Sonia Kruger to face tribunal over Muslims stance

"I'd like to see freedom of speech," said Sonia Kruger during the 2016 TV spot which drew the complaint.

"I'd like to see freedom of speech," said Sonia Kruger during the 2016 TV spot which drew the complaint. Photo: Getty

High-profile TV star Sonia Kruger will face a directions hearing next month after failing to have a racial vilification complaint made against her dismissed.

On July 18, 2016, an emotional Kruger, 52, kicked off a social media storm by telling Nine’s Today show viewers that Australia’s borders should be closed to Muslims.

While discussing a newspaper article written by News Corp’s Andrew Bolt, Kruger said she agreed that the columnist “has a point here, that there is a correlation between the number of people who, you know, are Muslim in a country and the number of terrorist attacks.

“Now, I have a lot of very good friends who are Muslims, who are peace-loving, who are beautiful people, but there are fanatics.

“Personally, I would like to see [Muslim immigration] stopped now for Australia.

“Because I want to feel safe, as all of our citizens do, when they go out to celebrate Australia Day.”

Kruger called attention to Japan, which she claimed has 100,000 Muslims in a population of 174 million: “We never hear of terrorist attacks in Japan.”

The next day on television, Kruger discussed the matter again, saying that an image of a baby covered in a plastic sheet after the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, France, that killed 86 people had “rocked me to the very core.

“I acknowledge that my views yesterday may have been extreme … it is a hugely complex and sensitive issue”.

A complaint against her July 18 comments was made by Sam Ekermawi, a Muslim living in Australia who claimed the Nine Network vilified “ethnic Muslim Australians”.

Late on Tuesday, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal refused Nine’s application to have the complaint dismissed without a hearing.

Mr Ekermawi has been involved in 32 hearings before courts and tribunals, 22 of them related to vilification complaints, according to evidence heard by the tribunal.

In an email last March to the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, he wrote, “Kruger wants borders closed to Muslims, in that she’s implying that they are terrorists to dehumanise them.”

Mr Ekermawi asked why Kruger was “not worried” about children from other countries, who have “daily been exposed to crimes of war and crimes against humanities?”

Kruger’s comments highlighted an “uncomfortable reality” for ethnic Australian Muslims, he wrote.

It is unlawful under the Anti-Discrimination Act for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of a person or people on the ground of race.

Nine and Kruger submitted that Mr Ekermawi’s “track record” with vilification complaints meant it would be an abuse of the tribunal’s processes to allow them to proceed.

The network argued the broadcast in question was a discussion about Muslim religion and migration, not “race”.

It was also submitted by Nine that Mr Ekermawi failed to identify critical elements of his own case, such as how the broadcaster incites hatred, serious ridicule or serious contempt.

In refusing the application, NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy President Nancy Hennessy said: “A complaint should not be summarily dismissed except in a very clear case.”

Before the judgement, Kruger kept her game face on, posting a photo to Instagram with The Voice judge Kelly Rowland.

The matter is listed for a directions hearing on June 19.

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