Sunday, 24 January 2016

The outcome of three complaints about newspaper articles

Australian Press Council dealing with unsubstantiated serious allegations and unfairness, lack of balance and inadequate remedial action:

Adjudication 1659: Complainant/WA Today (December 2015)The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article in WA Today on 9 May 2015 headlined “Bong claims Santa Maria teacher’s job: You’ve got to be toking?”, which was also posted by the publication on Twitter and Facebook.
The article referred to a teacher losing her position at a named Catholic girls’ school as a result of a “social media incident”, said to involve a photograph of her holding a bong . The incident had been referred to in a local radio station’s “Rumour File” segment. The WA Today article was accompanied by a stock image of a person apparently smoking a bong. That article suggested a topless photograph of the teacher may also have been behind the loss of her position.
The Council concluded that drugs played no part in the teacher’s resignation and accepted that no photograph of the teacher with a bong or topless existed. As the article had originated from the radio station’s “Rumour File” segment and the allegations were serious, the publication was required to take greater care to establish the facts. In addition, even after the school Principal's denials, the publication repeated the allegations and the article remained online without sufficient remedial action, despite concerns raised by the teacher.
The Council concluded that the publication failed to ensure accuracy and fairness in the initial article and subsequent revisions or to provide adequate remedial action and therefore found a breach of its Standards of Practice.
The Council accepted there is public interest in highlighting the impact of social media on individuals’ professional lives. However, the inaccuracy in the headline and the reporting of unsubstantiated serious allegations that intruded upon the teacher’s privacy and caused her significant distress were not justified in this public interest. Accordingly, the Council also found a breach of its Standards of Practice in this respect.

Adjudication 1652: Paul Lynch/AAP (October 2015)The Press Council has considered a complaint by NSW Labor MP and Shadow Attorney General Mr Paul Lynch about an article published by AAP on 5 February 2015 headlined “Labor MPs at pro-Russian rebel event” which related to his attendance at the 24th St Sava Youth Festival at the Serbian Cultural Club.
The article referred to the event as “a meeting organised in support of pro-Russian separatists”. It said the meeting was attended by Mr Lynch and others, including Mr Semyon Boikov the “leader” of the Zabaikal Cossack Society of Australia, and that Mr Boikov spoke “calling for a swift victory in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists”.
The Council considered the description of the event as being “in support of Pro-Russian separatists” was not accurate. The terms used, including the word “meeting”, implied that Mr Lynch was party to the pro-Russian separatist sentiment. The focus on Mr Lynch’s attendance was compounded by the failure to mention the many other attendees and, as a result, the event was not reported with reasonable fairness or balance. The failure by the publication to seek more accurate information about the event from other sources or to provide more time for the complainant to respond resulted in the material not being presented with reasonable fairness and balance. Accordingly, the Council found a breach of its Standards in this respect.
The Council also noted the revised version, “NSW: Anger as MP poses with man on ASIO list”, maintained a focus on pro-Russian separatist elements and described the event as a “meeting” rather than a traditional St Sava celebration. The revised article also failed to correct inaccurate and unfair aspects of the original article. Accordingly, the Council also found a breach of its Standards about adequate remedial action.

The NSW legal system dealing with a defamation claim……….

On 7  October 2010 The Sydney Morning Herald published an article which began; Dozens have been sued, felt harassed to work longer hours or otherwise fallen foul of Australia's richest doctor, writes Natasha Wallace.

In November 2010 the named millionaire doctor sued Fairfax Media Pty Ltd and others for defamation and injurious falsehood. The matter winding its way through the courts to a conclusion in late June 2015 with both claims struck out.

In September 2015 The Sydney Morning Herald published the doctor’s death notice.

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