Fairfax apologises after identifying wrong man as terrorist
A MELBOURNE teenager was mistaken as a terrorist on three major metropolitan newspapers has settled a defamation suit against Fairfax Media for, in part, a $20,000 donation towards building a mosque.
Abu Baker Alam was wrongly named as Numan Haider, who attacked police and was shot dead in Victoria.
His photo and claims he was a terrorist appeared in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times in September.
The Age has now published a front page apology to Mr Alam.
As part of the settlement reached ahead of looming defamation action, Fairfax will donate $20,000 towards to a fund for the development on an Afghan mosque in the Victorian suburb of Doveton, along with "a confidential amount of damages".
Mr Alam wrote in a statement he was happy that Fairfax accepted its mistake.
"To have my face connected with an act of terrorism on the front pages of major Australian newspapers, and all over the internet, was devastating for me and my family," he said.
"This was a terrible mistake that damaged my reputation and my family's good name. We were forced to defend ourselves against the worst kind of accusations while being placed in potential danger.
"We came to Australia as Afghan refugees eight years ago because we wanted a better life. We came here to escape terrorism and to live in peace. We are in no way connected to any terrorist group.
"This whole incident has been very distressing, but I am grateful that as part of my settlement I was able to give back to my local community through a donation that will go towards building a new mosque."
The image of Mr Alam was found on Facebook, although Mr Alam does not have an account himself.
Slater and Gordon defamation lawyer Jeremy Zimet said the publications were "extremely defamatory".
The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden said the newspaper "immediately accepted it had made a terrible mistake" after publishing, removed the photo of Mr Alam from its website and apologised to the teenager.
"I have met with Mr Alam and he is an impressive young man," Mr Holden said.
"There is no question that he and his family had no association with Haider, or any terrorist activities.
"On behalf of The Age, I apologise again for the error that we made."
All Fairfax newspapers that wrongly linked Mr Alam in the police attack have also apologised.