Truth vs Tabloids: Media’s Credibility Questioned In The High-Stakes In A Trial Involving Victoria Cross Soldier

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Three newspapers have accused Ben Roberts-Smith, a soldier who received Australia’s highest military distinction, of committing war crimes. The trial now concludes after a lengthy court case spanning almost five years.

Despite his prestigious status as Australia’s most highly decorated living soldier, once hailed and revered as a contemporary representation of the nation’s Anzac legend, Roberts-Smith now faces grave allegations. 

He is accused of unlawfully killing unarmed civilians during warfare, engaging in a reprehensible act of domestic violence, and displaying aggressive behaviour, violence, and intimidation.

Roberts-Smith: Shattering Lies, Unveiling Truth – The Battle for Justice

On Thursday, Justice Anthony Besanko in Sydney will deliver the judgment on Roberts-Smith’s defamation lawsuit against three Australian newspapers. This verdict marks the culmination of an arduous legal process spanning almost five years, making it one of the most significant and costly trials in the Australian military and legal history.

Roberts-Smith, a former corporal in the SAS, has been accused by the newspapers of committing war crimes. These allegations include murdering six civilians while serving in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012. One specific incident cited involves him allegedly pushing a handcuffed prisoner off a cliff and ordering the individual’s execution by gunfire. 

He is also accused of machine-gunning an unarmed disabled man to death, commanding subordinates to execute prisoners, and engaging in a pattern of bullying and physical assault against fellow soldiers. 

Additionally, he is alleged to have committed an act of domestic violence against a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Roberts-Smith vehemently denies all allegations and claims of wrongdoing. 

“I categorically deny all the allegations made against me. These claims of war crimes and misconduct are false and have no factual basis. I have dedicated my life to serving my country and upholding the highest standards of the military. The accusations of murdering civilians, engaging in acts of violence, and bullying my comrades are nothing but malicious fabrications,” said Roberts-Smith.

He has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Canberra Times, arguing that their reporting has unjustly defamed him, portraying him as a war criminal and murderer who flagrantly violated the moral and legal principles of military engagement. 

On the other hand, the newspapers are defending their reporting, asserting its truthfulness.

Rising Above False Shadows, Conquering Defamation with Valor

During the court proceedings, Roberts-Smith’s legal team labelled his accusers as deceitful individuals who fabricate stories and harbour resentment due to their failed military careers, branding them as “cowards” driven by corrosive envy of their comrade’s achievements.

As the trial commenced, Roberts-Smith took the stand as the first witness in the federal court. He stated that the Victoria Cross, the prestigious honour he received for extraordinary bravery in 2010, was not a distinction he actively pursued. 

Instead, he regarded it as an overwhelming burden forcibly bestowed upon him. He further expressed that the recognition had made him a target for scrutiny and criticism.

The outcome of this case has the potential to incur costs of up to AU $35 m  for the losing party, solely in terms of legal fees. If Roberts-Smith prevails, he may be entitled to additional millions in damages.

To pursue this defamation lawsuit, Roberts-Smith has secured a loan from his employer, Australian media tycoon Kerry Stokes. He has offered his Victoria Cross as collateral in the event of a loss.

However, the judgment may need to be a clearer-cut decision too. The judge could find that the newspapers have successfully proven specific allegations accurate, based on the standard of evidence known as the “balance of probabilities,” while rejecting others. 

In such a scenario, the judgment is likely to involve a delicate balancing act, weighing the damage caused to Roberts-Smith’s reputation by unproven allegations against those allegations that have been substantiated.

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