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Lachlan Murdoch drops defamation action against Crikey

Just days after Fox settled with Dominion for $1.2 billion over its promotion of falsehoods about the 2020 US presidential election being supposedly stolen from Donald Trump, Lachlan Murdoch has discontinued his case against Crikey and its Australia-based publisher.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 21 April 2023 The Bar
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In August of last year, Fox Corporation chief Lachlan Murdoch filed defamation proceedings against Private Media in the Federal Court of Australia over an article published by Crikey’s political editor Bernard Keane.

The story had linked the Murdoch family to the attacks on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, with its headline labelling Mr Murdoch as an “unindicted co-conspirator”. It was originally taken down in late June following a formal legal complaint from Mr Murdoch, but was later republished in mid-August.

The filing of a notice of discontinuance in the proceedings follows the settlement, earlier this week, between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems for US$787.5 million (A$1.2 billion), which Australian defamation experts deemed as a “stratospheric” sum to be paid out and one which should be seen as “Rupert’s Waterloo”.


In a statement issued on Friday, 21 April, Private Media chief executive Will Hayward and chairman Eric Beecher said that the dropping of the case by Mr Murdoch is a "substantial victory for legitimate public interest journalism".

"We stand by what we published last June, and everything we laid out in our defence to the court. The imputations drawn by Murdoch from that article were ridiculous," the pair wrote.

Mr Murdoch’s lawyer, John Churchill, issued a statement on the same day, saying: “In their latest attempt to change their defence strategy, Crikey has tried to introduce thousands of pages of documents from a defamation case in another jurisdiction, which has now settled.”

“In that case, in the US state of Delaware, the trial judge ruled the events of January 6, 2021, in the US Capitol, were not relevant. Further, the plaintiff Dominion Voting Systems made clear it would not argue that Fox News caused the events of January 6, and at no point did it ever argue that Mr Murdoch was personally responsible for the events of January 6. Yet this is what Crikey’s article alleged and what Crikey is attempting to argue in Australia,” Mr Churchill continued.

“Mr Murdoch remains confident that the court would ultimately find in his favour; however, he does not wish to further enable Crikey’s use of the court to litigate a case from another jurisdiction that has already been settled and facilitate a marketing campaign designed to attract subscribers and boost their profits,” Mr Churchill concluded.

Mr Hayward and Mr Beecher called this latter assertion "absurd", and referred to the statement issued by Mr Churchill as one of "defeat". 

"The fact is, Murdoch sued us, and then dropped his case," the pair said. 

Crikey’s counsel, Marque Lawyers, tweeted on Friday morning: “Lachlan Murdoch has discontinued his defamation case against Crikey. He’ll be up for Crikey’s legal costs. We and our client are well pleased.”

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Marque managing partner Michael Bradley added: “We are delighted for our clients, particularly that the brave stand they took on the principle of press freedom has been comprehensively vindicated by this result.”

Mr Hayward and Mr Beecher's statement concluded with: "We are proud of our stand. We are proud to have exposed the hypocrisy and abuse of power of a media billionaire."

"This is a victory for free speech. We won," they proclaimed.

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