Ezra Levant ordered to pay $25,000 for libel

| November 24, 2010

A judge has ordered controversial blogger Ezra Levant to pay $25,000 to Giacomo Vigna for libel, citing his "reckless indifference" to the truth while writing blog posts about the Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer.

Levant accused Vigna of lying to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, tampering with evidence, and suggested he'd been fired, the National Post reports. Justice Robert Smith ruled that Levant "spoke in reckless disregard of the truth and for an ulterior purpose of denormalizing the Human Rights Commission across Canada which makes his statements malicious in that sense."

Earlier this year on J-Source, University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon wrote an article "Is it neutral to spread lies?" about the false claims journalists were "carelessly" spreading about The Canadian Human Rights Commission. Too often, he argued, journalists treat alleged facts as if they were opinions, channeling them to the audience in the name of "balance" without context or verification. As result, Levant's opinions have received plenty of media attention.

The judge dismissed some of the claims against Levant, but found that he defamed Vigna six times between March and May 2008. That Levant failed to check facts or seek Vigna's side of the story meant that he could not claim the new libel defence, introduced by the Supreme Court late last year, of "responsible communication on a matter of public interest."

"While the transcripts are a reliable source, Levant did not read the ... transcripts in a diligent manner, but rather chose to extract only one part of the exchange which was taken out of context," the judge wrote. "Given the total lack of urgency, Levant should have sought Vigna's side of the story before publishing the defamatory statements.

"He did not want to check the facts as a responsible journalist would have done because this would interfere with his opportunity to ridicule the Human Rights Commission"

Levant has been given 15 days to remove any libellous materials from his site. At the time of this post, articles about Vigna are still online. The National Post reports that Levant plans to seek an appeal. 

Dana Lacey is a Toronto-based journalist and the interim associate editor of J-Source.ca, where this story first appeared.

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