It's not like the Daily Telegraph to sensationalise.
Hah! At least it keeps its defamation lawyers busy.
Back in 2012 the Tele published a front page headline
"Faces of Rage" along with the pictures of 15 men
involved in protests in the Sydney CBD. The protests related to a
controversial YouTube video called "Innocence of
Muslims". Some protesters were calling for the beheading of
the person who made the video.
One of the pictured men (we'll call him Roger) successfully
sued for defamation. The imputation was that as one of an angry mob
he took part in a riot. The Tele argued a qualified privilege
defence (along with truth, which failed). Clever angle, yes. Strong
prospects, not so much.
Qualified privilege normally only arises on special occasions
where there is a reciprocal interest in making and receiving the
defamatory communication. It generally wouldn't apply to a
publication to the public at large. Interestingly, the defence can
apply to a publication that is not true.
The Tele said it had a civic duty to help police gather further
information about the protests and that the publication was in the
general interest of the NSW community.
The court said nuh - uh and awarded Roger $100k in damages, for
a few reasons.
The police did tell the Tele in general terms that it would be
useful to have photographs of the protests published in the press.
But that was after the Tele contacted the police, not vice versa.
This wasn't a case where there was a particular individual
involved in a serious crime in which the police approached media
outlets for help identifying the individual.
There was no connection between the men identified and any
particular illegal conduct or any particular aspect of the
police's investigation of the protests. The images just suited
The populist nature of the Tele and the breadth of its
publication weighed against it having privilege to defame
This is obviously the right decision. Extending a qualified
privilege defence to the mass media would be a seriously big deal.
We love free speech and all, but really, civic duty? Please.
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