Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko has found the articles at the centre of SAS veteran Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case conveyed almost every defamatory imputation alleged by him.
Besanko has dismissed the proceedings, after finding The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times have proven some allegations of war crimes against Roberts-Smith.
Journalist Nick McKenzie, who wrote the articles with fellow award-winning investigative journalist Chris Masters, took to social media moments after the court’s decision, tweeting simply: “Justice.”
Besanko found the news outlets had established the substantial truth of the key allegation in the case: that Roberts-Smith was involved in the unlawful killing of unarmed Afghan prisoners.
While not every murder allegation was established by the newspapers, the judge found they had proven some of those alleged killings had taken place. It was sufficient for Besanko to dismiss Roberts-Smith’s lawsuit.
Karen Percy, who is media president of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, described the ruling as a “big and important win for journalism and press freedom in Australia”.
“It upholds the media’s important role in undertaking public interest investigations [and] in the public’s right to know.”