Can we trust our media? The shocking behaviour of The Age's journalist John Garnaut

This year mark the 2nd anniversary of the Earthquake in Sichuan, China (12 May 2008), 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, USA (29 August 2005), and the 1st anniversary of the Black Saturday (Bush fire) in Victoria, Australia (7 February 2009).

The similarity of these 3 events are that they are all natural disaster with many deaths and many more left homeless. However, for those who lost their home in such a large scale natural disaster, which government do you think do more and care more for their citizens in need? The so-called “brutal” regime in Beijing, China or the so-called “democratic” governments in USA and Australia?

As a result of my recent research for my up coming article: “Humanity - Sichuan Earthquake vs. Katrina (USA) and Black Saturday (Australia)”, I was shocked to uncover the behaviour of John Garnaut, the Age newspaper correspondent in China contradictory report of the same event 12 months apart.

I believe that, this is a very serious matter as it reflected not only on the truthfulness of our media industry (can we trust them?), but the moral and ethical behaviour of our journalists and perhaps editors in the industry (are they honest to the events and their readers?)

Please find at the bottom of this article with 2 attachments:

Attachment A is the content of John Garnaut joint report with Francois Bougon about the Sichuan Earthquake for Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and was published in the Sydney Morning Herald (15 May 2008) under the heading ‘Horror of entire towns flattened’.

Attachment B is the content of John Garnaut sole report for the Age newspaper on the same event at the same location a year later (9 May 2009) under the heading ‘Journey through an earthquake’.

I have highlighted 2 areas on the content of Attachment A and B: The first highlight in 'bold' on the first paragraph with the number “20,000” indicating that the 2 reports a year apart by John Garnaut are describing the same event on the same location.

However, by comparing the 2nd highlight in 'bold italic format' between Attachment A and B, readers will be able to identify the dramatic contradiction in John Garnaut statements a year apart.

Why? Why was John’s contradict his own report a year apart?

On 15 May 2008, there were hundreds, if not thousands of journalists from all over the world flooded across the quake zone in Sichuan. The kind of live telecast across the world with images of soldiers rescuing victims in the quake zone, I believe that, it was very hard for those medias traditionally bias against China and other culture to distort the news under the circumstances. So, we observe a more truthful report on 15 May 2008 by John Garnaut (refer to Attachment A for detail). However, one should note that, as usual, we can still find negative wording against China within the lines in John’s 2008 report such as “The earthquake has muffled government propaganda three months before the Olympic Games in Beijing.” and “It has also overshadowed criticism from abroad about recent unrest in Tibet, with images of the tragedy and rescue efforts spurring offers of aid and an outpouring of sympathy.”

(Special Note: The 2008 event in Tibet has been distorted by the mainstream Western Media across the world in a deliberate and coordinated manner as well. Please click on my earlier research with pictures to prove my claim: Systemic demonization of China by the Western Media - An Issue of Deliberate Distortion (3). In fact, the issues in Tibet are not as simple as we used to know. There are massive involvement of foreign powers to create trouble in Tibet in particular the US government. The following links may provide you some insight into the issues: 

1. US Government website: Foreign Relation of the United States (1964-1968) Volume XXX China: Questions Pertaining to Tibet:

2. US Government funding agency- NED website: for history of NED funding to all anti-China group including Tibet & Uighur. (Note: There is no info on the website on how those fund been used by the respective recipients.)

3. You may also visit the National Security Archive website:, conduct a search using key word such as “CIA and Tibet”, and you will find a list of US government activities in Tibet.)

However, a year later, when most people forgotten what they have seen on the TV screen a year ago, John Garnaut seems to be able to write anything he like base purely on his imagination (refer to Attachment B). Is this his personal behaviour? Or simply to pleased the editor of the Age to get published? Nobody know.

The Age Newspaper has the responsibility to investigate into John Garnaut behaviour and give the Australian Public a written explanation

We can only urged that the Age Newspaper conduct an investigation and give the Australian public an explanation with regards to this shocking behaviour of John Garnaut to safeguard its own reputation as a reliable news source.

