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    Lachlan Murdoch v Crikey: we won’t bend to legal threats, says minnow publisher

    On one side, a small Australian media player. On the other, the world’s most powerful media moguls from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Independent news outlet Crikey has just taken its fight with Lachlan Murdoch public, writes Mark Sawyer.

    Lachlan Murdoch, eldest son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, is a reader of the independent Australian publisher Crikey. But he is not a fan. He has landed apologies over articles published on the site before, but this time the stoush is different.

    Lachlan Murdoch has demanded that the publisher take down an article that he believes ties him to the invasion of the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump on January 6, 2021. Crikey has refused, and booked advertisements stating its case in The New York Times and Canberra Times:

    The main players

    Crikey was founded in 2000 by journalist and shareholder activist Stephen Mayne. Since 2005 it has been owned by Beecher’s Private Media. Beecher and Fray are experienced media practitioners, at different times holding the top editorial position at The Sydney Morning Herald and other publications owned by Fairfax Media (now Nine Newspapers).

    Crikey’s mission statement includes the following:

    “For just over 20 years, we’ve set out to explain and dissect the news agenda for an intelligent, skeptical, socially and politically aware audience.”

    Lachlan Murdoch has been chairman and chief executive of the Fox Corporation since 2019.

    His complaint concerns a Crikey article from June 29 headed: ”Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator.”

    Vanity Fair reported on the case last week under the headline: ‘

    Lachlan Murdoch is awfully defensive about the implication Fox News helped incite Jan. 6

    Vanity Fair

    Exchange of letters

    Crikey has denied the article referred to Lachlan Murdoch. The article was taken down following complaints by Lachlan Murdoch, but it has since been republished.

    The reasons for that become more clear in the exchange of letters between legal representatives of Lachlan Murdoch and of Crikey.  This correspondence has been published  on Crikey.

    The article now appears with the following note:

    “This article was first published on June 29 but taken down the next day after a legal threat from Lachlan Murdoch. We have decided to republish the article now, in order to clarify recent media reports about that legal threat.”

    The article being clarified appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on August 14. It stated:

    “In April last year, Crikey deleted an article by its founder, Stephen Mayne, which made claims about Murdoch’s tenure as a board member of Channel Ten. Fray said at the time that Mayne had made a series of mistakes in the article and had agreed to “keep the current apology on the homepage for 14 days.

    It cost Crikey $14,000 in legal costs and was settled between the two parties. Crikey was also forced to apologise in September 2020 for likening Murdoch to an organised crime figure.”

    Complaints by Murdoch

    In a letter to Crikey’s legal representatives, John Churchill, acting for Lachlan Murdoch, complains of other articles:

    John Churchill letter excerpt

    In a letter to Churchill, on July 7, Crikey’s legal representative Peter Bartlett, of MinterEllison, states that:

    The Article plainly lays blame for the creation and scheming of the insurrection on Trump

    It states further:

    Letter excerpt Minter Elison

    Michael Bradley, also acting for Crikey said:

    Michael Bradley letter excerpt

    On Monday, Fray issued the following statement to MWM:

    “We are sick of being intimidated by Lachlan Murdoch, who started his pursuit of Crikey almost two months ago over an article written by Bernard Keane about Fox News, Donald Trump and the January 6 Washington DC insurrection. We argue that we and all other news media has the right to question the role of Fox News and its leadership in the events of that day and the rise of Trump. The article headline referenced ‘Murdoch’.

    “I would argue the vast majority of people who consider that a reference to Rupert Murdoch. Lachlan took it to be him. In fact, the article doesn’t actually name Lachlan though it refers to ’the Murdochs’. Lachlan is the CEO of Fox Corporation. While I can understand why Lachlan Murdoch might wish to distance himself from the events of January 6 — who wouldn’t — it is no doubt fair for Australia news media to publish robust commentary about the role of Fox and its management just has many outlets in the United States and elsewhere.

    “That is why we are today publishing an open letter to Lachlan Murdoch in the NYT and The Canberra Times tomorrow inviting him to follow through on his threats to sue us.”

    Defamation law is too often used to silence public debate. This time it won’t

    Photo above:Lachlan Murdoch (Image courtesy findcelebritywiki.com)
    Michael West Media
    https://www.michaelwest.com.au/

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