Guardian Journalism

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Why should Kelso bother to let the facts get in the way of a good story?

    Crass 'journalism' by a crass 'journalist' working for a crass 'newspaper'.

    Worse than that, the real story is so very much more interesting.

  • George Dutton


    If it wasn't for the internet we wouldn't get to know the truth of anything (how long will that last???). Since the BBC and the Press is run by our one party state. I don't even have my TV on to find out what is happening in the world. It's that bad and I kid you not.

  • chrisentia

    Surely the charges on which Usmanov was imprisoned are in the public record. That Kelso simply passed on Usmanov's claim that he was a political prisoner, without checking the facts, shows that he is half a journalist at best.

  • balders

    >>Your web hosts are absolutely craven.

    Thanks for that Peter. The situation is slightly more complicated, which makes the whole damn situation a right royal pain in the backside.

    This site is one of many on a dedicated server. The server belongs to my company, but the physical hardware and internet connectivity are provided by a third party hosting company.

    Schillings have approached both myself and the company that manages the physical presence. If I had my way, it would be "sue and be damned". Unfortunately, the hosting company have decided that they don't want to get involved in an "expensive legal case" (their words). Their response is to threaten to pull the server off the net in response to Schillings legal threats.

    Now if I refuse to make changes, then the hosting company drops the server, and this and many other sites disappear off the internet. I then have to try and sort out the mess.

    Therefore, the only solution before me if I wish to maintain a contractual service to my clients, is to accede to Schillings' demands, whilst trying to locate alternative hosting in a more favourable legal jurisdiction.

    In the last 6 days, I've received 3 takedown letters, referencing 2 sites on this server. Perhaps you think I should go down all guns blazing, screwing this site and all the others on the server and stuffing both my business and others? Or maybe a more pragmatic approach will eventually pay dividends.

    Anyway, thanks again for the supportive comment, it makes all the aggravation worthwhile…

  • maceasy

    This sort of vague non-specific threat of legal action is the sort of tactic used heavily by Maxwell in his heyday, as well as a host of corporations and individuals with access to briefs. It is almost always without any foundation, but of course works a treat in frightening small websites and publications, as well as the corporate media, into removing often perfectly legitimate discussions regarding the suitability of public figures to pursue their agendas. And Usmanov's PR frontman Dein was well known at Arsenal for using this method against at least one small fanzine and other individuals who had a less than starry-eyed opinion of him. It is nothing more than censorship and the silencing of the public right to know, and is a grievous misuse of the libel laws (which are bad enough anyway) to threaten people with unspecified action and legal expenses. It is a calculated gamble by the bully that the individual will not take the risk of calling his bluff. Famously two people who did call such a legal bully's bluff made history and won many of the arguments deployed against them – Dave and Helen of McLibel fame. It pains me greatly that fan sites don't have the nerve to leave the background on Usmanov up, because it is entirely legitimate to discuss it, but I understand their fear. Anyway Craig, keep up the excellent pursuit of freedom of information, but watch your back.

  • balders

    Hi Peter,

    Sorry for snapping earlier, it wasn't warranted, but this whole farcical situation whereby Schillings appear to take the soft option in an effort to avoid a full-blooded libel action is so damn annoying. I can see why they take this approach, as it saves their client from court and the risks inherent in any legal action.

  • AlanF

    There was a banner at the emirates on sunday. "sod off Jabba". maybe the animatronics from star wars could be dusted off and used in your movie??

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