The founder of children’s charity Sunrise Cambodia has won the first phase of a defamation dispute sparked by a Facebook comment from an Australian law graduate, according to the Canberra Times.
Geraldine Cox brought the defamation suit against student Juanita Zankin, who in February made a comment on a Facebook post by Canberra law firm Ben Aulich and Associates, who had raised funds for Sunrise Cambodia.
“Are you not aware of the harm this woman has caused? A shameful cause to raise funds for. This woman is despised in Cambodia. Do some research,” Zankin’s post read.
According to the Canberra Times, Zankin’s application to have the case thrown out – on the basis the defamation claim was vexatious – was dismissed in an Australian Capital Territory Magistrates’ Court decision issued on Wednesday.
Zankin was also ordered to pay legal costs, while the bulk of her defence arguments – that the comment was not defamatory and was an honest opinion in the public interest, and her intention was to encourage people to research widespread opposition to orphanages – were struck out.
Both Cox and Zankin declined to comment yesterday as the legal proceedings are ongoing. Cox’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Zankin is due to file a fresh defence by mid-August, and the matter is due to be heard again in court in October.