Ac­tress wins Oz defama­tion case

The Mercury - - NEWS -

CAN­BERRA: A judge has awarded ac­tress Rebel Wil­son $4.56 mil­lion Aus­tralian dol­lars (R47m) in dam­ages over ar­ti­cles pub­lished by Bauer Me­dia that Wil­son said cost her film roles. In June, an Aus­tralian jury ruled that the 2015 ar­ti­cles branded Wil­son as “a se­rial liar” who had “fab­ri­cated al­most every as­pect of her life” – in­clud­ing her age, up­bring­ing and the ori­gin of her name.

“To­day was the end of a long and hard court bat­tle against Bauer Me­dia, which vi­ciously tried to take me down with a se­ries of false ar­ti­cles,” Wil­son wrote on Twit­ter.

The award – which Jus­tice John Dixon said was based on the es­ti­mated amount Wil­son lost out on fol­low­ing the suc­cess of Pitch Per­fect 2 – is four times the amount of the pre­vi­ous Aus­tralian record for a defama­tion case, say her lawyers.

Wil­son said on so­cial me­dia, “to me, though, this case wasn’t about the money,” and she plans to sup­port char­i­ties and the coun­try’s film in­dus­try with her dam­ages.

“It was im­por­tant for me to set the record straight, es­pe­cially be­cause I have so many young fans,” she posted on In­sta­gram. “I also feel like it’s im­por­tant to stand up to bul­lies.”

Bauer pub­lishes Women’s Day, Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly, NW and OK, with story lines that get picked up by US en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try out­lets.

Dixon ruled “only a sub­stan­tial sum in dam­ages could con­vince the pub­lic” that Wil­son isn’t dis­hon­est and “bring home the grav­ity” the dam­age to her rep­u­ta­tion caused.

“In the full me­dia glare, Bauer Me­dia’s de­fence of this case at­tempted to char­ac­terise its ar­ti­cles as true or as triv­ial or not likely to be taken se­ri­ously,” Dixon said in his rul­ing.

“Un­less sub­stan­tial dam­ages are awarded there is a real risk that the pub­lic will not be con­vinced of the se­ri­ous­ness of the defama­tion, but will rather wrongly con­clude that the ar­ti­cles were triv­ial or not that se­ri­ous.”

Dixon also said Bauer know­ingly pub­lished false state­ments about Wil­son in Women’s Day; that the al­le­ga­tions in the story were from “a source who re­quired pay­ment and anonymity and whom the edi­tor con­sid­ered ‘had an axe to grind’”; and the cov­er­age was or­ches­trated to co­in­cide with the re­lease of Pitch Per­fect 2 to max­imise the com­pany’s prof­its.

The record sum may af­fect fu­ture cases in Aus­tralia, but the rul­ing’s im­pact may not ex­tend be­yond its bor­ders. For in­stance, defama­tion laws in Aus­tralia are stricter than in the US. – The Wash­ing­ton Post

PIC­TURE: AP

Ac­tress Rebel Wil­son.

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