Seven West Media Limited, the largest television network in Australia, and its CEO, Tim Worner, were sued in 2016 for defamation by Melbourne barrister Julie Snook over a tweet she wrote, allegedly referring to Mrs. Worner as a “selfish cow.” Seven had accused Mrs. Snook of taking part in a “witch hunt” to determine whether Mr. Worner had affairs. The two parties eventually agreed to settle the matter out of court. On Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs. Snook’s tweet qualified as “protected” speech, and ordered the defendants to pay $46,000 in damages.
According to a statement released by Mrs. Snook, seven days after the tweet was published, she received a cease-and-desist notice from Seven’s legal department, demanding that she cease tweeting and to delete all articles and images that implied that the company had engaged in a witch hunt. Mrs. Snook said that she believed it “would not be appropriate” to delete the tweet, adding that she had warned Seven’s lawyers that it would be “inappropriate for a barrister or lawyer to engage in conduct of any kind that is likely to interfere with the litigation process.” Seven responded by serving her with the proceedings of a defamation action against her and her husband. Mrs. Snook said that she would now be “contesting this appeal and stand firm in my right to free speech.”