4. Defamation laws

The Australian vs Robert Manne

Although there is a long-standing policy at The Australian newspaper not to use defamation laws to restrict public comment – they believe, rightly, that they have enough power in the media to air the defence of their views – The Australian has recently threatened to take legal action to inhibit one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals, Professor Robert Manne.

See:  http://theconversation.edu.au/when-a-newspaper-calls-in-its-lawyers-the-chilling-effect-of-the-australian-vs-robert-manne-5730

On the 8th March 2012, The Australian threatened legal action against the ABC aimed at forcing it to take down an opinion piece by Professor Robert Manne on comment site The Drum.

The author of the article in The Conversation, by Clive Hamilton, says: “Whatever the merits of the claims and counter-claims in this case, legal threats inevitably have a chilling effect on public debate. (…) if he and the handful of other public intellectuals willing to challenge powerful interests are driven from the public domain by legal threats or personal attacks then democracy in this country will be severely weakened.”

Can we afford to rely on the Murdoch Press to show restraint and not take defamation action against its critics?

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