Last week, Fairfax journo Mike Carlton resigned after
firing up against critics of his article about Israeli attacks on
News was quick to pick up on the story, giving it a two page
spread in the Daily Telegraph. The punch line was a bizarrely
photoshopped picture with Carlton's face super-imposed on a
bombing victim and wearing a Palestinian head-dress. The body was
actually that of a Boston Bombing victim. Oops.
Leaving aside the obvious questions of journalistic integrity
and disgusting tackiness, there's an interesting legal issue
here about defamation by photoshop. After a string of steamy cases
about unauthorised publication of people's private parts, we
know that a photograph can be defamatory. The question is whether
it will cause people to think less of you. Words can hurt, and so
can an image.
This one is particularly interesting. Clearly the Telegraph was
intending to say something awful about Carlton; we think they
attempted to portray him as a Palestinian sympathiser who had
reaped the whirlwind of his own provocations (that is, he blew
In defamation, there's a difference between intent and
effect. Malice can be relevant, but it doesn't determine
whether you've been defamed. That's in the eyes of the
So, is it defamatory to imply that someone is a Palestinian?
Eek. Controversial. We say no. Is it defamatory to imply that
he's a terrorist, because all Palestinians are terrorists? And
there's the sting – News was playing on the prejudices of
bigots, but you're not going to win a defamation case by
alleging that bigots will think less of you if they see you in a
So, while Carlton may have a good case, it'll be built on
more subtle imputations than the obvious ones that News clearly
intended to convey. In the end, their use of the photoshopped image
was meant to hurt Carlton. That doesn't make it defamatory. It
just makes News look like a pack of race-baiting rednecks.
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're
quite proud of it really.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).