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Miklos Bolza

Surgeon says reputation destroyed by media harassment

A noted surgeon named NSW Australian of the Year has claimed an ongoing campaign of over 100 articles by Nine amounted to harassment and destroyed his reputation.

In the Federal Court on Tuesday, Dr Munjed Al Muderis sought an urgent hearing for his defamation case against the Nine Network in a bid to be swiftly vindicated.

His barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC told the court her client had been an "Australian migrant success story" moving here from Iraq and becoming a highly qualified doctor who had performed over 9000 surgeries and become president of the Iraqi Medical Association.

The NSW Australian of the Year in 2020, Dr Al Muderis invented several important medical devices, was known as a humanitarian and philanthropist and had spoken on medical issues worldwide, she said.

"His good reputation before September last year cannot be captured in words. It was overwhelming," she told Justice Wendy Abraham during a brief hearing.

"In September last year, the respondents started a campaign to utterly destroy him in every aspect of his professional life."

Since then, Nine and The Age had published 123 articles about Dr Al Muderis over five months, the court heard.

"That is not journalism. It's harassment. They've sought to denigrate him. They didn't even let him rest between Christmas and New Year," Ms Chrysanthou said.

In the lawsuit, filed in October last year, the doctor says he was defamed by reports which claimed he left patients with maggots in their skin or cut off a growth with a kitchen knife.

He has denied he offered substandard medical care to his patients or left them wheelchair-bound or in excruciating pain.

The case itself targets reports that were jointly published on 60 Minutes, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in September.

Journalists Charlotte Grieve, Tom Steinfort and Natalie Clancy have also been sued.

Ms Chrysanthou argued there was a question of contempt to be brought against Nine which had continued to publish defamatory material even after a concerns notice had been sent and the lawsuit commenced.

Nine's barrister Lyndelle Barnett defended her clients' actions.

"Our position is this is public interest journalism," she said.

The broadcaster has put on a truth defence, and will call evidence from patients who allege they were harmed by Dr Al Muderis' actions.

"We raise particulars concerning 21 patients where it's alleged that Dr Al Muderis was negligent," she told the court.

Since the case had been launched, at least five other patients had come forwards, the court heard, with Nine foreshadowing a bid to amend its defence to add these individuals.

Nine has also brought an honest opinion and a public interest defence.

A six-week hearing has been set down to begin on September 4.

The case will next come before Justice Abraham on April 26.

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