Muslim leader vindicated by doubling of defamation damages

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has welcomed a major victory for one of its clients, Mr Romzi Ali, in a defamation matter.

The NSW Court of Appeal today more than doubled the damages that Nationwide News Pty Ltd is required to pay to Mr Ali, a leader in the Sydney Muslim community, for defaming him in articles published in The Australian in 2003.

In 2005, Mr Ali was awarded damages after a jury found the article contained meanings that Mr Ali was a “supporter of terrorism” and “that he has raised money for the operations of Laskar Jihad, an organisation which does not worry about doing killing in pursuit of its political objectives”.

Mr Ali appealed the decision of the Supreme Court of NSW to the Court of Appeal because the award was too low to demonstrate the baselessness of the imputations made against him in The Australian.

Acting Principal Solicitor at PIAC, Natasha Case, said ‘The Court of Appeal’s decision finally vindicates Mr Ali and restores his reputation as well as his confidence in the Australian community. Mr Ali worked tirelessly to ease tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim members of his local community after the Bali bombing in 2002, work which was destroyed by the untrue articles in The Australian.’

The Court of Appeal found that the effect of the articles was “catastrophic or close to catastrophic on the appellant’s world” and that Nationwide News’ failure to apologise to Mr Ali further aggravated the damage that he suffered. The Court also found that the trial judge, Justice James, “did not do justice” to the “high degree of gravity” of the imputations, which had “turned [Mr Ali’s] whole world upside down” and “struck at the heart of the public position he had taken”.

‘Hopefully, the Court of Appeal’s decision will encourage the media to report in a balanced, well researched and responsible manner in the future’, Ms Case said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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