A PIAC client,
Romzi Ali, was awarded very significant damages after the Supreme Court of NSW found that
he had been defamed by The Australian newspaper in
Australian newspaper had printed a front-page
story and several other news items claiming that Mr Ali had raised money for
the terrorist organization, Laskar Jihad. The articles referring to Mr Ali were
published less than a year after the Bali bombings in 2002, in which 88
Australians were killed.
defamation case against the newspaper in 2005, a jury found the articles
suggested 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 objections’.
In fact, Mr Ali
was an upstanding citizen who had worked tirelessly within his community to
ease tensions after the Bali bombing in 2002.
Mr Ali had
earned considerable respect within his local community. The unsubstantiated
allegations in The Australian had a profound impact on his
life, as many who has previously trusted and respected him now had cause to
doubt his motivations.
Mr Ali was the
secretary of the Dee Why mosque in Sydney at the time the allegations were
printed. He had a strong local media profile as an advocate for peace. He had
often been quoted or photographed along with colleagues from other religious organisations
including the Anglican Church, advocating for tolerance and understanding.
surprisingly, the allegations printed in The Australian undermined
his standing in the community.
In 2007, Justice Bruce James awarded Mr Ali $125,000
in damages when he found that articles in The Australian had
damaged Mr Ali’s reputation and had left him angry and humiliated. Handing down
his judgment in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice James said reading the articles
had affected Mr Ali’s health and that he was ‘frightened, alarmed, shaken and
However, that original award of damages was more than doubled by the NSW Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal found that the effect of the articles was ‘catastrophic or close to catastrophic on the appellant’s world’ and that the failure by the publisher, Nationwide News, to apologise to Mr Ali further aggravated the damage that he suffered.
PIAC thanks its counsel in this case, Tom Molomby SC and Roger Rasmussen.