Crikey Opts For Public Interest Defence As It Prepares To Rumble With Murdoch In Court

Crikey Opts For Public Interest Defence As It Prepares To Rumble With Murdoch In Court

Crikey has announced plans to primarily use the public interest defence as the publication gets ready to face The Murdoch empire in court.

Murdoch launched defamation proceedings against Crikey in the Federal Court over an opinion piece written by political editor Bernard Keane.

The defence makes sense when you consider the defamation case stems from an opinion. It would be a legal minefield to defend an ‘opinion,’ as ‘truth.’

Keane’s piece made allegations against the Murdoch family and its Fox News commentators, about their involvement in the riots at Washington’s Capitol. The Murdoch family denies the claims.

Interestingly, although Lachlan Murdoch threatened to sue the publication, he didn’t actually pull the trigger until Crikey took out ads in The Canberra Times in Australia and The New York Times and published an open letter on Crikey telling Murdoch to hurry up and sue the publication.

Crikey is now building its case against Murdoch, and thanks to new reforms to the NSW defamation act, as of 1st July 2021, publications can now use the public interest defence.

This is so interesting because publications usually opt for the truth defence in defamation trials.  We are currently seeing the truth defence play out in Ben Robert-Smith’s trial against The Age, SMH and The Canbera Times.

Bauer Media also used it when Rebel Wilson famously sued for defamation.

Crikey outlined the reasons it was going with this defence via its website. The publication has outlined three main elements of the defence plan.

“Firstly, we simply deny that we have defamed Lachlan Murdoch.

“Secondly, we take issue with whether Crikey should be prevented by law from stating honestly held opinions, as an act of free speech, on a matter of obvious and high public interest.

“We stand firmly against censorship, especially in matters of significant public interest. As such, our case will test the new “public interest” defence, specifically as it relates to opinion writing, as opposed to investigative reporting.

The final element of our defence is that we do not believe Lachlan Murdoch has suffered any serious harm. Again, we think it is important in an open, well-functioning society that the rich and powerful can be critiqued and that there is a high bar to reach before they have suffered serious harm from an opinion article.”

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