The Rising Resistance to Racist Media

The head of the Australian National Imams Council, Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, has just won a defamation case against Nationwide News, the owners of the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, and the Courier Mail. With lawyers from Birchgrove legal, the Sheikh sued for defamation over the flurry of reckless and combative articles written in 2016 over his invitation to the Kirribilli House iftar, hosted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The legal counsel for Sheikh Shady, Sue Chrysanthou, complained to the judge that “the amount of money poured into this case [by News Corp]… is now becoming quite unreasonable.” The judge, Justice Geoffrey Flick, ordered News Corp to the cover the costs “thrown away” at additional proceedings, to remove the offending articles from the relevant websites, and commented that, “This case has not been conducted by the respondent [News Corp] in a way that covers them in glory” and when it concluded “will be a model of how not to conduct litigation”. The articles alleged that he was a “hate preacher” who incited hatred for homosexuals and violence against women. They also claimed that events like the iftar which promote “tolerance and compassion only allow [the] threat of radical Islam to flourish in Australia.” As of May 22, most of the articles have been removed from the main websites published to, such as the Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail and Herald Sun, however, a number of related websites, such as the Australian, and other unrelated sites continue to host these defamatory articles. The lawsuit is another example of a rising pushback against provocative and false coverage of the Muslim community in Australian media. Since 9/11, media outlets owned by News Corp Australia have been at the forefront of vitriolic speech against Australian Muslims and their faith. Their dehumanising rhetoric has for the most part gone unchecked, leading to a media landscape which thrives on fear and hatred of the other, with a particular focus on Muslims and immigrants.
“It is hoped that with such action, the culture of blameless, inaccurate and damaging reporting within Nationwide News and News Corp will begin to change,” said the Australian National Imams Council in a statement last June.
Recent lawsuits, such as the defamation case in 2016 won by the former Grand Mufti, have been able to challenge this rhetoric, forcing media outlets to apologise and rescind their statements. These kinds of consequences encourage journalists and platforms to hold themselves to a higher standard of ethics and norms around coverage of minorities in Australia. In January, OnePath Network released an extensive report on the rising tide of disproportionate and overwhelmingly negative coverage of Islam in Australia by News Corp affiliated newspapers, showing the danger and damage that comes with unchecked media bias.