We in the media complain (rightly) about the absurdity of Australia’s defamation laws, which stifle criticism of anyone in public life. On Friday, however, there was a reminder where they came from – the Old Country.

Roman Polanski, fugitive film director, won a British libel suit against Vanity Fair magazine to the tune of £50,000 (report here). And what wicked crime did the mag accuse him of? Well, nothing. The objectionable allegation was that he made a pass at another woman on the day of his wife’s funeral. Tacky, certainly. But do we really want people running off to court whenever they’re accused of inappropriate flirting?

No doubt it’s only a matter of time before some Australian celebrity will try out this new precedent and see whether an Australian jury will show equal disregard for freedom of speech.

CRIKEY: Check out our Australian defamation list here and the updated international version, which now features Polanski’s controversial victory, here.

Peter Fray

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