On 21 July, the Mail apologised to Cheryl Cole for a false story it published about her, which it had copied from the Sun.
Today, both the Mail and Sun have apologised and paid (around £80,000) libel damages to Parameswaran Subramanyam for false stories they published about him. This time, however, the Sun copied it from the Mail.
Subramanyam went on a 23-day hunger strike in Parliament Square in April 2009 during protests against the Sri Lankan government's offensive against the Tamil Tigers.
But on 9 October, the Mail ran a story headlined 'Hunger striker's £7m Big Mac' which claimed - on the basis of an anonymous police source - that Subramanyam had been secretly eating hamburgers and wasn't actually on hunger strike at all. The following day, the Sun ran the same story, with the headline 'Hunger Striker was Lovin’ It: Bogus…striker was 'eating burgers''.
Unsurprisingly, the story quickly spread around anti-Tamil websites.
Victoria Jolliffe, counsel for Associated Newspapers and News Group newspapers, told the court that both organisations had withdrawn the allegations and apologised 'sincerely and unreservedly' to Subramanyam for the distress that had been caused.
The Mail ran this, linked from their homepage, although positioned very near the bottom:
An article (9 October 2009), 'Hunger striker's £7m Big Mac', reported claims that Mr Subramanyam was caught secretly eating burgers while on hunger strike during the Tamil protest in London, wasting significant police costs. We now accept that there was no truth in these allegations and we and other media have agreed to pay him damages and have apologised to Mr Subramanyam for the distress and embarrassment caused.
The Sun published this:
Our article of 9 October 2009 falsely alleged that throughout a 23 day hunger strike, Mr Parameswaran Subramanyam secretly ate takeaway burgers when dishonestly claiming he was on hunger strike in support of Sri Lankan Tamils, in a campaign which was policed at considerable expense and caused the police to waste public money.
We now accept that these allegations are totally untrue. Mr Subramanyam, whose sole aim has always been to promote the Tamil cause, did not eat any food at all during his hunger strike.
We apologise to Mr Subramanyam and his family for any upset and embarrassment caused and are paying him a substantial sum in damages.
Subramanyam's lawyer, Magnus Boyd, said:
“The allegations are entirely false which both defendants now accept. The claimant did not consume any food at all throughout his hunger strike. The Metropolitan Police Superintendent who was in charge of the operation in Parliament Square confirmed that there was no police surveillance team using 'specialist monitoring equipment' and that no video evidence existed.”
"I am relieved that this matter is now resolved and I can start to rebuild my life again The past eight months have been an unbearable strain on my life, to the extent that at times I have even contemplated taking my own life.
"As a result of the lies that the Newspapers published about me, and through no fault of my own, I have lost friends, been shunned by family members and completely ostracised from the Tamil community."
For the Mail, it's two humiliations in two days.
Because yesterday, Associated Newspapers paid undisclosed libel damages to Reza Pankhurst over false claims he had groomed a suicide bomber. The Mail published an apology for this on 21 April. Inexplicably, it took the Evening Standard, which made the same claims, until 13 May to do the same.
Pankhurst's lawyer Lucy Moorman told the court:
the allegations in the articles were false and that both papers had now agreed to pay him costs and damages for the “injury to his reputation and the distress caused to him” by the articles.
(In other Mail libel news, Nathaniel Rothschild has today launched a libel action against the paper over a front-page story from 22 May.)
(Hat-tip to exclarotive)