Remember when you were told that that speech was free on the internet? That may not be true, at least not in Kuwait where a blogger is under legal fire for a negative review of a restaurant he put on his blog.
The restaurant is looking for both monetary damages to be paid, along with the blog, 248am.com, to be shut down. The blogger in question, Mark Makhoul, is not enthused. In comment to TheNational, Makhoul said that:
“I thought it was a bluff, but yesterday a court order was served. They’re asking for financial compensation, and asking for my blog to be shut down.”
While he complimented the staff, Makhoul took the restaurant ‘Benihana’ down a peg in terms of its food quality. Noting that there are other Japanese restaurants in the area, he advised readers to patronize them over Benihana. That sat as well as a cat on a cactus to the owners.
Admittedly, the skewering of the establishment that Makhoul executed is rather harsh, but his comments stick to the food. There is nothing in his review that raised our eyebrows other than how unappetizing the restaurant sounds. You can read the full legal complaint here.
What do hope will happen? That the hurt owners of Benihana get over themselves and improve the food that they are selling, and not start suing everyone who speaks their mind. If you have insight into the Kuwaiti legal structure, please let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you.
The mistake that Benihana made is that Mr. Makhoul is a very popular figure in Kuwait, and his work carries weight. Of course, that is why they went after him, his influence is dangerous, but the pendulum has now swung the other direction; hundreds online are flocking to Makhoul’s aid. The reputation of Benihana is now much more sullied by the antics of its owner than the words of a lone writer. You can track some of the outrage on Twitter.
The trial is set for the 8th of March. Makhoul is worried about the precedent it may set: “If they want to go ahead, I’m not going to chicken out. It doesn’t just affect me; that’s why I want everyone to get involved. If I lose this case it could affect all the bloggers in Kuwait.”
Update: The Facebook account of Benihana has just been updated to reveal some very interesting information. As it turns out, there are in fact two entities that share the Benihana name. The one that suing Makhoul is BenihanaGroup, and its sister company is taking distance from them and their actions. From their post:
While we have a shared interest in the BENIHANA brand, we have no control over Benihana of Tokyo, Inc.’s business or legal decisions. Consequently, we cannot comment or opine on the alleged lawsuit filed by Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. except to say that we are never pleased to hear of any BENIHANA customer’s negative experience. We encourage you to share your opinions and comments directly with Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. The company’s contact information is available on www.BenihanaGroup.com.
For fairness, we are also going to post the initial complaint towards the blogger, which was a comment on his blog post, below to give everyone their fair voice. We are going to leave it after that, but this situation is plain wacky.
Dear Mr. Mark,
We are from Benihana management of Kuwait; my name is Mike Servo the GM of the Company .
Thank You for visiting us in our restaurant and dining in with your wife .I had found your comments and in your web site on Benihana.
I also found it out that our rights and name is being used in a wrong way and broadcasting the video without a proper consent from us is really annoying specially Benihana is just opened up its doors to the public.
We are seeking and consulting our legal dept. on how we can form a type of law suit against your website to be brought up to the Kuwait authorities.
We respect opinion, but we see it in a way that Benihana name have been destroyed and abused on your website.
We are eager to know your name and meet you personally if you don’t have anything to hide.
You mentioned clearly on a detour way on not to go to Benihana and go to Maki or Wasabi or Chocolate Bar and we believe that this is against the law of Kuwait, We respect our rights on not to advertise in your website and if we don’t, this will not mean that we will be hurt by your side and if this done, the court in Kuwait will be in our side to give us our rights. to make this conversation short . We want you to give us your information, your name, your number and your address so our lawyer will take it from there and be sure that you in Kuwait were the jury is
100 % clean and fair.
We also expect that you might be sending people to Benihana to make a play and that is why we have informed the CID about that, In the past we encountered your add in Subway and it is one of our companies franchise, we really didn’t give it any attention, and it very clear now that Subway is an elephant while other competitors are closing down, however this time we will not let it go and we will follow you legally.
This is the last comment from my side and LPRC side; we wish that you will be free to give us your info. BTW are you Lebanese?
Thank for your concern and we have that you are brave to give us your info and we will meet in court soon.