Hamza Cheikho, a Muslim Australian man in his 20s, has won a $100,000 defamation lawsuit against the Australian Daily Telegraph after the paper suggested he was part of “an angry mob” and participated in a “riot” over the anti-Islam movie Innocence of Muslims, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.
“The articles falsely depicted him, among other imputations, as a Muslim extremist who incites other Muslims to violence,”Cheikho had claimed, according to the Telegraph.
The Telegraph, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Australia, published four articles about Cheikho, who attended a 2012 protest in Sydney’s Hyde Park over the anti-Islam movie Innocence of Muslims. The protest “turned ugly, with six police officers injured,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation explained.
According to Crikey, in court, News Corp. claimed Cheikho was a “Muslim extremist” and “a sinister and dangerous person,” and was linked to an Australian ISIS fighter.
The Telegraph articles suggested Cheiko was “one of the ringleaders, one of the activists, one of the troublemakers who had done this” during the riot, but Cheiko was just “a follower and not a leader,” his lawyer, Tom Molomby, said during the trial.
In court, Molomby called the Telegraph‘s reporting “disgraceful, irresponsible journalism.”
The Telegraph claims were harmful, Cheiko said during the trial, explaining that the reporting “made me feel less confident, very paranoid.”
“I feel paranoid, like if people are looking at me they might be noticing my face from the paper. It’s worn me down,” Cheiko said.
The judge, NSW Supreme Court justice Lucy McCallum, agreed that Cheikho was “one of a group of protesters seeking to discourage violence rather than condoning or participating in it,” Australian media news site Crikey reported.
News Corp. Australia and Cheiko’s lawyer declined to comment to iMediaEthics on the ruling.
Only one of the four articles Cheiko sued over was found to be libelous.
Hat Tip: Crikey