WhaleOil features in Indian radio station case

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 11:47 27/08/2014

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A judge has attacked an Indian radio station in Auckland for using the WhaleOil blog site to win commercial advantage.

A complex battle between Auckland's two Indian radio stations in the High Court involves Fiji politics and WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

It pits AM-band Radio Tarana against the younger Humm-FM, which together blast out pretty much the same Bollywood music to Auckland's 124,000 Indian population.

Tarana's owner, Robert Khan, has accused Humm, also known as 5TUNZ Communications Ltd, of violating its broadcasting licence and doing material harm to his enterprise.

Tarana had said Humm was hiding financial documents, but in a ruling out today Justice Ed Wylie ruled against Tarana.

Unusually, he also criticised Khan and Tarana for trying to obtain commercial advantage through litigation.

Justice Wylie said a Tarana staff member had posted an article about the case on his Facebook page, trying to persuade people that Tarana had the better case.

"More alarmingly, it seems that Mr Khan has been co-operating with a well-known blogger, who has posted on the internet an article which contains various details about the case," Justice Wylie said.

The WhaleOil article, provided by Khan, quotes from a letter written by Humm's solicitors to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Justice Wylie said the ministry did not release that letter to any third party and nor did Humm.

"It can only have come from Radio Tarana/Mr Khan," the judge said.

WhaleOil also published a flowchart that was virtually identical to a flowchart contained in Khan's first affidavit for discovery of the documents.

The judgment notes that lawyers for Humm had complained to the Law Society about the behaviour of Tarana's lawyer. The complaint was dismissed.

Justice Wylie noted that Tarana had wanted more documents and access to some regarded as confidential.

"These matters suggest that Radio Tarana, or its agents, have been using the fact of the proceedings to try and gain a commercial advantage over [Humm]," the judge said.

"In these circumstances, any order relaxing the confidentiality undertakings would carry significant risk to the defendants."

Tarana's application was declined.

The court awarded costs to Humm, but warned its memo on costs should not exceed 10 pages.

The substantive case is yet to go to trial.

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Oddly, Auckland businessman Harish Lodhia, brother of Fiji's richest man, Hammat Lodhia, is behind both licences.

Harish Lodhia, who has allied himself with Fiji military strongman Frank Bainimarama, was last year named Fiji consul to Auckland.

The stations sound similar but Tarana is the preferred Auckland outlet for Bainimarama. When Bainimarama was in Auckland this month a scuffle broke out with Tarana staff as a Humm reporter tried to ask him a question.

Slater, who was born in Fiji, has been an enthusiastic supporter of Bainimarama.

Documents obtained by a hacker, and leaked to author of Dirty Politics Nicky Hager, suggest the Fiji Government paid for Slater's trips to Fiji to interview Bainimarama.

In an email to Fairfax today Slater said "on my last two trips to Fiji I paid for my airfares, accommodation, food and entertainment entirely".

Slater also said he was not the only non-Tarana employee allowed to interview Bainimarama in New Zealand, pointing out that Indian Newslink, a community weekly publication, also had an interview with him.

* This story has been edited and updated since it was first published.

- Stuff

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