The ruling in Ezra Levant's trial for defamation of Khurram Awan came down yesterday and the outspoken Sun News Network host lost.
I was at the trial for most of the proceedings and the ruling is by no means a surprise. So much so that because there had been no news on the trial, which ended over seven months ago, that I thought the parties had settled out of court, since rulings of this nature as far as I know don't usually take quite that long.
While the ruling may be a disappointment, the Judge, Madame Wendy Matheson, handled court proceedings in an extremely professional manner and was thoroughly attentive to detail. Frequently she was better versed in the evidence than either the plaintiff's or the defendant's attorneys who had submitted it in the first place.
In my last post on the trial proceedings, I wrote that Levant had in fact written things about Awan that were factually incorrect and that "in the end, a guilty verdict for Levant could be like trying to avoid getting splashed by mud. You could avoid almost all of it, but all it takes is one little piece to hit you for you to get dirty."
That seems to have been how things turned out. The judge ruled that Levant was motivated by malice because "He did little or no fact-checking regarding the posts complained of, either before or after their publication....and with one exception, when he learned that he got his facts wrong, he made no corrections."
The standards in this case were also different than most in that it was about one lawyer accusing another of being a liar and acting in a conflict-of-interest. The legal establishment in Canada frowns heavily on that sort of thing and to prevail in a matter of such a nature would require a very clear-cut case. Levant may not have got everything wrong in what he wrote about Awan, but his writing things about the plaintiff that weren't factually accurate and his failure to correct them in the end decided the case for the former Canadian Islamic Congress' Youth President.
I like Ezra and he makes important contributions to the media scene in Canada, having the courage to cover issues most of his media colleagues lack the spine to touch. But getting facts right is critical and having the courage to admit when you're wrong is also important. Levant doesn't pretend to be a reporter, what he freely admits he does is advocacy journalism. But in order to advocate effectively, you have to get your facts right, and on those occasions when you don't, you better fix that as soon as you can. This exercise may be a costly reminder of that for Ezra going forward.
Ezra says he plans to appeal the ruling.