Australia

Mark Latham settles defamation case with journalist Osman Faruqi

Mark Latham at the NSW Supreme Court on November 16, 2017. Source: AAP

Mark Latham may have to pay up to $100,000 to a journalist as part of a defamation case settlement.

Former Labor party leader Mark Latham has agreed to pay damages and remove "offensive" statements in a defamation case settlement with a journalist. 

ABC online editor Osman Faruqi launched a defamation case last year after Mr Latham accused him of “aiding and abetting Islamic terrorism” and promoting “anti-white racism in Australia”.

Mr Latham has agreed to pay for damages plus legal costs, the quantum of which is to be determined by the court at a later stage.

Lawyers for Mr Faruqi said the total sum could exceed $100,000.

'Case sends a message'

Mr Faruqi said he is pleased with the outcome, including the removal of the comments contained in a video produced by Mark Latham for Sky News' Outsiders program in August last year.

The video was also posted on Mr Latham’s social media platforms.

“This case has always been about reaffirming the principle that all Australians should be able to participate in public debate without being denigrated and accused of supporting heinous crimes like terrorism because of their background,” Mr Faruqi said.

“I hope that this settlement sends a message to other members of the community that while robust debate is part of a healthy democracy, using your platform to harm the reputation of individuals comes at a cost."

Offensive remarks ‘crossed a line’

Mr Faruqi’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein, said the result was a “vindication of our defamation laws”.

“Speech that causes harm has been regulated in different ways for centuries. Defamatory speech is one of many areas in which the law intervenes and regulates. We are pleased that Mr Latham has now removed these comments as they were harmful and untrue.”

He said the comments went beyond the realm of free speech and robust debate and “crossed a clear and unacceptable line”.

“The comments were highly damaging to Mr Faruqi and following their publication, other individuals engaged in threatening behaviour and racial and religious bigotry towards him.

“Mr Latham had suggested that Mr Faruqi had made numerous attempts to vilify white people, a suggestion ridiculed earlier this year by the Federal Court when it struck out Mr Latham’s first defence,” he said.

The Federal Court had earlier ridiculed Mr Latham’s 76-page defence and it was struck out entirely.

Justice Michael Wigney said the material was not a reasonable defence and that no link had been demonstrated between “alleged anti-white racism, on the one hand, and contemporary Islamic terrorism on the other”.

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