“Scrappy Australian News Site Battles Murdochs Amid Suspicions of Lachlan’s Peter Thiel Tactics”

The Murdoch family is facing legal challenges in both the United States and Australia, with lawsuits looming against their media outlets for defamation. The two cases have similarities: Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic are suing Fox News for airing unfounded claims that their Voting machines helped Joe Biden steal the 2020 US election, while in Australia, Lachlan Murdoch is suing digital news publication Crikey over an article suggesting he and his father were complicit in the events of January 6.

Crikey was set up as an irreverent left-leaning alternative to dominant Australian media companies News Corp and Fairfax Media and has long held the Murdoch empire to account. Lachlan and his lawyers have dispatched four separate legal threats over two and a half years, alleging defamation regarding a number of articles. Crikey complied with the first three, but Lachlan alleges that the fourth article, which suggested he was complicit in the events at the Capitol building, defamed him and demanded that it be deleted and that Crikey apologise publicly.

Crikey removed the article but refused to apologise. Instead, it offered to cover Lachlan’s legal fees and publish a clarifying statement, but Lachlan’s camp rejected the offer, claiming that republication of the defamatory material would be unacceptable. After further legal correspondence, Crikey reposted the article and took out ads in The Canberra Times and The New York Times, stating its intention to test freedom of opinion and public interest journalism in court. As a result, Lachlan filed suit the next day.

Australian courts tend to favour plaintiffs in defamation cases and are sometimes referred to as the “defamation capital of the world”. However, reforms implemented last year require plaintiffs to demonstrate “serious harm”, while defendants can argue a “public interest” defence. Lachlan’s lawsuit against Crikey will test these new standards. Crikey sees the case as an opportunity to highlight what it sees as overly restrictive defamation laws in Australia, while Lachlan believes Crikey has a “preoccupation” with him and his family, and that he can use the situation for marketing purposes.

Crikey is apparently sick of being intimidated by Lachlan and views its willingness to take on a Murdoch as a triumph for freedom of opinion and public interest journalism. Crikey and Private Media executives are concerned that a successful suit by Lachlan could make it even harder for Australian news organisations to defend themselves against defamation claims, including Murdoch-owned outlets. The case is set to come to trial in March, with Lachlan reportedly planning to fly to the US after the hearing to take part in the Dominion trial set for April, in which Fox News’ lawyers will argue for free speech. Observers describe Lachlan’s actions as hypocritical but his legal camp argues that the two cases are different and cannot be compared.

Original Story at www.vanityfair.com – 2022-10-03 07:00:00

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