LONDON: Three Pakistani women are at the centre of a London High Court defamation case that involves allegations of fake Instagram accounts, defamatory WhatsApp posts from dummy numbers, an FIA probe, threats, Gonzo (a Muppet character), anonymous dummy accounts -- ‘Pakistani Phuphoo’, ‘Gossip Girl Lahore’, ‘Gossip Lounge’ -- and other matters.
The libel claim has been brought by Sana Hameed, originally from Lahore and now a successful banker in London, against Shanzay Shahbaz Sheikh, a well-known social media influencer and model, over five social media posts which Sana Hameed claims were defamatory of her and identified her as the person behind the aforementioned fake social media accounts. The case also features a social media post by Alyzeh Gabol, a former model and actor who now lives in Dubai and maintains a significant social media profile.
Now, a London High Court judge Master Davison has issued a judgment on the “meaning” of the five publications at the centre of the case, and what it means for the claimant and the defendant if the case goes to the final trial.
According to the claim, on March 20, 2021 Sheikh instigated complaints to the FIA seeking a criminal investigation of those behind the following Instagram pages: Gossip Girl Lahore, Gossip Lounge, Gossip Girl World Magazine and Pakistani Phuphoo.
Hameed has claimed that she was defamed in five posts. The first publication was on June 3, 2021. Hameed claims that allegedly “the defendant or persons acting on her behalf published on WhatsApp a picture of Sana Hameed placed alongside an image of the Muppet character Gonzo with the overlaying words: “EXPOSED! gossip_girl_lahore” with the images and words: ‘We are working with FIA and ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) to find out the people behind the page. I have also received many messages from unknown people and accounts saying that this woman is behind the gossip girl page. Do you guys know who she is? She lives in London’.”
This post was published on WhatsApp and sent out to several numbers who knew Sana Hameed. With this, two court orders were also released on WhatsApp: an FIA order directing Hameed to appear before the FIA cyber-crime reporting centre in Lahore, and a court order for the registration of an FIR against the “culprits” making “fake accounts” and “threatening”. Both orders were issued on the basis of complaints filed by Shanzay Sheikh but her name was redacted in the WhatsApp messages; Hameed’s name was redacted in the WhatsApp publication too but the court order for the FIR registration bore her name. Sheikh has denied being behind the WhatsApp messages and has also denied sending out the two court papers on WhatsApp while also maintaining that she didn’t instigate others to do it either.