Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Crikey is an Australian online news magazine which has seen increased media attention following the initiation of legal proceedings with Rupert Murdoch's son, Lachlan Murdoch.
Lachlan Murdoch's Defamation Lawsuit
On the 29th of June 2022, Crikey published an article by Bernard Keane titled “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator”. The article discussed the events of January 6th 2021 in Washington DC and argued that Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, commentators contributed to encouraging the Capitol Hill rioters. The article did not specify a particular member of the Murdoch family, only using the term once in the headline and once as a collective in the final sentence of the piece: "The Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators are the unindicted co-conspirators of this continuing crisis."
The next day, the solicitor for Rupert Murdoch's son, Lachlan Murdoch, wrote to Crikey with demands that the article be taken down along with all accompanying social media and demanded that Crikey publish an apology as a way to potentially avoid legal action. The solicitor, John Churchill, described the article as an "'unwarranted attack on my client, without any notice and in complete disregard of the facts'.
Crikey denied that the article was defamatory in regards to Lachlan Murdoch, arguing that the term Murdoch referred only to Rupert Murdoch. They also removed the article and social media posts as requested and invited Lachlan Murdoch to an on-the-record interview, both actions serving as 'goodwill gestures'.
Crikey later republished the article and further correspondence between the two parties saw no movement on their positions. Crikey also published an open letter to the Murdoch family in advertisements published in Australian and United States' newspapers, as well as letters exchanged between its own lawyers and those of Lachlan Murdoch.
Crikey 's Managing Editor, Peter Fray, and the chairman of their publisher, Private Media, Eric Beecher, dared Mr. Churchill to proceed with his threat of legal action:
'We want to defend those allegations in court...You have made it clear in your lawyer’s letters you intend to take court action to resolve this alleged defamation...We await your writ so that we can test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom."
Lachlan Murdoch filed defamation proceedings against Crikey on the 23rd of August 2022. He has also hired prominent defamation lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC.
On the 25th of August 2022, Crikey launched a crowd funding campaign to support its defence against Lachlan Murdoch's defamation lawsuit. As of time of writing, the campaign has grown to over $450,000. David Donovan for Independent Australia has suggested an outfit like Crikey should not require crowd funding for its legal defence due to its significant financial backing.