Lachlan Murdoch has dropped his defamation proceedings against independent Australian media company Private Media, the publisher of Crikey.
Murdoch initiated defamation proceedings in August against the independent news site over an article published in June that named the Murdoch family as “innocent co-conspirators” in the US Capitol attack. The small publisher’s CEO hailed the news on Friday as a “victory for free speech.”
Fox Corporation’s CEO said he is ending the case in light of the settlement in the US of the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.
The federal court trial was set for October to last three weeks, with Murdoch expected to attend at least some of the proceedings.
Murdoch stated that he was confident he would have won, but that he did not want to “enable further use of Crikey’s court to take litigation from another jurisdiction that has already been settled and to attract clients and facilitates a marketing campaign designed to boost their profits”.
Murdoch’s lawyers filed a notice in the Australian Federal Court on Friday morning which was along the lines of: “Pursuant to rule 26.12(2)(a)(ii), Lachlan Keith Murdoch, the applicant, ceases the entire proceeding Dated: 21st April, 2023”.
Guardian Australia understands that the private media were blindsided by the announcement and Murdoch is likely to be sought for costs.
Lachlan Murdoch has closed his defamation case against Crikey. He will bear Crikey’s legal expenses. We and our customers are very happy.
— marquelawyers (@marquelawyers) April 21, 2023
A GoFundMe campaign started by the publisher has raised $588,735, and Crikey hasn’t yet said what will happen to those donations.
Murdoch’s lawyer, John Churchill, said on Friday that he had filed a notice to discontinue the defamation proceedings.
Churchill said, “It is a matter of public record that Crikey has accepted that there is no truth to the allegations made about Mr Murdoch in the article.”
“In his latest attempt to change his defense strategy, Crikey has tried to produce thousands of pages of documents from the defamation case in another jurisdiction, which has now been settled.
“In that case, in the US state of Delaware, the trial judge ruled the events of January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol, were not relevant. Furthermore, plaintiff Dominion Voting Systems clarified that it would not argue that Fox News caused the events of January 6, and at no point did it argue that Mr. Murdoch was personally responsible for the events of January 6. . Yet this is what Crikey’s article purports and what Crikey is trying to argue in Australia.
“Mr Murdoch is confident that the court will ultimately find in his favour, however he does not wish to enable Crikey’s use of the court to settle litigation from another jurisdiction that has already been settled and to attract clients.” a marketing campaign designed to facilitate and boost their profits,” Churchill said.
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Will Hayward, CEO of Private Media, said it was a major victory for legitimate public interest journalism.
Hayward said, “We stand by what we published last June, and everything we put forth in our defense in court.” “The allegations made by Murdoch from that article were ridiculous.
Hayward said that it was absurd for Churchill to claim that Murdoch “remains confident” he would have won.
“The fact that Murdoch sued us and then dropped his case.”
“We are proud to have exposed the hypocrisy and abuse of power of media billionaires. This is a victory for free speech. we won.”
Earlier this month, Federal Court Justice Michael Vigni ordered the parties into a second round of mediation, saying the case was motivated by arrogance.
“It seems to me that in this type of mediation both parties can take stock of what is turning into a scorched-earth policy with respect to both sides of the litigation,” he said.
“There seems to be indications that this matter is being driven more by … ego and pride and ideology than anything else.”