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Walkley retracts award given to Nine journalists over Andrew Laming story

The Walkley Foundation has withdrawn an award given to two Nine News journalists for their coverage of former politician Andrew Laming after an independent legal review.

The journalists, Peter Fegan and Rebeka Powell, won the television/video news reporting category in the 2021 Walkley Awards.

This was the first time in the history of Walkley that an award was taken back.

The last of this three-part investigation was sued by Laming as defamatory, as it centred around an allegation that a lewd photograph was taken of a young woman in her workplace without her knowledge or consent.

Nine settled on confidential terms except for the apology issued to Laming in September, and this apology was specifically limited to the details contained in a photograph.

However, the 2021 award for the category will not be presented to any other finalists as there wasn’t a runner-up.

The Walkley statement read: “The first two reports in this series contained allegations that were very serious and raised important issues of public interest, but the award could not be maintained solely upon those allegations.

“Accordingly, the Directors have resolved to withdraw the award.”

Nine’s director of news and current affairs, Darren Wick, said in a statement that the Walkley decision was “extremely disappointing” and “sets a very concerning precedent”.

“Nine stands by the journalists involved and the importance of the work they produced, and as an organisation will not be deterred from pursuing challenging journalism that serves and informs the community.

“The current state of defamation law in Australia poses a significant threat to public interest journalism. Decisions about the settlement of legal proceedings are not always a reflection of the journalistic merits of a story.

“These reports were important examinations of the conduct of a politician, which contributed to a broader social discourse about what standards the community expects from its elected leaders.”

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