Seven West Media has issued a statement following yesterday’s jailing of blogger and self-described citizen journalist Shane Dowling who falsely named two Seven on-air personalities who he alleged had sexual affairs with company CEO Tim Worner. Read the statement in full at the end of this article.
In it, Seven infer Dowling “had no defence or evidence to support his defamatory articles” and he “persisted after being put on notice of those he accused were innocent”.
Dowling was yesterday sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of court and is due to be released prior to Christmas.
The names of the women, suppressed by the courts as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, appeared in court documents tended during Amber Harrison’s highly public trial relating to her own affair with Tim Worner.
Dowling published the women’s identities on his website Kangaroocourt.com.au and although he was found to be in contempt back in March, refused to remove the offending articles.
He earlier told the court: “By naming [the women] in articles I have done nothing more than any journalist does everyday around the country as their names were in legal documents tendered at the Australian Human Rights Commission by Amber Harrison. I have subsequently named them as they are suing me and I am entitled to open justice.”
Worner was cleared of the affairs with the women by an internal Seven investigation. The two personalities named are also trying to sue Dowling for defamation.
Yesterday, in sentencing Dowling in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Ian Harrison, said Dowling appeared to have “a complete misunderstanding” as to why he was being imprisoned.
Justice Harrison said: “He seeks to portray the issue as one of free speech. He seeks to paint himself as a victim of a powerful media organisation that is determined to gag him. The fact of the matter is that Mr Dowling has done more than journalists do on a daily basis. His contempt arises not from the fact that he published the names of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 in the first place, perhaps on his assessment as any journalist might have done, but from the fact that he disobeyed an order to take their names down from his online articles and even continued to republish the names in breach of the order that he not do so,” the judge said.
“It is therefore not the case that Mr Dowling faces the prospect of imprisonment for doing nothing more than reporting the news.
“It is regrettable that his written protestations elide self-righteous indignation with innocence,” the Judge said.
Seven’s statement read in full: “The NSW Supreme Court today jailed a blogger who continuously breached suppression orders made to protect the identities of some Seven employees. Those women had been falsely accused by Amber Harrison of having relationships with Tim Worner.
“The blogger himself had no defence or evidence to support his defamatory articles and didn’t check for accuracy and had no relevant defence as to why he breached the court’s orders. Her persisted after being put on notice of those he accused were innocent.
“As there are further criminal cases against the blogger before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further”.