Australia’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop requests comments be turned off on The Greek Herald FB page

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The effect of the High Court of Australia’s landmark decision in Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd v Voller [2021] HCA 27 continues to impact media publications, notwithstanding the recent changes in Defamation law. By a majority of 5 to 2, the Court held the media liable as publishers of third-party comments. Recent amendments sought to address that decision.

However, on October 12, The Greek Herald received a letter of complaint by a Sydney legal firm acting for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and Archbishop Makarios reprimanding the publication for alleged defamatory third-party comments made on its public Facebook page.

The letter states that “while The Greek Herald itself may not have uploaded anything which is defamatory of Archbishop Makarios,” the majority of comments on the publication’s Facebook page “represent defamatory attacks against Archbishop Makarios.”

Most of the comments were made under posts referring to the suspension from the Archdiocese of Melbourne priest Father Eleftherios Tatsis, the official visit of the Archbishop to Kastellorizo, and the recent defamation proceedings initiated by the Archbishop towards Melbourne blogger Alkis Morelas.

Referencing the recent High Court decision in Voller, the letter stated that “…as a matter of defamation law you are liable as a publisher of the defamatory comments posted by other people on The Greek Herald Facebook page, because by running the Facebook page, you are facilitating the publication of those defamatory comments.”

The letter also suggested that alleged defamatory comments should immediately be removed and requested that The Greek Herald “closes the comments on future articles to ensure that the same does not happen again.”

“If this action is taken, the Archbishop will consider the matter at an end,” it read.

The Greek Herald does not condone any defamatory comments on its Facebook page whoever they may identify, and has subsequently removed the comments the publication deemed to be allegedly defamatory.  

Since receipt of the aforementioned letter, The Greek Herald has also stopped receiving communications in the form of press releases from the Archdiocese’s media team, which occurred almost daily.

This letter has come after the Archdiocese has initiated legal pursuits with various other publications in Australia and overseas. Most recently, the website “Exapsalmos” issued a public apology over the publication of a series of articles, while earlier this year the Archbishop launched defamation proceedings in Sydney’s Federal Court over four articles by blogger Alkis Morelas. Last year, the ABC also issued a correction on an article about the conduct of the Greek Orthodox church in Australia in connection with its aged care facilities.

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