When the wolves of the tabloid press are looking for victims, rest assured they’ll always find the most powerless in society. Case study one:
A Tamil refugee who went on a 23-day hunger strike in Parliament Square last year has received an apology and almost £80,000 in damages from the Daily Mail and the Sun over false allegations that he secretly sustained himself with hamburgers.
Parameswaran Subramanyam, 29, became the public face of the 73-day Tamil protests in Westminster after he decided to stop eating in the hope of drawing the world’s attention to what was happening to his people in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war.
He gave up his hunger strike on 30 April after the then foreign secretary, David Miliband, wrote him a letter explaining the “strenuous efforts” the government was making to bring about a ceasefire on the island. He then spent five days recovering in hospital.
Although his actions won him the support and admiration of many Tamils, their affection turned to animosity in October 2009 after the Daily Mail ran a story falsely claiming Subramanyam had broken the strike by eating burgers and had been caught doing so by a Metropolitan police surveillance team. The allegations were then repeated in a story published on the Sun’s website, headlined “Hunger Striker Was Lovin’ it”.
Today, Subramanyam’s solicitor, Magnus Boyd, told the high court that the articles had “[struck] at the heart of the claimant’s integrity, undermining the single achievement for which he became known and respected”.
He added: “As a direct result of the defendants’ publications, the claimant was ostracised by the Tamil community and its supporters who believed that the claimant had betrayed them and that the claimant had in fact undermined the Tamil struggle globally.”