Ben Roberts-Smith denies latest newspaper allegations

Seven Queensland general manager Ben Roberts-Smith has issued a statement following further allegations in Nine newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Herald-Sun.

Yesterday it was reported the Australian Federal Police has launched a second war crimes investigation into Australia’s most decorated living soldier and former special services corporal.

But a separate report on the weekend claimed an Afghan National Army soldier said to have been present when Roberts-Smith allegedly ordered the execution of an unarmed civilian was not in the village when the supposed war crime occurred.

Last week the MEAA also said journalists should not be compelled to reveal confidential sources.

Roberts-Smith yesterday issued a statement via the Seven Network:

A report in today’s Nine newspapers has yet again made a number of demonstrably false claims repeating untrue and defamatory allegations against me.

The timing and tone of today’s Nine story suggests that its reporters are now desperately trying to shore up support for their recklessly untrue allegations. I have put my family name and medals on the line to sue Nine and restore my reputation. Nine’s reporters were clearly panicked by a Court report in Saturday’s Australian about the serious deficiencies in their purported evidence.

Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie have falsely asserted that this is a test of press freedom when all I and my legal team seek to do is test Nine’s supposed evidence from sources they have revealed. Nine has accused me of murder. Frankly, it is time for their journalists to put up that evidence or admit they have none. We are not asking them to betray their confidential sources.

In today’s SMH/Age story, Masters and McKenzie claimed that I have previously attacked His Honour Supreme Court Justice Major General Paul Brereton the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force. This assertion is totally false. I have made no criticisms of the Inspector General and I unequivocally support the IGADF in its investigation. I have always fully cooperated with the IGADF inquiry.

Nine also asserted that I have criticised the CDF and other top ADF commanders. Again, this is not the case. I have merely stated my concern that the ADF needs systemic change in order to better manage the needs of veterans and I do not resile from those comments.

I am also ready, willing and able to cooperate with any Australian Federal Police investigation.

Nine and its journalists have also falsely claimed that I and my legal team are seeking to force the disclosure of Masters’ and McKenzie’s confidential sources. The truth is that Nine has already served outlines of evidence from named individuals who are current and former SASR soldiers whom Nine asserts will prove the serious allegations they have made against me. So the identities of those individuals are already known to the court and to both parties.

What we are seeking is any documents pertaining to those known named individuals, which is perfectly normal practice in any legal matter.

Updated: The Age & SMH has made a lengthy response to Roberts-Smith statement you can read here.

It includes: “In his defamation case against the former Fairfax newspapers and two journalists, Roberts-Smith has brought an application in the Federal Court which would in effect cause the journalists to reveal their sources by compelling them produce notes and documents including the names and details of sources that they relied upon in preparing their reports. The case was pursued at a hearing last week. If this motion was successful, there is no doubt it would expose confidential sources.”

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