Nine News boss Darren Wick has defended a 2017 report on A Current Affair which is at the centre of a legal case brought by convicted cocaine trafficker Bennet Schwartz.
Schwartz served three-and-a-half years in prison over his part in a sophisticated scheme to smuggle cocaine into Australia.
But on parole he is now suing Nine over an ACA report which described as a “successful mining executive” who “turned police informant” after being caught tracking parcels in the lucrative operation. Court documents say he was stabbed and beaten and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, panic attacks and migraines after the show.
“Courtesy of A Current Affair’s wrong accusation that he was a police informer, he was beaten, he was threatened, he lived in terror and ultimately he was stabbed,” solicitor Mark Davis said.
At his 2018 sentencing the court found Schwartz was not a police informer, and criticised ACA as an “irresponsible television program.”
But Darren Wick told Media Watch, since 2016 (the year prior to the ACA report) Schwartz was widely described by other media as a privileged wealthy ‘executive’ with Rio Tinto with a LinkedIn profile of “senior analyst.”
“Nine commends the bravery of those who despite having committed offences, agree to assist police with a difficult and vital job they do to protect our community from crime. Of course Nine does not condone the doing of any unlawful act causing injury to any person, whether in custody or otherwise. Information about prisoners may come to be known to other prisoners through many avenues -that any issues around welfare of persons in the custody of NSW corrections are not matters about which Nine can comment,” he told ABC.
“Davis’s description is false and offensive. Nine reported the conviction of Schwartz and others on charges of commercial drug importation, which are serious and important matters of public interest, about which the community has a right to be informed.”
Schwartz is suing Nine for injurious falsehood, misleading and deceptive conduct, and defamation over the ACA broadcast and a promotional tweet.
The matter is next in court on November 19.