Alternatively, I believe that the Age should make a public apology like BBC did in 2008 when it created story that was dishonest and misleading in nature.

I will personally e-mail this article to the Age for an explanation. If I receive no reply from the Age to ratify the misleading report, I will then lodge a formal complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

This is 21st century, the world should learn to respect each other differences regardless of culture, custom, language, religion and political system. The recent failed Copenhagen submit demonstrated that the combination of the former colonial powers were no longer able to pushed the developing countries around (refer to John Garnaut report for the Age, 11 Jan 2010 under the heading ‘Rich nations 'ganged up' in Copenhagen’). Even the almighty US military were forced to halt at 38th Parallel after the Korean war; taken defeat in the Vietnam War and were forced to close five satellite bases in Afghanistan in recent years (New York Time, 14 April 2010: ‘U.S. Forces Close Post in Afghan ‘Valley of Death’). All these reality demonstrated one thing, that is,  no single country in the 21st century are able to dominate the world again like before, not to mention about battling against the pressing issue of global warming.

The media industry has the unique responsibility to help create mutual understanding between cultures, religions and political systems. The world has to learn to respect and corporate with each other to make thing better for all human beings living on the same planet. The last thing we need is to have people using their unique position in the media industry running smear campaign against other cultures.

The Time has a report on the Earth Quake in Sichuan recently (19 Jan 2010), under the heading ‘Haiti and China: A Tale of Two Earthquakes’, this may provide you an objective account of what really happened during the Sichuan earthquake.

Attachment A

Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2008

By John Garnaut and Francois Bougon in Dujiangyan, Sichuan

Horror of entire towns flattened

THE full horror of the devastating earthquake in China began to emerge yesterday as rescuers discovered whole towns all but wiped off the map, pushing the death toll beyond 20,000.

Military and police teams punched into the heart of the disaster zone, with 100 troops parachuting into a county that was previously cut off, while planes and helicopters dropped emergency supplies.

But the message from this mountainous corner of south-western Sichuan province was that town after town was flattened by Monday's 7.9-magnitude earthquake.

"The losses have been severe," said Wang Yi, who heads an armed police unit sent into the epicentre zone. "Some towns basically have no houses left. They have all been razed."

At least 7700 people died in the small town of Yingxiu alone. Only 2300 survived there.

Across Sichuan, countless thousands more people are missing or buried under the rubble of homes, schools and factories.

The Premier, Wen Jiabao, said 100,000 military personnel and police had been mobilised. "Time is life," he told rescuers.

Hundreds of survivors were pulled from rubble in Beichuan county yesterday, including five kindergarten children who were carried up the mountain road towards the city of Mianyang.

The road into Beichuan is blocked by boulders the size of houses and it takes would-be rescuers one hour to walk three kilometres.

Hardly a building remains untouched, and many have been buried beneath avalanches from the towering mountains on either side.

"Every hour we carry out between 10 and 20 people still alive," said Luan Dongmo, a police officer from Chongqing. "Of course I have let some tears fall."

Directly above the city an avalanche has sliced a third of the mountainside away.

On the edge of the city of Mianyang about 10,000 people roamed around a sports ground housing the homeless, holding cardboard signs with the names of relatives in hopes of information. Most were from Beichuan county, which is nearby.

Hu Luobing, from a village in the county, said everything had been destroyed there. "They have said nothing about what's going to happen to us," she said. "This is just a temporary place. I don't know when or if we'll be able to go home."

She was leaving her daughter in the shelter of the sports ground to look for clothes.

Others were seeking food and relief from the cold rain.

"I've had nothing to eat since last night," Bai Chenchu said. "I've only been given some bread and a bottle of water for my child."

Xi Dongli, 15, said: "I'm wearing everything I own."

Pictures from Beichuan show survivors lying alongside the dead in the open air, surrounded by buildings reduced to mangled slabs of concrete.

