22 November, 2022
A statement from the Walkley Foundation
The Walkley Foundation has announced its decision to withdraw an award given to Peter Fegan and Rebeka Powell of Nine News 6pm in the 2021 Walkley Awards.
The award, for a series of three television news reports entitled ‘The Investigation of Andrew Laming’ won the Television/Video News Reporting category for stories broadcast on 25 March, 26 March and 27 March 2021 when Dr Andrew Laming was a Federal MP. The award was presented on 25 February 2022, following a delay caused by COVID-19.
Dr Laming initiated defamation proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Nine relating to the third report, broadcast on 27 March 2021, which centred around an allegation that a lewd photograph was taken of a young woman in her workplace without her knowledge or consent.
Nine settled on confidential terms except for the following apology given to Dr Laming and contained in a court order of 14 September 2022.
Apology to Dr Laming from Nine:
On 27 March 2021, 9News Queensland broadcast a report about Dr Laming who was at the time a member of Federal Parliament.
Serious allegations were made about Dr Laming in that report and he sued Nine because of it.
9News has now seen material which indicates that the photograph Dr Laming took was not lewd in nature.
9News unreservedly withdraws those allegations about Dr Laming and apologises to him and his family for the hurt and harm caused by the report.
The Walkley Foundation subsequently sought materials from interested parties, and independent legal advice.
This week, the Directors of the Walkley Foundation met to consider its advice, and have accepted a recommendation that the award be withdrawn.
The Directors appreciate that parties settle defamation proceedings for any number of reasons. The Federal Court proceeding settling on confidential terms and the limited apology by Nine was not decisive by itself to justify the withdrawal of the Award, but in all the circumstances the Board resolved the award could not be maintained in respect of the third report.
The first two reports in this series contained allegations that were very serious and raised important issues of public interest, but the award could not be maintained solely upon those allegations.
Accordingly, the Directors have resolved to withdraw the award.
The Directors also note that defamation proceedings are not an exhaustive fact finding inquiry, or the Foundation’s chosen vehicle through which to assess journalistic merit.
The relevant parties have been advised. The 2021 award for Television/Video News Reporting will not be presented to either of the other finalists as the Walkley Judging Board did not select a runner-up.
The Foundation makes no further comment on the decision to withdraw the award.
The Walkley Foundation has previously announced that it will conduct a separate process to review the organisation’s complaints mechanism utilising the skills of a panel of independent experts.
The Walkley Foundation has been presenting awards for excellence in journalism since 1956. The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism are presented annually to recognise and reward the best in the craft. Finalists are selected by eminent journalists and photographers and the overall winners are judged by the Walkley Judging Board which includes senior journalists from across the news media.