By Gilbert Alasa.
Respite came the way of ex-professional wrestler Hulk Hogan today when a Florida jury ruled in his invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media, grabbing $115 million in damages in the process.
Founder of Gawker Media Nick Denton, said in a statement that the company plans to appeal the decision, citing press freedom as defence.
The ex-wrestler, whose real name is Terry G. Bollea, had sued Gawker, founder Nick and its former editor A.J. Daulerio for posting the wrestler’s sex tape in 2012 where Hogan claimed his privacy was violated and went ahead to seek $100 million.
‘Mr. Bollea is exceptionally happy. This is not only his victory today, but also anyone else who’s been victimized by tabloid journalism,’ his lawyer David Houston said outside the courtroom. According to reports, Hogan stood quietly behind the lawyer, his sunglasses failing to conceal dried tears on his cheeks.
Meanwhile, professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota and the former Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Jane Kirtley, argued yesterday in her column in New York Times that a victory for Hulk Hogan would undermine press freedom.
“If Hulk Hogan prevails in his invasion of privacy suit against Gawker and drives it out of business, some may regard it as a minor loss to the marketplace of ideas. But the impact could go far beyond Gawker, undermining the editorial independence of any news organization that reports on public figures,” she wrote.
“If their desire for privacy was the only consideration, public figures could suppress any embarrassing facts about themselves. But because the First Amendment requires balancing competing interests, juries must also decide whether the information is a matter of legitimate public concern – newsworthy, for short.
“But Hulk Hogan’s case is not really about privacy. He gave up his privacy when he decided to talk about the video in interviews with TMZ and Howard Stern. What he really wants is the right to control reporting about him. That’s every public figure’s dream. It should be every citizen’s nightmare.
By Gilbert Alasa.