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Man sues media for ‘ridiculing’ his mullet hairstyle after picture goes viral

A teenager whose “striking mullet haircut” became an internet sensation after he was photographed at a party is suing several media outlets for defamation, claiming he became the subject of ridicule.

Ali Ziggi Mosslmani, known as “Ziggy”, filed defamation suits against the Daily Mail, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and the Australian Radio Network for publishing the photograph and making fun of his extreme haircut, which was shaved at the front and long at the back.

Mosslmani was pictured on page 11 of the Daily Telegraph alongside Photoshopped images of his hair as a skunk and being used as a variation of pin the tail on the donkey.

Mosslmani’s lawyers claimed to court that he was subjected to ridicule as a result of the coverage and that he had been defamed as “hideously ugly”.

But in a preliminary judgment before the case goes to trial, district court judge Judith Gibson said most of the comments in the articles were of a humorous nature and did not imply the teenager was ugly.

She also found that saying a hairstyle was ridiculous was not the same as saying the plaintiff was ugly.

“The plaintiff’s striking mullet haircut has generated a great deal of interest on the internet, most of it humorous, and some of it in the form of clever observations, such as the ‘Pythagoras’ direction in one of the memes,” she said.

The photograph was taken by a professional photographer Jeremy Nool at an 18th birthday party in Hurstville, in Sydney’s west. The photographer said he had no idea it would generate so much interest. It was made into memes featuring animals and famous landmarks.

Judge Gibson said Mosslmani’s case was “overpleaded” and appeared to be designed to “claim as many imputations as possible while simultaneously avoiding a defence of honest opinion or justification”.

The only imputation the judge allowed was that “the plaintiff is a ridiculous person because he wears a controversial haircut”.

“The plaintiff is entitled to plead an imputation of condition – namely being a ridiculous person for having such a hairstyle – as well as an imputation amounting to an act. This imputation is reasonably capable of being conveyed and will go to the jury”.

The imputation that he was “hideously ugly” was rejected despite the headline saying the complainant had a “ridiculous haircut” .

“However, the publication goes on to say that the photograph has generated 11,415 comments, 10,000 likes and 1.7m views, which suggests that the hairstyle has its fans and opponents, but is not indicative of ugliness; to the contrary, 10,000 people pressed the ‘like’ button,” Judge Gibson said.

The judge ruled that the closest any such picture got to suggesting there was anything unattractive in the plaintiff’s appearance was the photograph “where a skunk has been added to the plaintiff’s head”.

Comparing the teenager to a horse or a bust on Mount Rushmore did not suggest “ugliness on the part of the plaintiff”, the judge said.

“The plaintiff has not been compared to Frankenstein, or some other hideously ugly figure; his haircut has been criticised as ridiculous.”

The proceedings are listed for further directions on 17 November.

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