Fairfax Has Apologised And Reached A Settlement With The Random Guy They Accidentally Accused Of Being A Terrorist
A much better front page from The Age.
It’s been five months since some of the country’s most influential papers plastered some poor dude’s face on their front pages and called him a terrorist. This week, a settlement has been reached, and Abu Baker Alam finally has some closure on the issue.
The Melbourne teenager was planning to launch defamation action against Fairfax Media — the company which runs The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Canberra Times as well as the smaller local papers in which the photos also ran — but has instead agreed to an out-of-court settlement. As part of this deal, the media organisation has donated $20,000 to the construction of an Afghan mosque in the man’s neighbourhood and paid him a confidential amount in damages. As Alam would one day like to be a police officer, the editor of The Age Andrew Holden has also written a personal letter to the Acting Chief Commissioner clearing his name, and has released another apologising to the broader Afghan community.
Though Fairfax acknowledged and apologised for their mistake on the day the photos ran, a longer and more formal statement has run today in all the offending papers. Additionally, the settlement deal specifically stipulated that the apology in The Age — Alam’s hometown paper — would run on the front page.
It’s no doubt a bit embarrassing for the editorial staff, and it’s certainly unusual to give an apology so much prominence on a front page — but you really can’t call it anything but fair.
So this is The Age's front page today. An oddly-prominent apology. pic.twitter.com/7XRqWzMkI8
— Myriam Robin (@myriamrobin) March 3, 2015
“Being wrongly identified as a terrorist was devastating and extremely hurtful to me and my family,” Alam said in the article. “I am happy and relieved that Fairfax has acknowledged it made a grave error and hope that such a mistake will never happen again.”
In a media release from Alam’s lawyers, his statements are a little more vehement.
“To have my face connected with an act of terrorism on the front pages of major Australian newspapers, and all over the internet, was devastating for me and my family.”
“This was a terrible mistake that damaged my reputation and my family’s good name. We were forced to defend ourselves against the worst kind of accusations while being placed in potential danger.”
“We came to Australia as Afghan refugees eight years ago because we wanted a better life. We came here to escape terrorism and to live in peace. We are in no way connected to any terrorist group.”
Hearing a random 19-year-old dude having to utter those words is devastating — and it’s only made worse when you consider the kind of week the Muslim community was already having.
And continues to have.
It’s not just Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson yelling about halal food and burqas; last week our Prime Minister used a national press conference to ask Muslim leaders to distance themselves from terrorism “like they mean it”, despite the fact that this is a thing that’s ostensibly already happening all of the time. When Waleed Aly presented Joe Hockey with more than a dozen examples of this on The Project, the Treasurer gave him the verbal equivalent of a Tony Abbott blinkathon.
It’s excellent news that Abu Baker Alam has been compensated for his hardship and it’s encouraging that his family and friends will benefit from the creation of a mosque in their neighbourhood. But there’s no doubt that members of the larger Muslim community still have every reason to throw shade like this.