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10:25 | 2012-10-15


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WSG Decision to Sue Football Journalist Condemned by Sports Media

TEHRAN (FNA)- A decision by World Sport Group to pursue legal action against Singapore-based soccer journalist James M Dorsey has received criticism from world elite sports media circle.

According to hotnhitNews, Singapore-based World Sports Group (WSG) started legal proceedings against veteran journalist and soccer scholar James M Dorsey in a bid to silence sources and squash reporting about its relationship with the disgraced FIFA vice president and AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam, who is at the center of the worst corruption scandal in soccer history.

In his recent column in the ESPNSTAR.com, columnist Jesse Fink has criticized the decision saying, "Dorsey case is a waste of time".

Appreciating Dorsey and his skill in journalism, Fink wrote in his column Dorsey case is a waste of time, "I've known Singapore-based football journalist James M Dorsey for some time. I can vouch for his professionalism, his intelligence and his industry. His blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, is regularly mentioned in this column, chiefly because it's outstandingly good. He is an ornament to the profession of journalism and someone all followers of Asian football should be very concerned about right now".

Singapore-based World Sports Group (WSG) has started legal proceedings against veteran journalist and soccer scholar James M Dorsey in a bid to silence sources and squash reporting about its relationship with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and disgraced FIFA vice president and AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam, who is at the centre of the worst corruption scandal in soccer history.

A syndicated columnist, blogger and senior fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Dorsey reported extensively on the PwC report as well as the web of scandals that have wracked world soccer body FIFA and the AFC at which Bin Hammam, a Qatari national, is at the core. His reports have been posted on social media including Twitter, which has been cited in WSG's petition to the court. [See the report written by James M Dorsey "The World of Soccer: AFC reports to Malaysian Police about stolen payment documents".

After the report was published, WSG has asked the Singapore High Court to instruct James M Dorsey to reveal how he might have come into possession of internal AFC documents, including an audit that puts on record unexplained payments of $14 million to Bin Hammam by one of the company's shareholders in the walk-up to the signing of its controversial $1 billion marketing rights contract with the AFC. This was a direct attack on the impunity granted to a journalist to keep its source secret for the safety of both the journalist and the source as well. However, no part of the report or the facts presented in the report have been questioned by WSG. Rather, the report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as mentioned in Dorsey's report, raises serious questions about how WSG was chosen, the terms of the contract and how it was negotiated.

In an August 28 letter to James M Dorsey, WSG Group Legal Counsel Stephanie McManus implicitly admitted the accuracy of Dorsey's reporting by acknowledging that his sources "must have a very deep knowledge of the matters referred to in your Article." Ms. McManus went on to first respond to the allegations against WSG in the PwC report and then demand that Dorsey take WSG-related articles off his blog and reveal his sources. An August 30 letter by WSG's lawyers, Deborah Barker and Ushan Premaratne of KhattarWong repeated Ms. Mc Manus' again demanded the same in addition to demanding an apology by columnist Dorsey. The letter asserted that Dorsey had been an accessory to breach of confidentiality. It alleged that "your distorted and unsubstantiated statements present your viewers with a biased view and indicate malice on your part."

However, James M Dorsey rejected WSG's demands and decided to vigorously defend himself against all the claims made by WSG being represented by N. Sreenivasan of Straits Law.

About the presentation of data in the Dorsey's report, ESPNSTAR.com columnist Fink mentions, "But Dorsey wasn't the only journalist who came into possession of this audit report. It was flying around the internet. Some, like Dorsey, chose to publish the details contained in the report. Others did not" while adding that "To my knowledge WSG has not disputed the veracity of Dorsey's reporting."

Fink has also quoted Keir Radnedge from his blog, "WSG's initial action is not understood to question the accuracy of Dorsey's reports and, indeed, suggests that they are too accurate and embarrassing for comfort."

Disapproving any action against Dorsey, Fink stated, "It should not be with Dorsey, who was just doing what he regarded as his professional duty."

"Every journalist has a duty to report the truth and the great concern about many sport organizations has been a lack of transparency about their business dealings," Fink mentioned quoting Gianni Merlo, president of AIPS, the International Sports Press Association.

As meant by Fink and Radnedge, the agenda of WSG behind the actions is to have Dorsey "reveal how he may have come into possession of internal AFC documents" which is a clean encroachment into the professional rights of a journalist in order to bring the truth to public. Rather to get to know how the information came to public, WSG could quiz PwC and AFC about how the report was leaked.

But initiating such legal action against a journalist, who just brought the truth to public, and pressurizing him to reveal his sources is a direct attack on the professional rights and immunity granted to a journalist and is, also, an attack on right to free speech.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. To me, Dorsey is a prolific writer and columnist with an extraordinary ability of speaking middle east politics through the game of football. His pieces are excellent analysis! And, above all, Journalists and media commentators of such stature must be kept free to speak out their views.