Tabloid Turnabout

Here's a tale of two high profile men in conflict. One you may have heard of. The other would really rather you hadn't.

Because Mazher Mahmood doesn't want you to know what he looks like.

He is the investigations editor of our best selling Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, and he's been responsible for exposing drugs dealers, paedophiles, people traffickers and contract killers. Over the years, his scoops have been party to the conviction of at least a hundred and thirty people.

His M.O. is unique. He dresses up as a rich Arab Sheikh, and secretly films his meetings with his targets. Usually he gets them to talk quite openly in what they think are private business conversations. And the following Sunday, we all read about it in the paper.
Obviously, Mazher guards his anonymity almost as obsessively as he rips away the privacy of others. There are no photographs of him, and that's how he likes it.

But two problems have arisen. Firstly, in recent years, he's developed a tendency to go for high-profile subjects. He got the manager of the England soccer team to talk freely about some of his squad's strengths and weaknesses. He got The Queen's daughter-in-law, Prince Edward's wife, Sophie, to air her private views about some of our leading politicians. Crusading journalism -- or just entrapment?

And that's where problem number two came in. Because Mazher decided to expose George Galloway, the famous Scottish legislator who led the opposition to the war in Iraq and the West's Middle East policy in general. You may remember he left your Norm Coleman gasping for breath at the senate hearings last year.

Anyway, Mazher must have slipped up this time, because George immediately smelled a rat. So when he tried to lure the legislator over dinner into making some indiscreet anti Semitic remarks, and offered some covert funding for his party, George decided to turn the tables. He arranged (he won't say how) for a photograph to be taken secretly of the 'fake sheikh'. He then sent a copy to every other legislator warning them to avoid this man at all costs. He even sent one to the Queen. Now the newspaper has panicked and run to the courts to try to stop the photograph getting into the public domain, saying Mazher's life is at risk from some of the nastier criminals he's exposed. In the end, George has nothing to lose and Mazher has everything to lose from his latest, and possibly last, sting.

By Simon Bates