Chris Mitchell v Robert Manne: The Australian editor to sue | Crikey
The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has launched legal action against the ABC to kill a column penned by Robert Manne and published on commentary site The Drum.
Mitchell informed Crikey this afternoon he is also looking at slapping Monthly proprietor Morry Schwartz — the publisher of the website on which the Manne post first appeared — with a strongly-worded legal letter.
The post was strongly critical of Mitchell and an Australian reporter, Ean Higgins. Manne revealed Higgins had contacted him last week seeking his response to a Freedom of Information request looking into two Australian Research Council grants won by the La Trobe public thinker to investigate Aboriginal welfare and asylum seekers.
The Higgins story is yet to appear — Manne’s intervention seems to have been a pre-emptive strike.
“It’s an extraordinarily defamatory piece and it’s in response to not a word being published,” Mitchell said. ”Nothing’s been written by me or Ean Higgins.
“He’s got me Goebbels-like directing something deep, dark and sinister … he’s trying to de-construct me.”
Crikey understands the ABC was contacted yesterday by News Limited in-house counsel Jane Summerhayes demanding the post be pulled. A follow-up letter is believed to be on its way.
In his piece, Manne called on “democrats in Australia to stand up to the bullying tactics of the Murdoch press in general and in particular to the bullying tactics of its most important general staff — Chris Mitchell’s editorial team at The Australian”.
He remains forthright, telling Crikey this afternoon: “…for the past few years The Australian has a freedom of speech campaign and threats of defamation are probably the most effective means of thwarting free speech.”
“It seems hypocritical to me, especially in a piece where there is no defamation and which has been legalled. This is the most important way free speech is chilled when powerful corporations threaten suits.”