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Supporters of disgraced former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith have directed a number of death threats at investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Nick McKenzie since May, when a judge ruled in favour of his reporting on alleged war crimes committed by Roberts-Smith.
In June, Justice Anthony Besanko ruled that on the balance of probabilities Roberts-Smith was guilty and complicit in the murder of four unarmed prisoners in Afghanistan.
Nick McKenzie speaks to the media after the verdict was handed down in the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case.Credit: Janie Barrett
It was a decision several years in the making, following extensive reporting by McKenzie and Chris Masters, who were both subsequently sued for defamation by the former soldier and former Seven Network executive.
“Good morning Nick. I hope you receive the same punishment that Ali Jan allegedly received… just sleep on it mate,” McKenzie was told in a phone message in July, referencing one of the victims of Roberts-Smith.
Members of a Facebook group “We stand with Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG” lobbied others to attend scheduled dates for McKenzie’s and Masters’ book tours in July and August.
The group, which has more than 3700 members, was made private in July after one of its admins, Western Australian woman Linda Deval, was contacted by this masthead over a post claiming it had the support of Roberts-Smith and his family.
A screenshot from the Facebook group.
“Will be there in Canberra July 26th to let him know fear,” read one comment under the username Gary Redman, residing in the NSW town of Bermagui, on a post urging members to attend dates on McKenzie’s book tour.
“Do everyone a favour and walk in front of a bus you piece of scum,” read an email sent directly to McKenzie from an account under the name Gary Redman.
Redman purchased a ticket to one of McKenzie’s public tour events at the Australian National University, however according to security advice, was excluded from attending the event.
Post on the We stand with Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG Facebook group
A comment on Facebook.
McKenzie said: “I’ve had many veterans contact me with messages of support, including special forces soldiers, who have read my book and realise it celebrates the brave SAS whistleblowers and witnesses who stood up to Roberts-Smith and who represent the military moral majority.
“I’ve also been issued multiple threats of death and violence from people who haven’t bothered to do any research and who fire themselves up in social media echo chambers. Some of the attacks are aimed at my family, which is revolting.”
A Meta spokesperson said keeping people safe on its apps was critical and that it continued to invest in technology to keep abuse off its platforms. The company said it doesn’t allow death threats, hate speech or calls for violence on Facebook and Instagram.
None of the examples provided to Meta were deemed breaches of its policies against online abuse, this masthead understands. “We have a dedicated safety website to support journalists in having a safe experience on our platform so they continue their important work,” Meta’s spokesperson said.
In August, prominent neo-Nazi Thomas Sewell voiced support for Roberts-Smith at a meeting held at Altona RSL in suburban Melbourne. Sewell and others chanted “Heil Ben Roberts-Smith” and “down with Nick McKenzie”.
An appeal by Roberts-Smith over the decision is set to be heard in the Federal Court in February.
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