Refugee advocate Shane Bazzi has won his appeal of the defamation case brought against him by mouldy potato Peter Dutton.
ICYMI: Peter Dutton sued Shane Bazzi, a widely respected refugee activist, in 2021 for defamation after he called the defence minister a “rape apologist”.
The tweet in question linked to an article by The Guardian (this is important) which printed direct quotes from Dutton. He claimed female refugees being held on Nauru “have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru,” and that they were “trying it on” in a bid to secure medical transfer to Australia.
Representatives for Dutton argued that Bazzi’s one tweet contained four defamatory imputations, including the allegation that Dutton “condones and excuses rape.”
Peter Dutton initially won the defamation case too, but Bazzi’s lawyers appealed it. And now, a full bench of the federal court overturned the previous decision.
BREAKING: You know that feeling when you help raise $150k to defend a defamation case brought by Peter Dutton against a good bloke like @shanebazzi and then Shane wins! That’s the feeling I have right now as the appeal decision has just been handed down in Shane’s favour.— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) May 17, 2022
According to the new ruling, it’s can be assumed that most people who read Bazzi’s tweet would have then gone on to read The Guardian‘s article linked below the tweet, and that’s pretty important in terms of the context of what he said.
“The Guardian material centres on allegations of rape, not the actual commission of it,” the court said, per The Guardian.
“When that material is read with Mr Bazzi’s six words, the reader would conclude that the tweet was suggesting that Mr Dutton was sceptical about claims of rape and in that way was an apologist. But that is very different from imputing that he excuses rape itself.”
The court said that by reading the article, it would be clear to Bazzi’s audience that he wasn’t literally saying Peter Dutton was defending rape.
Huge congratulations to @shanebazzi for his win against Peter Dutton. Let’s hope this means politicians will think twice before using the courts as a weapon to silence citizens who are fighting for the rights of others. #auspol— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) May 17, 2022
“The reader would understand that Mr Bazzi’s six word statement was intended to convey a derogatory view of Mr Dutton in connection with what he said about rape,” the appeal court said.
“The reader would read on to absorb, in the fleeting way a reader of a tweet does, the content of the Guardian material.
“He or she would notice that its theme is Mr Dutton’s scepticism about the Nauru women’s claims of rape and his accusation that they had made them for an ulterior purpose.
“The reader would perceive that the message in the tweet consisted of both parts, Mr Bazzi’s six word statement and the Guardian material, read together.
“It is not sufficient that the tweet was offensive and derogatory. Mr Dutton had the onus to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that the reader reasonably would have understood that the tweet conveyed the imputation that he asserted it conveyed.”
“In our opinion, he failed to discharge that onus so that the appeal must be allowed, the judgment entered for Mr Dutton in the sum of $35,825 must be set aside and the proceeding dismissed.”
This ruling is pretty fkn great not just for Shane Bazzi, but for everyone critical of politicians on social media.
From this humble little journalist’s perspective, it is seriously concerning that someone with so much power can just… sue a random over one tweet for $35,000 in damages. The power imbalance between the literal leaders of our country and citizen activists online should be recognised here, especially when politicians have way more resources to sue you if they decide to.
Normalise not suing a human rights activists over one tweet when you are literally the defence minister, FFS.