The Desk appreciates the support of readers who purchase products or services through links on our website. Learn more...

Army vet who lost lawsuit against media outlets resigns from TV job

Ben Roberts-Smith has stepped down from his role at Seven Network after he lost a crucial defamation case against three Australian newspapers.

Ben Roberts-Smith has stepped down from his role at Seven Network after he lost a crucial defamation case against three Australian newspapers.

An Australian military veteran who lost a defamation case brought against three newspapers this week has quit his job at one of the country’s television networks.

Ben Roberts-Smith gave his resignation at Seven Network on Friday, less than a day after a judge dismissed his defamation case against the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Canberra Times.

Roberts-Smith sued the newspapers and its journalists after they published articles in 2018 that linked him to alleged war crimes that occurred during his tours of duty in Afghanistan. Those allegations included horrific accounts of beatings and executions of unarmed Afghan villagers and detainees, as well as claims that Roberts-Smith ordered men under his command to do the same.

The veteran was hired by Seven Network in 2015 and was put in charge of the broadcaster’s Queensland-area outlets. During the defamation case, it was learned that Seven Network and its owner, Kerry Stokes, paid some of his legal bills and that of key witnesses who testified during the four-month hearing. One of the newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald, is owned by Nine Entertainment, which competes against Seven Network in the television space.

On Thursday, an Australia judge overseeing the case dismissed the defamation claims against the three newspapers and its reporters, finding that they had proven some allegations of war crimes through their journalism and witness testimony heard at trial, and that the scope of the case had established “contextual truth” with respect to whether Roberts-Smith had committed war crimes in general.

Roberts-Smith continues to maintain his innocence, and he has not been charged with any crime. He did not break from his vacation in Bali to attend Thursday’s court hearing.

James Warburton, the CEO of Seven Network, announced his resignation in an email to staff on Friday.

“Ben has been on leave whilst the case was running, and today has offered his resignation, which we have accepted,” the email read. “We thank Ben for his commitment to Seven, and wish him all the best.”

Photo of author

About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).