The county urgently needs 50,000 tents, 200,000 blankets and 300,000 coats, and drinking water and medicine.

State media reported devastation in villages near the epicentre, in Wenchuan, a county cut off by landslides. About 60,000 people were unaccounted for across the county.

The quake has caused severe cracks in the dam of the Zipingpu hydroelectric station and the plant and associated buildings have collapsed. Some have partly sunk.

Amid the overwhelming grief, there were moments of relief. In Mianzhu, Sichuan, about 500 people were pulled alive from crushed buildings.

A three-year-old girl was rescued yesterday after spending more than 40 hours under the rubble of a collapsed building in what state media called a "magical" survival tale. She apparently survived because she had been protected by the bodies of her parents, who died.

The girl, Song Xinyi, had bad leg injuries but was able to talk. "She explained the three Chinese characters that made up her name and told everybody she loved painting and watching TV," the official news agency Xinhua said.

The rescue effort has been disrupted since Monday by heavy rain, and the Meteorological Authority forecast more rain this week, raising the risk of fresh landslides.

The earthquake has muffled government propaganda three months before the Olympic Games in Beijing.

It has also overshadowed criticism from abroad about recent unrest in Tibet, with images of the tragedy and rescue efforts spurring offers of aid and an outpouring of sympathy.

China said it was grateful for offers of help from the US, European Union, United Nations and International Olympic Committee but said the time was "not yet ripe" to allow in foreign rescue teams, citing damaged transport links.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters


Attachment B

The Age, 9 May 2009

By John Garnaut, Beichuan

Journey through an earthquake

IT'S nearly a year since the mountains on each side of Beichuan    sheared in half, spilling like a sandcastle over the southern corner of the town and pounding the northern streets with boulders. In a few short minutes, the town of 20,000 people was battered to a tangled mess of apartment block detritus, flattened buses and bodies squashed like insects.

The thousand voices that once pleaded for help from within twisted buildings have long since fallen silent. At least half of the population is dead. But this mass graveyard has been cleansed and the primordial scale of this catastrophe is clearer.

The more elevated roads have been cleared by bulldozers, while the mangled lower streets have been blanketed with metres of dirt after torrential rains. Glacial rivers of mud and rock are swallowing the city— from the ground up, as if completing the burial the earthquake had begun.

During every birthday, festival and anniversary, a humble and quietly spoken man called Zheng Rentian pays his respects by driving his little van to the hillside that buried his father and 10 relatives who were dining together when the quake hit. He burns candles, incense and paper money in their honour and lights strings of firecrackers to ward off mischievous spirits.

Zheng, pronounced "Tsen" in this corner of Sichuan province, slows his van as he passes Beichuan Middle School. Zheng's nephew had shot out the door to safety when he felt the first pieces of ceiling strike his skin.

Parents of the 600 students who were killed say the building was yet another shoddy school made of "tofu" cement and steel. The school is the only building in the area that has its own security fence; it was erected last year to prevent any repeat of the "incident" in which grieving parents gathered and posted noticeboard photos of their missing sons.

Zheng eases his van past a long line of vendors selling earthquake tourist memorabilia. He gets out, flashes his residence card at a new gate and security fence decked with razor wire, and descends by foot to the main Beichuan town below.

The Beichuan of Zheng's memory is a mangled collage of miracles, resilience and wretched misery.

Both of Zheng's parents were out of the house at 2.28pm on Monday, May 12, 2008, when their village disappeared. Zheng stops to show us the missing mountainside, and debates with a bystander about where the village used to be.

"My mother was one step away from a falling rock that would have killed her," he says. "My father was in a restaurant below — underneath where that tree is sticking out. My eleven relatives at that table and a thousand other people would still be here today if that mountain had not collapsed on them."

For the Chinese Communist Party, the Sichuan earthquake that left 70,000 people dead and 18,000 missing was a chance to show how it had evolved from its cruel and callous past. On May 14 last year, at the top of the descent into Beichuan town, Age sources watched a megaphone-wielding Premier Wen Jiabao providing a style of responsive and humane leadership that Chinese people may have never known before. Today, residents spontaneously thank the central Government for its help and say how leaders have not forgotten them.

