Seven to settle defamation lawsuit

Seven has agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit with a remote NT community, after blurred footage of the group filmed for a health promotion was used during the now-infamous Sunrise discussion around removal of Indigenous children. Seven will also pay the costs of the proceedings.

Stewart O’Connell, a lawyer acting for the Yirrkala group based approximately 700km east of Darwin, said “The broadcasting of a public apology by Channel Seven will go a long way to resolving the hurt, shame and distress that our clients and the Yolngu people generally have endured as a result of the misuse of this footage.”

In February this year, Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr and 14 other adults and children of Yirrkala community sued for defamation, breach of privacy, breach of confidence, race discrimination and breach of Australian Consumer Law.

The group said that Sunrise had implied they abused or neglected children by using the footage while the panel discussed child abuse.

In June Seven’s lawyers sought to strike out the claim, saying an ordinary person would not avoid and shun someone they perceived to be a child victim of assault.

But Justice Steven Rares dismissed the application and said members of the community “might not be as sympathetic as you say”.

“People are not going to associate with people they feel are damaged goods,” Justice Rares said at the time.

A Seven spokesman said: “The settlement was mentioned in court this morning but as [it’s] not finalised we’re unable to say more at the moment apart from saying we’re pleased.”

Separately, a Australian Human Rights Commission complaint was lodged last year by a group of Aboriginal elders, leaders and some of those who protested outside Seven’s Martin Place headquarters.

The segment was also found to be in breach of the Code of Practice by the ACMA. Seven later agreed to an independent audit of its production processes for the current affairs content, which is yet to be detailed.

It’s not clear when Sunrise will broadcast the apology.

Source: The Age

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