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Racial vilification hearing wraps up and judgement is reserved
The racial vilification hearing which began on Wednesday morning at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), and in which the Australian Macedonian Advisory Council (AMAC) was the complainant, came to a close yesterday.
Tribunal Member Noreen Megay said she imagined it would come as no surprise to both parties that she wou...ld reserve judgment (meaning she would retire to consider her decision). It is expected that her judgment will be handed down within the next several weeks.
Last year AMAC lodged the racial vilification complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, alleging a contravention of Section 7 of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic). AMAC’s complaint concerned an article published in the ‘Australian Macedonian Weekly’ (AMW) in May 2009 entitled ‘Who in this Celestial World Gave the Greeks the Right to Take Away the Macedonian Language?’. Section 7 states that it is unlawful for a person to engage conduct that "incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of", a person or class of persons, on the ground of the race of
a person or class of persons.
The Commission, given it does not have the power to determine a dispute and it considered our complaint contained sufficient merit, referred it to VCAT. At the hearing which took place at VCAT this week, AMAC was represented by barrister Tom Hurley, and our instructing solicitor was Peter Vlahos. The AMW was represented by former Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke QC.
Among other things, the article referred to Greeks as a “thieving nation”, “freaks of nature”, “deranged bastardly monsters”, “evil” and the Greek language as “ugly”. The article was written by American Slav-Macedonian Joseph Gandeto (formerly known as Jozif Grezlovski). The Tribunal was told by the AMW Editor, Ljubco Stankovski, that he was sent the article by Canadian Slav-Macedonian, Risto Stefov, and that he considered the article contained important information for the Slav-Macedonian community and decided to publish it the next day.
One of the more significant and surprising points of the hearing came during the cross-examination of the newspaper’s editor. When asked whether he thought the article was capable of inciting hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule of Greeks, Mr. Stankovski resolutely answered “no”. When AMAC’s barrister Mr. Hurley asked him whether, “If the shoe was on the other foot” and terms such as “thieving nation” and “freaks of nature” were used to describe Slav-Macedonians, he would consider that this would have the effect of inciting hatred against Slav-Macedonians. To this question, Mr. Stankovski answered “yes”. When it was put to him again and he was asked this would have the effect of inciting serious contempt against Slav-Macedonians, Mr. Stankovski again answered “yes”. However, later when it was again put to him that the article had this effect in relation to Greeks he again, steadfastly, answered “no”.
Later in the hearing, Mr. Rapke asserted that Mr. Stankovski’s self-incriminating answers were due to language difficulties. This is despite the fact that the respondent relied on his evidence for other purposes and Mr. Stankovski is the editor of a newspaper and has responsibility to approve articles written in English for publishing.
These answers constituted a stunning admission by Mr. Stankovski and a shocking illustration of the blatant hypocrisy of his newspaper and Slav-Macedonian nationalists in Australia. Those sitting in the hearing room were visibly stunned by these admissions and there was a sharp increase in movement and whispering on the respondent’s side of the room.
AMAC hopes that the Tribunal will find the AMW acted unlawfully in publishing the article. However, at the very least, AMAC is pleased that its grievance has finally been publicly aired and that the AMW will likely be deterred from publishing similar vilifying, abusive and racist articles.