Australian editor-in-chief’s lawsuit against journalism lecturer stirs debate

Last week reported on a legal debate brewing in Australia, after journalism lecturer Julie Posetti was threatened with legal action by the editor-in-chief of the Australian, Chris Mitchell, for comments she posted on Twitter which he claimed were defamatory of him. The tweets related to comments allegedly made by a former rural affairs reporter for the Australian, Asa Wahlquist.

At the end of last week, Mitchell’s lawyer had sent a letter of demand to Posetti asking for an apology. While Posetti and the Australian declined to make further public comment at this stage, Mitchell was quoted this weekend as saying he wished he had pursued action against other writers, in an editorial by the Australian’s environment editor Graham Lloyd.

And while debate continues about Mitchell’s decision to take action against Posetti, Australia’s Crikey has a topical look at why editors “rarely sue for defamation” in this piece by Mark Pearson, professor of journalism at Bond University.

The reality is that any media outlet worth its salt is in the defamation business. The columns of newspapers, news websites and the broadcast news outlets should be laden thick with defamation every day if their journalists are doing their jobs properly.

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