Sack the Press Council. It is a menace to free speech

There is not a spick of cereal to have this useless carcass pervert our free speech:

Sack the Press Council. It is a menace to free speech

Andrew Bolt

Sack the Press Council. As I’ve said before, it has grown overmighty and is now a real threat to free speech. It is also insulting and unseemly for media lions – who actually created this control – to beg for their muzzles.

This week (sorry for the delay in republishing) the Daily Telegraph published this powerful indictment of the latest Press Council effrontery. And as you read it, note this: on the very same day the Federal Court upheld an appeal by James Ashby against the decision to strike out his claim against Peter Slipper. Now, which page of the Daily Telegraph does Julian Disney think should have run that news?

The Australian Press Council has undermined the principle of a free press with an adjudication we regretfully must publish today.

It has upheld a complaint brought against The Daily Telegraph by former Fairfax staffer and political activist Margo Kingston about the placement of a story relating to former Speaker Peter Slipper. Ms Kingston’s complaint was that The Daily Telegraph on December 13, 2012, did not give prominence to and balanced coverage of a Federal Court decision to dismiss as an abuse of process a legal action for sexual harassment brought against Mr Slipper when compared with its initial coverage of the matter eight months earlier. Importantly, Ms Kingston’s complaint was not one that sought a correction to some factual error in the newspaper; it was simply based on her contention, for whatever personal reason she had, that the follow-up report on the Federal Court’s decision was positioned in a part of the newspaper that was not to her liking.

Had it been a matter of correcting a factual error, there would have been no problem. But there was no error in our original report, and we believe the Press Council, not for the first time, has dangerously overreached its mandate and raison d’etre in what we can only conclude is its desire to impose its own brand of selective political correctness on the newspaper industry.

This ruling is an unwarranted interference in the editing and production process; showcasing the Council’s apparent eagerness to determine where and how an independent press publishes articles. At the outset, we take issue with the APC’s willingness to hear complaints from third parties; critics who have nothing to do with the original reports or are wholly irrelevant in regards to the topic of the story. This includes the APC itself, which has expressed a willingness to initiate its own investigations and complaints when those who are actually the subject of the stories have not pursued any action.

This is symptomatic of the desire of the current chairman, Julian Disney to make the Council, an appointed body, a protagonist rather than a mediating interface between the media and the public. Mr Disney has no background in journalism but after five years in this position, surely he would understand the pressures of limited space, the fast- moving news cycle and competing interests that editors confront every day.

Second, we question Professor Disney’s reluctance to take into consideration Ms Kingston’s well-known political extremism and previous employer and consider whether her complaint was part of her own political agenda. Apart from expressing the repugnant and wildly inaccurate anti-Semitic view that a “fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”, Ms Kingston has also suggested that “there is a case for making climate change denial an offence, it is a crime against humanity”, and is notorious for her opposition to anything that may even vaguely be regarded as conservative opinion.

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