Sydney radio station 2GB has been cleared of defamation claims after an eight-year legal battle sparked by Muslim spokesman Keysar Trad who could face more than $1m in damages, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Trad had accused the station of racism before the Cronulla riots and filed a defamation claim against Harbour Radio, which owns 2GB, after broadcaster Jason Morrison called him a “pest” and “disgraceful individual” on air in 2005.
NSW Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan dismissed the claim in August 2007, finding Morrison’s statements were fair comment given the context of the discussion. However Trad successfully appealed the ruling in the Court of Appeal and when Harbour Radio took the matter to the High Court, he cross-appealed.
The High Court ordered the Court of Appeal to review the decision in October last year, and yesterday the Court of Appeal overturned their original decision in favour of 2GB.
The court found Morrison’s comments were broadly true, and therefore not defamatory. Trad was ordered to pay costs.
Morrison told The Australian the ruling was an “enormous relief and a massive victory for free speech”.
“The best cure for something you don’t like is to talk about it, not shut it down by taking it to court,” he said.
“Mr Trad started this fight, he threw the first punch. We found ourselves defending ourselves at an enormous cost. It’s beyond my comprehension that a case like this had to go this far. I would have been happy to have a public debate with Mr Trad on the airwaves. The only winners out of this will be the lawyers.”
2GB has declined to comment on the case.