Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao Daily was on Friday ordered to pay HK$500,000 in compensation for defaming a Hong Kong Football Association boss.
Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung, in the Court of First Instance, found that association vice-chairman Pui Kwan-kay had been defamed in an editorial. The newspaper suggested that Pui, a Bronze Bauhinia Star recipient, hid his knowledge about a suspected match-fixing incident in 2009 and gave contradictory information to the press.
Au said the newspaper could not avoid liability using the legal defence of responsible journalism. The defendants include the newspaper, its publisher, and chief editor Cheung Kin-bor.
In a statement, Ming Pao said it did not agree with the reasoning behind the judgment and was considering filing an appeal.
Pui said: “I am very happy with the result. It is a fair and just decision. The judge and the jury found that I was wrongly disparaged by the article.”
He added that he had lost HK$6 million in business opportunities since the article was published.
In the judgment handed down on Friday, the judge found that the writer of the editorial had failed to take the steps that a reasonable and responsible journalist would take to ensure that what was published was accurate and fit for publication.
“In my view, given the gravity of the defamatory allegations … to discharge their duty of responsible journalism in publishing the editorial with these defamatory statements, the defendants should have … looked at the seven other newspaper reports,” the judge wrote.
The court heard that the editorial writer had spoken to a Ming Pao reporter and read their article on Pui. The judge said the editorial should have referred to other newspapers’ reports and mentioned Pui’s response to the questions raised.
“I therefore do not find that the defendants took adequate, fair and responsible steps to gather and publish the relevant defamatory statements in the editorial,” he said.
Ming Pao said its editorial team did not agree with the reasoning behind the judgment.
It said the jury had found that the reporter had verified facts with Pui and that the newspaper also reported Pui’s statement.
It slso said the editorial, which called into question Pui and the association, based on the information, should be protected by qualified privileg