City Telecom chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay yesterday lost his defamation lawsuit against the Economic Journal for misquoting him as criticising broadcaster TVB as being "shallow".
Throwing out Wong's claim, Mr Justice Andrew Chung On-tak said an ordinary reader would find the text of the article to mean only that Wong would be able to profitably exploit the area of the market not being exploited by the competitors.
In question was an article published on September 9, 2010, in which Wong was quoted as using the word "shallow". In fact, he used the word "easy" and did not identify any broadcaster when he said news produced by Hong Kong broadcasters was generally "easy to understand".
The word "shallow" was put in quotation marks and appeared in the headline and the introductory paragraph of the Chinese article. Wong's lawyer complained that the offending parts were defamatory because they suggested Wong was arrogant and portrayed him as superior to his business competitors.
"Having read the whole of the subject article, the ordinary reader would not find the offending parts to be substantiated by the text," the High Court judge wrote in the judgment.
The judge pointed out that it was often legally incorrect to ascertain an article's imputation by looking only at its headlines, although there were times where the text would be insufficient to neutralise the harm caused by the headlines.
The Economic Journal's lawyers had argued that "shallow" and "easy" were synonymous in Chinese, and that the use of the quotation marks conveyed to readers that those words were from the writers or the editors.
Wong said he was considering launching an appeal.