In an article earlier this year, New Matilda described Channel 7's Today Tonight program (out of Adelaide) as "trashy journalism". That was the most flattering part. Channel 7, in response, has threatened to sue us. So one of the nation's largest media outlets is threatening to sue one of the nation's smallest media oulets, because they didn't like what we said about them.
One of the realities of vigorous independent media is, unfortunately, legal threats from 'big players'. In the past 12 months alone, New Matilda has faced seven legal threats (all of them got a 'middle finger reply', all of them ultimately decided not to proceed). Channel 7 and Today Today is the latest legal threat. And basically... we've had enough of being bullied.
We're seeking to raise $25,000. Here's how we'll use it.
- To establish a legal fighting fund if Channel 7 does decide to file its claim.
- To invest in some investigative reporting into Islamophobia from mainstream media (we're looking particularly at you, Daily Mail Australia, but also the major networks and the major media outlets).
Long story short, whatever happens, your pledge will help us target media outlets seeking to divide our community.
A very small sample of the reporting we've already done in this area is available here, here and here. And here's an additional 99 stories in our archives which take in the search phrase 'Islamophobia'. Basically, we punch hard against Islamophobia, and hope that the broader Australian community will back us in that fight.
You can help us stand up to the bullies, and hold media to account for their reporting by contributing to this fundraiser.
Defamation proceedings are ridiculously expensive. By way of example, Joe Hockey's suit against Fairfax in 2015 cost Hockey alone an estimated $800,000. God only knows what Fairfax spent defending it.
Sydney law firm Marque Lawyers has agreed to act pro bono in this case (they're exceptionally good eggs, and have already acted for us on five matters in the past year). While we don't expect to lose, if the matter does proceed, we will have to raise substantial funds to cover expenses related to court apperances, filing fees etc. Upshot:, $25,000 won't even touch the sides, but that's a bridge we'll cross if we need to down the track.
If the matter doesn't proceed, then we'll direct the money raised to our contributor's budget, in order to boost our reporting on Islamophobia (and racism more broadly) by the mainstream media. We'll obviously have our work cut out for us on that front - covering ALL the Islamophobic reporting in Australian mainstream news outlets is badically impossible, but the series we will launch will be as robust and frank as the reporting by Michael Brull that got us here in the first place. You can read some more of Michael's outstanding work here. The guy's got game!
Obviously, if we lose, that's game over for New Matilda. We can't afford to lose a million dollar-plus lawsuit. So the stakes are high. But then, we don't intend to lose. Indeed, we don't publish stories in the first place if we believe we can't defend them in a court of law. Of course, the 'defamation game' is not really about what you can defend. It's what you can afford to defend. Read on and we'll explain.
Why don't we just pull the story down?
Because we won't be bullied. A vigorous free and independent media requires outlets to actively resist legal threats from 'big business', and especially from other large media outlets. It's a pretty stressful place to be, but that's publishing for you.
A well-worn tactic against small media outlets is to threaten them with legal proceedings in order to silence their reporting. Legal threats are very expensive, and many smaller media outlets (and some bigger ones) simply buckle under the pressure. New Matilda cannot, and does not, because our business model relies 100 per cent on trust. Our readers expect us to fight for minority voices, they expect us to 'get it right' in the first place, and then they expect us to defend our reporting, come what may.
As a matter of editorial policy, New Matilda publishes all defamation threats - by way of example here's a link to four separate threats from four separate law firms. And that was just for the month of March this year.
We also don't pull the stories down because we believe in our reporting, and our writers. We're prepared to back them, along with the basic principle of a free and informed press. There's simply no other way to opreate an independent media outlet than to stare down the threats.