Saturday, March 05, 2005

A very quiet scandal

Senator Bob Brown (Australian Greens) held a press conference in Canberra yesterday to announce that The Australian Press Council has upheld his complaint against Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper for an article published before the 2004 federal election. From Senator Brown's media release:
"The article came a day after Prime Minister Howard flagged an expose of ‘kooky’ Greens polices [sic]. It continues to be used by the Liberal Party, most recently in WA election pamphlets."

The Press Council's Adjudication No.1270 states that the article written by Gerard McManus made a number of false claims about Greens Party policies. "Given the sweeping and unqualified nature of the claims, the newspaper ought to have checked the veracity and currency of the policy claims. [...] In the context of an approaching election, the potential damage was considerable. The actual electoral impact cannot be known but readers were seriously misled."

According to Senator Brown, the article "...perverted democracy. When a journalist misinforms readers on their way to the ballot box democracy is sacrificed. [...] This was no accident or mistake. The aim was to attack the Greens, not through the editorial column, but through the news pages. The outcome of the false concoction of the Greens policies was to lose our party tens of thousands of votes and, in my calculation, seats in parliament."

According to Alan Ramsey (Sydney Morning Herald) there are more than 150 reporters in the federal press gallery. Yesterday's event - in Brown's words, " of the most important press conferences I've ever held" - attracted four reporters and three camera crews.