Australia’s most decorated living soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, is suing three of the country’s most trusted newspapers for defamation over articles he says falsely accuse him of war crimes. Whatever the outcome, the ramifications will be immense for public interest journalism, Australia’s military and the man venerated as a modern-day war hero
Part five: the letters
1:01:38In June 2018, an SAS soldier known in this defamation trial as Person 18 says he received two threatening letters at his barracks in Perth. In their defence, the newspapers allege that these letters were written by Ben Roberts-Smith. He denies this outright. In this episode, Ben Doherty explains why the newspapers think these letters are important to their defence of this case and we hear testimony from Ben Roberts-Smith, as well as his former employee John McLeod and ex-wife Emma Roberts, who are witnesses for the newspapers, read by voice actors. We also hear closing arguments from both sides and from a defamation barrister about what this trial tells us about defamation law in Australia
Part four: the tunnel
1:07:15On 12 April 2009, the SAS arrive in the village of Kakarak in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. It’s a Taliban stronghold where an Australian soldier was killed just a month earlier. It’s here, in a compound known as Whiskey 108, that one of the most contested events in this extraordinary defamation trial takes place. In their defence, the newspapers allege that at Whiskey 108 Ben Roberts-Smith murdered an Afghan man with a prosthetic leg and ordered a junior member of his patrol to murder another Afghan man as part of a military ‘blooding’ ritual. Roberts-Smith strenuously denies these claims and says the two men who were killed were legitimate engagements shot lawfully in the heat of battle. In this episode, Ben Doherty takes us inside the raid on Whiskey 108. We hear evidence presented by Ben Roberts-Smith and others who support his version of events, as well as witnesses for the newspapers, read by voice actors
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Part three: the affair
1:16:54An affair between Ben Roberts-Smith and a witness known to the court as Person 17 is one of the key contested elements of this extraordinary defamation trial. The newspapers as part of their defence allege that Roberts-Smith committed an act of domestic violence against Person 17. He denies this allegation, saying it is a complete fabrication. In this episode, host Ben Doherty takes us through both sides, detailing the breakdown of Roberts-Smith’s marriage to Emma Roberts and his affair with Person 17. We hear testimony from Roberts-Smith himself, as well as from Person 17 and Emma Roberts – who appear for the newspapers – read by voice actors
Part two: death in Darwan
1:15:33In the aftermath of an attack on Australian soldiers by a rogue Afghan soldier, the SAS is sent to the Taliban-controlled village of Darwan. They arrive by helicopter at dawn, looking for Hekmatullah, the soldier who shot dead three of their comrades. It is during this raid, the newspapers allege in court as part of their defence, that Ben Roberts-Smith kicked an unarmed, handcuffed Afghan man off a cliff and then ordered another soldier to shoot him dead. Roberts-Smith denies this outright and says he and another soldier lawfully shot and killed a member of the Taliban they found hiding in a cornfield. In this episode of Ben Roberts-Smith v the media, Ben Doherty takes us through one of the key incidents under dispute in this extraordinary defamation trial – the raid of Darwan. And we hear evidence as presented in court by witnesses for Roberts-Smith and the newspapers in their defence, read by voice actors
Part one: reputation
40:52In the defamation trial of the century, Australia’s most decorated living soldier is seeking to defend his reputation against reports in three newspapers that he says falsely accuse him of being a war criminal. His lawyers argue Ben Roberts-Smith has been unfairly targeted by envious comrades and assisted by credulous journalists. The newspapers’ lawyers say their reporting is true, and that Roberts-Smith broke the ‘moral and legal rules of military engagement’, something he denies outright. But who is Ben Roberts-Smith, and how did he earn the military’s highest honour, the Victoria Cross?
Introducing Ben Roberts-Smith v the media
11:15Australia’s most decorated living soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, is suing three of the country’s most trusted newspapers for defamation over articles he says falsely accuse him of war crimes. Whatever the outcome, the ramifications will be immense for public interest journalism, Australia’s military and the man venerated as a modern-day war hero