Australian journalist Andrew Bolt violated a discrimination law in two 2009 articles for News Corp-owned the Herald Sun, the Guardian reported. The articles “suggested some fair-skinned Aborigines identified themselves as Aboriginal so they could access benefits,” the New Zealand Herald reported.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the case was filed by “a group of fair-skinned Aborigines under the Racial Discrimination Act (1975).” According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the act bans publicly offending people “because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.”
The judge stated that he found “that fair-skinned Aboriginal people, or some of them, were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed by the newspaper articles.” Further, the judge, Mordecai Bromberg, commented that Bolt’s columns were “highly suggestive and designed to excite.”
He noted that Bolt also used “sarcasm and mockery” in his columns. While Bolt’s comments were opinionated, the judge stated “they appear to be presented … as facts …”
In response to the ruling, Bolt stated, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that “this is a terrible day for free speech in this country.” He added that “It is particularly a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves.”
In an editorial, the Herald Sun stated that “Andrew Bolt is not a racist. Nor does the finding of the Federal Court yesterday say he is. The Herald Sun believes the case brought against him under the Racial Discrimination Act was ill-founded.”
Pat Eatock, described as an activist and one of the nine people who filed the lawsuit, is quoted as saying “It was never about free speech, it has always been a question of professionalism, and the reality is that the original articles were not professional journalism.”
The Sydney Morning Herald noted in a separate article that Bolt doesn’t have to apologize or pay any damages.