Court orders NYT, Mining Exec to Find Mediator

JAKARTA ~ A local court has given The New York Times a week to agree on a mediator with a US mining executive who is suing the newspaper in a multimillion-dollar defamation action.

Richard Ness, the head of US mining giant Newmont’s local subsidiary, is suing the Times and reporter Jane Perlez over stories published in 2004 that claimed the company polluted a bay with waste from its now defunct gold mine.

Ness is seeking about US$65 million in damages.

Darwin Aritonang, a lawyer for the US newspaper and Perlez, said he had prepared a list of mediators from the Indonesian Press Council, but the court requested that someone certified by the National Mediation Centre be appointed.

Judge Heru Pramono gave both sides one week to agree on a name.

The two sides have three weeks to come to a resolution once the mediator is appointed. If they cannot agree, the case goes to court.

Aritonang said that “usually a certified mediator is not necessary, as long as both sides agree.” The judge did not explain his reasoning for the qualification.

Ness is claiming that the published stories were inaccurate, unfair and had contributed to the charges being brought against him and Newmont.

He has said the allegations and subsequent court case took a toll on his personal life and he needed to clear his name.

Ness and the subsidiary were cleared in April of criminal charges that they polluted Buyat Bay on Sulawesi island with arsenic and mercury from the mine.

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