Australian Court Convicts Columnist of Racial Discrimination

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By Vittorio Hernandez | September 28, 2011 2:13 PM EST

Justice Mordecai Bromberg found newspaper columnist Andrew Bold guilty Wednesday of violating Australia's Racial Discrimination Act. Bolt, who writes for Herald Sun and Weekly Times, published two articles on racial identity which the court found have errors in fact, distorted the truth and used inflammatory and provocative language.

The lawsuit was initiated by Pat Eatock, a 72-year-old aboriginal activist, and eight others who protested Bolt's criticism of mixed-race, fair-skinned aborigines, whom he labeled "political aborigines" for gaining prominence or receiving indigenous awards because of their choice to identify with that part pf their ancestry.

He named nine individuals in his column and blog as being "political aborigines." Besides Eatock, they were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission member Geoff Clark, artist Bindi Cole, academics Larissa Behrendt and Wayne Atkinson, author Anita Heiss, health worker Leeanne Enock, lawyer Mark McMillan and native title expert Graham Atkinson.

Eatock claimed that the two articles titled "It's so hip to be black" and "White fellas in the black" offended, humiliated or intimidated them and breached the racial discrimination law.

Bromberg stressed his decision did not ban articles on racial identity issues, but said they must be written reasonably and in good faith.

"Nothing in the orders I make should suggest that it is unlawful for a publication to deal with racial identification, including by challenging the genuineness of the identification of a group of people," News.com.au quoted Bromberg saying.

In the court hearings in April, Bolt's lawyer, Neil Young, insisted that freedom of speech was higher than other rights and a cornerstone of democracy.

"Everything that's said, even if it's expressed colourfully, is rationally related to a thesis that's a matter of public interest," Young argued.

After the decision was handed down, Bolt read from a prepared text.

"It is particularly a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves. I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on the differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings," the Brisbane Times quoted Bolt, who did not indicate if he would appeal the Federal Court ruling. 

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