Irish woman begins defamation action against US website

A Co Wicklow woman, who alleges she has been defamed in a “cyber tort” by The Washington Post Company, was today granted leave of the High Court to serve a claim for damages in the USA.

Irish woman begins defamation action against US website

A Co Wicklow woman, who alleges she has been defamed in a “cyber tort” by The Washington Post Company, was today granted leave of the High Court to serve a claim for damages in the USA.

Barrister Aillil O’Reilly, counsel for Mrs Ann Murphy, Cois Carin, Old Connaught Avenue, Bray, told Mr Justice Gerard Hogan his client claimed to have been defamed in a website, slate.com, which is owned by the newspaper company.

Iain Montgomery, of Thomas Montgomery and Son, solicitors, Dunlaoghaire, said in an affidavit opened to the court that an article on slate.com in January last referred to Mrs Murphy.

He said that at the time of the publication Mrs Murphy was the girlfriend of Nizar Hindawi who had been referred to in the article as a Jordanian terrorist.

Mr Montgomery said the article, about Israeli security at airports, stated: “…..Israeli security screeners can make a claim that their US counterparts probably can’t --- they’ve actually caught a terrorist red-handed.

“When the girlfriend of Jordanian terrorist Nizar Hindawi tried to carry a bomb onto an El Al flight out of London’s Heathrow airport in 1986, security agents working for the Israeli airline and using Israeli screening methods successfully identified her as a potential threat and foiled the plot.”

Mr Montgomery said he believed the article meant that Mrs Ann Murphy was a terrorist and that she attempted to bomb an airline flight.

“Neither of these statements is true and I have advised my client that the article therefore constitutes a defamatory statement,” Mr Montgomery told the court.

He said in his affidavit that the article was available to access within Ireland on the slate.com website and Mrs Murphy had personally done so.

As the article was published in Ireland, Mrs Murphy’s action was founded on a tort committed within the jurisdiction, allowing the court to grant leave to serve a summons out of the jurisdiction.

Mr Montgomery said the intended defendant, The Washington Post Company, was a limited liability company registered in Delaware, USA, with its registered executive offices at 15th Street, N.W. Walshington, D.C.

He said the witnesses to the contents, publication and untruth of the statements contained in the article were all resident in Ireland and as such Ireland was the jurisdiction in which the intended action be heard.

Mr O’Reilly told the court that, according to the website, Slate was published by The Slate Group, a Division of The Washington Post Company.

Judge Hogan said that since the article was published world wide the proceedings could be described as a cyber tort.

What he was dealing with was a simple procedural matter of being satisfied as to allow the summons to be issued outside the jurisdiction.

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