PNG MP Duma wins second massive defamation law suit

William Duma

An Australian media company, Fairfax Media Publications, has again been ordered to pay a Papua New Guinean MP a massive AUD$545,000 (US$379,235) as damages for defamatory articles that were published in its newspaper and digital platforms.

This is the second judgement in favour of Mt Hagen MP and State Enterprise Minister William Duma against the media company.

Minister Duma started the defamation proceedings at the Federal Court of Australia in May 2020 as a result of false and defamatory articles published in the Australian Financial Review newspaper and its digital platforms by journalist’s Angus Grigg and Jemima Whyte.

The publications which went viral were the subject of debate in Parliament, where opposition MPs at that time called for Duma to be sacked.

In a personal explanation on the floor of Parliament in 2020, Duma made a promise that his reputation and standing had been tarnished by these unfounded and false allegations and he will not rest until those who defamed him admit that those publications were false and that his name and reputation is restored.

There were two parts of his defamation proceedings relating to the articles written and published

For the first part, the Federal Court of Australia on 12 September, 2021, awarded Minister Duma damages for a substantial amount to be kept confidential plus costs of $265,901(US$85,023) against the Australian Financial Review.

In the second set of proceedings, the Federal Court conducted a fully contested trial where witnesses from both sides gave evidence and the trial was concluded in November 2021.

The Federal Court reserved its decision and after almost a year, a judgment was handed down Tuesday in Sydney.

He was awarded damages for a very substantial amount together with costs.

The Federal Court judge, Justice Anna Katzman was scathing of Angus Grigg, the journalist who wrote the defamatory articles, calling him a poor and evasive witness and was very critical of the standard of journalism.

Duma is the first political leader from the Pacific to commence legal proceedings against a major and leading Australian newspaper in the Federal Court of Australia, winning twice against the same newspaper.

When contacted by this paper, Duma pointed out that his position from the beginning when responding in Parliament, that he did not break any laws and was now vindicated after a long, stressful and costly legal case. He said he was satisfied that justice has prevailed in the end and that he was very pleased with the outcome and that the Australian justice system was swift and fair.