Pacific Media Watch

23 February 2014

PNG: Court awards 400,000 kina in lawsuit by judge against The National

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PORT MORESBY ( Media Watch): The National Court in Waigani has awarded more than 400,000 kina (NZ$190,000) in damages, in Papua New Guinea's first  defamation case instituted by a judge against a media company.

Justice Catherine Davani awarded the damages plus cost of the proceedings against Pacific Star Limited, owner of the daily newspaper The National, after the case was started seven years ago.

Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika claimed his reputation as a judge of the National Court - as he then was, had been tarnished and destroyed, following publication of a news article by the newspaper.

A November 2006 publication of the newspaper had alleged Justice Salika of deliberately and corruptly delaying hearing of a custody case of a mother who had her children taken away from her by the father.

The court found that Justice Salika did suffer and was entitled to damages, after holding that there is no value to a damaged reputation.

The article also indicated that Justice Salika was sitting on the case which he had a conflict of interest with, and that he was unfit and unworthy to be a judge because of his actions.

However, the court found that the newspaper had failed to confirm whether Justice Salika was presiding over the case - which he never had - and did not retract the article or make a public apology.

Judge Salika is now the country's Deputy Chief Justice, with an eminent reputation nationally, regionally and internationally.

Justice Davani said the article was insulting and, without consideration of the effects to be suffered by the judge, was a blow to her colleague's pride.

The court awarded K471,143.00 in damages which includes an 8 percent interest and K50,000 (NZ$24,000) in aggravated damages.


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Pacific Media Watch

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