From The Australian – 26 November 2010 – Editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, said he will sue journalism academic and prolific twitter user Julie Posetti for defamation.

This follows Posetti’s tweet yesterday from a journalism conference at the University of Technology Sydney in which Posetti quoted The Australian’s former rural reporter Asa Walhquist as allegedly saying “in the lead up to the election the Ed in Chief was increasingly telling me what to write”.

Mitchell rejects the allegation and Walhquist has also denied it, saying she has never spoken to Mitchell about climate change.

Mitchell said his lawyers were given a brief yesterday. Posetti is a journalism lecturer at the University of Canberra.

“I am not one who believes new media should be exempt from the normal laws of the land,” Mitchell said.

“Asa may or may not have said what the tweeter alleges. She denies to me that she did. But either way the allegations are a lie and Asa has admitted as much.

“There is not protection from the law in repeating accurately allegations falsely made. Asa works from home and I have neither seen her nor spoken to her in years, as anyone on the paper would attest.”

Comment was being sought from Posetti.

The legal action comes after Mitchell contacted Walhquist yesterday after seeing the reported comments, also saying in an email to her that he had “never spoken” to her about climate change and “have never stood over you about ANY of your stories”.

“Indeed, I have not spoken to you in at least eight years. And I have never stood over people writing stories in 19 years as an editor.”

Mitchell adds he is proud of the paper’s environmental coverage.

He said The Australian’s editorials on climate change “would make it clear that for several years the paper has accepted man-made climate change as fact”.

“It has supported market mechanisms to reduce carbon output for the best part of a decade. What people do not like is that I publish people such as Bjorn Lomborg. I will continue to do so, but would suggest my environment writer, Graham Lloyd, who is a passionate environmentalist, gets a very good run in the paper.”

The tweets from Posetti yesterday included her quoting Walhquist as saying that writing on climate change for The Australian was “absolutely excruciating. It was torture”.

Walhquist responded to Mitchell she had been quoted inaccurately and taken out of context and adding that “I do not think twitters from unnamed third parties should be regarded as an accurate news source. As a journalist I would never rely on information from such a source.”

“I would like to place on record the fact I have never had a conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, about climate change,” Walhquist wrote.

“In fact I have not had any conversations with Mr Mitchell on any subject for a number of years.”

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