Hachette Australia announces the upcoming publication of Crossing the Line, the never-before-told story of the Ben Roberts-Smith v Fairfax Media Publications defamation trial, what prompted it and what it took to prove the truth, written by 14-time Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist and named defendant, Nick McKenzie.
In 2018 Roberts-Smith, one of Australia’s most decorated war heroes, sued Fairfax Media in response to a series of articles published by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times, written by journalists Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters. These articles, the culmination of months of secret investigative work by McKenzie and Masters, detailed allegations from fellow Australian soldiers concerning war crimes committed by Roberts-Smith in Afghanistan.
What followed in 2021 and 2022 was dubbed the defamation trial of the century, with reams of evidence and testimony from 41 witnesses presented to Justice Anthony Besanko over more than 100 days. McKenzie and Masters set out to prove that the allegations of murder, bullying and intimidation published were substantially true and that Roberts-Smith was not defamed. Roberts-Smith denied it all.
In a landmark judgement, Justice Besanko yesterday delivered a win for Fairfax Media Publications, dismissing the proceedings and ruling that the newspapers have proven the substantial truth of the majority of allegations against Robert-Smith.
Since serving soldiers raised concerns about Ben Roberts-Smith, McKenzie has been there every step of the way – gathering evidence, gaining the trust of serving soldiers and travelling to Afghanistan to witnesses. In Crossing the Line, he details the years of work that finally led to a victory for the media.
Crossing the Line by Nick McKenzie will be published in all formats on 28 June.