By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
A FEDERAL Court in Australia has ordered a big Sydney-based newspaper to pay compensation and costs to a PNG parliamentarian who it wrongly accused of owning a Brisbane residential property. Federal Court judge Justice Anna Katzmann yesterday ordered that the Australian Financial Review (AFR) pay Hagen MP William Duma an undisclosed sum in compensation.
She also ordered the Nine Entertainment Co-owned newspaper to pay Duma’s costs of AU$265,901 (about K678,000), on an ordinary basis.
Duma, currently the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises, sued the newspaper last year for alleging that he owned a residential property in Brisbane.
Yesterday, Duma welcomed the court ruling, saying the long nights and continuous meetings with his lawyers were worth it.
He thanked his lawyers for a job well done.
“The verdict showed that justice was achieved,” he said.
“This is the first time for a Papua New Guinean to take a major Australian newspaper to court especially in the Australian Federal Court for defamation and false allegations.
“It demonstrates that not all Papua New Guineans are corrupt and that PNG is not a corruption-riddled country as it has been portrayed by the international media.”
From Feb 10-16, 2020, journalists Angus Grigg and Jemima Whyte published eight news articles on the allegation in the AFR and on its news website.
Despite Duma providing his response to the two journalists, the articles were published without the response.
On May 7, 2020, Duma commenced defamation proceedings at the Federal Court of Australia as a result of false and defamatory articles published in the AFR newspaper by journalists Grigg and Whyte on April 14, 2020, regarding the property in Brisbane.
Justice Katzman, in her ruling in Sydney via video link yesterday, ordered the newspaper to pay Duma compensation in the amount that the parties had agreed to keep confidential, plus costs of the proceedings on the ordinary basis, in the agreed sum of AU$265,901.
There is another pending defamation case filed by Duma’s lawyers against the same newspaper and its journalists Grigg and Whyte who made allegations about Duma’s dealings in an oil field.
The case before the Australia Federal Court will be heard on Oct 7.
Duma sued the Australia Financial Review after it published of a series of articles early last year allegedly implying that he had acted corruptly while he was the minister for petroleum and energy 11 years ago.
By MIRIAM ZARRIGA