Daily Mail appeals to Federal Court over defamation of Erin Molan

The Australian newspaper Daily Mail has filed an appeal against a decision by the Federal Court, which found journalist and commentator Erin Molan defamatory, alleging she was racist in an online article.

A Sky News host last year sued the online publisher for defamation, saying the news site’s article and two tweets falsely portrayed her as a racist and “arrogant woman with white privilege” due to her pronunciation of Polynesian names.

Judge Robert Bromwich ruled in Molan’s favor in August, finding that the five allegations made were not found to be substantially true by the publisher regarding the online article.

He was not satisfied that the allegations made by the two tweets were being aired.

In his decision, Judge Bromwich concluded that both sides had “a measure of success and a measure of failure”.

He ordered Daily Mail Australia to pay Molan $150,000 plus interest for damages, including aggravated damages for an online article, only because she was entitled to “substantial but not excessive compensation”.

However, the online newspaper on Tuesday filed a notice of appeal against the decision.

It is not yet clear on what basis the publisher is filing the appeal, but it is presumed to be against both damages and the defamation order.

In his decision, Judge Bromwich stated that the amount was substantial for “closely related and unfounded online insults, sufficient for any ordinary person to be completely certain that they are not true and should never have been published.”

“I think that this is quite consistent with the essence of the article reflected in the allegations,” he said.

“Dailymail.com needs to substantially improve the care it takes or face further and larger damages. Freedom of speech must be balanced with responsibility and basic professionalism, which, unfortunately, was lacking in this case.”

The Mail’s story was based on Molan saying “hooka, look, flour, hooka, fuka” on the show in May 2020.

Although the judge ruled in favor of Molan, she was still found to be “ignorant or frivolous” and insulted her by uttering the words on live television.

Judge Bromwich said the Daily Mail’s suggestion that Molan was a racist was not conveyed in the article.

However, he acknowledged that she “involuntarily and carelessly” made the comment and did not admit that she had made “even the slightest mistake”.

In her decision, Judge Bromwich helped the Mail erroneously claim that Molan “brutally and deliberately made fun of” the names of Pacific Islanders, and then lied about it, saying she meant a joke.

He found that the publisher also erroneously claimed that she refused to apologize and that she was “an arrogant white-privileged woman for this behavior.”

During the trial, the publisher claimed that the allegations made were true – and Molan showed a “pattern” of racist comments in her time on Continuous Call Team 2GB.

Acting on behalf of the Daily Mail, Bruce McClintock SC told the court in September 2021 that Molan’s attempts at emphasis were forms of “ugly racial stereotypes”.

However, Molan told the court that it was a light-hearted hit on legendary commentator Ray Warren, who was overheard saying the players’ names with his son and fellow commentator Chris.

She stated that the Daily Mail “twisted and twisted” what she said in the 14-second segment “to defame her with six allegations, each based on an online June 5 article.”

Judge Bromwich concluded that the online article “was not, in my opinion, ‘overshadowed by or even fraught with insinuation or speculation’ going far beyond what was openly stated, or one that implicitly ‘invited the reader to take a suspect approach’. “.

“The June 5 online article was a harsher and more direct criticism. It talked about what Ms Molan was alleged to have done, as was also stated the previous day in an article dated June 4, and reported backlash to that behavior,” he said.

“An ordinary reasonable person, even with a penchant for vague thinking, in my opinion, would not make a significant leap by equating the use of the phrases “involved in racism” and “involved in racism” in relation to what she is said to have done. Performed.”

Judge Bromwich suggested that the Daily Mail “reasonably and quickly” remove the article if it hasn’t already done so.

In a statement following the ruling, Daily Mail Australia managing director Peter Holder said the company was “very disappointed” with the result.

“While the court found that the five allegations were false and defamatory against her, we would like to emphasize that the court also recognized the factual truth that Ms. Molan, during the 2GB Continuous Call Team program, did acts that could offend people because of their race or ethnicity, and the people likely to be offended were NRL players with Pacific Islander names and their community,” Mr. Holder said.

“It is also worth noting that the court further held that while the Daily Mail article did not label Ms Molan as a racist and that it was therefore inappropriate to make any decision on the matter due to her ‘intemperate behavior’ in previous broadcasts — including accent faking and possibly promoting racial stereotypes—she was in “some danger” of an unfavorable conclusion.”

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