News Corp. ordered to take down articles in defamation case
Media February 14, 2018 6:19 pm By Jennifer Cooke | Sydney

A Federal Court judge has ordered that newspaper articles that the president of the Australian Imams Council, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, claims are defamatory of him be removed from several News Corp. websites.

Justice Geoffrey Flick made the order Wednesday during a directions hearing in Sydney in which he also criticised News Corp., the parent company of Nationwide News Pty Ltd, for tardy action over a motion to tender a new affidavit by an expert witness, as well as change some particulars pleaded.

Justice Flick also vacated the March 12 trial date to a date to be agreed on in June or later in the year.

The defamation case was brought by Sheikh Alsuleiman against Nationwide News for articles published in the Daily Telegraph and the Courier Mail that he alleges implied he “preached hate towards others” including women, minorities and homosexuals.

New Corp. had sought leave to add an affidavit by an expert witness, as “an indulgence”, its counsel Dauid Sibtain admitted.

Counsel for Shiek Alsuleiman, Sue Chrysanthou, complained that the publisher “is constantly changing the goalposts” as to what its defence “actually says”. She pointed to $35,000 spent on a 104-page expert report.

This was in addition to “833 pages of material” prepared for News Corp. and served on the applicant for which Ms Chrysanthou now has little time to prepare for or to potentially engage and call her own expert in response.

“The amount of money poured into this case … is now becoming quite unreasonable”, she said, as was the time given to respond.

She also pointed out that any internet search of the Imam’s name showed the articles complained of were still visible online.

During a short adjournment Mr Sibtain said he had received instructions that his client would take “all reasonable steps” to remove material from three websites over which News Corp. had control “but that will not remove it from the internet” totally. This was due to “websites outside our control internationally”, he said.

The directions hearing followed an unresolved mediation conference last month.

“This case has not been conducted by the respondent in a way that covers them in glory” and when it concluded “will be a model of how not to conduct litigation”, Justice Flick said.

Justice Flick ordered that costs “thrown away”, including Wednesday’s proceedings, be paid by News Corp. and that no further evidence or amendments be filed without an affidavit.

Ms Sue Chrysanthou instructed by Birchgrove Legal appeared for the Imam.

Mr Dauid Sibtain and Mr Matthew Lewis were instructed by Stephen Coombs from the News Corp. Legal Department for Nationwide News.

The case is Shady Alsuleiman v Nationwide News Pty Ltd & Anor

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Cat Fredenburgh

Cat Fredenburgh has been covering legal news for 12 years. She was previously Editor-in-Chief at US legal news publication Law360. She is the Co-Founder of Lawyerly.