The Government has channelled vast resources into reconstruction. Obliterated mountain roads have been re-laid. Damaged dams have been reinforced. Adequate temporary housing has been provided. Peasants in remote corners of the county are busily rebuilding. There are no signs that earthquake victims lack for food or shelter. The local economy appears to be booming.

But the earthquake has also revealed how far China is from the nation it wants to be. On May 14 and 15, The Age watched People's Liberation Army soldiers loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops, while the cries of trapped citizens rang out from buildings nearby.

(??? Note 1: This report is on the 9 May 2009, therefore, the date May 14 and 15 is referring to the event in 2008 )

Of the tens of thousands of soldiers in Beichuan in the days after the quake, the only ones we saw raise a sweat were a dozen who jostled in front of Premier Wen as they rushed to an imaginary rescue for the benefit of the China Central Television camera.

(??? Note 2: click here to view the photo on the Sydney Morning Herald a year ago showing People Liberation Army rescue a child from the rubble, also read the report highlighted in 'bold italic' at Attachment A to compare the contradictory statements made by John Garnaut’s a year apart)

All of the rescues we witnessed were by local volunteers or orange-suited firefighters from far corners of the country. Thousands died who should have been saved. And yet CCTV has played endless slow-motion footage of heroic soldiers at the service of the common people. For many in the Communist Party, the tragedy was primarily a propaganda opportunity.

(??? Note 3: please compare this statement to the one in Attachment A)

At times of stress, the party's overriding instinct is to protect itself. The state revealed deeply rooted callousness and insecurity as it treated grieving parents as national security threats to be bought, intimidated and silenced, while airbrushing discussion from local websites and media.

Shoddy schools are the most visible public grievance but not the only one. In Beichuan county, the Government has appropriated land to make it easier to rebuild from scratch. But residents are refusing to sign compensation agreements because they have watched work-team and village leaders siphon funds and trade favours with other rich and powerful residents. Animosity is channelled to local officials, but it is Beijing that has chosen to preserve China's vast pyramid of unchecked administrative power.

Reconstruction is proceeding at impressive speed, but officials can't seem to shake their instincts for pantomime and deception.

Five weeks ago, locals heard that Premier Wen Jiabao was likely to return for Tuesday's anniversary. Thousands of workers were immediately enlisted to widen and beautify the highway from Mianyang Airport. The roadside is being lined with instant grass and potted with fully grown trees, while workers add final touches of paint to the road-facing walls of newly built homes.

Neat "model" villages, designed in the local Qiang ethnic style, dot the flat land that can be easily seen from the tinted windows of a passing cavalcade.

Beichuan remains unoccupied as officials debate whether to turn it into a museum. Inside the gates, Zheng Rentian guides us through the town that he remembers.

On the right, utterly obscured by a rock-slide, was the car wash where Zheng used to clean his van. All of the workers ran out to open ground when they heard the mountain crumbling above them and none of them was killed.

On the left, through an ornamental Chinese gate, was the bus depot and vegetable market. We overhear a mother telling her young daughter how a crowd had rushed out only be obliterated by boulders hurtling from the other direction.

"When I arrived, at 4pm on May 12, I saw about 100 corpses lying here, with their skulls smashed and limbs severed by falling boulders," Zheng says.

One survivor was Zheng's niece, Zheng Juhong, who had been trapped inside her mobile phone stall. She knew no one would come that evening.

"I just hugged myself tightly against the aftershocks and cried out for my mother a few times," she says.

In the morning, she heard people outside rescue someone else in the building next to her. But they could not hear her cries. Later, two soldiers heard her and pushed through a piece of pipe to provide fresh drinking water. She pleaded with them not to go. But they explained: "Without orders from above we cannot start that kind of rescue."

Later two volunteers came, one of whom she recognised, and they worked for eight hours with two firefighters, without a break, until they hauled her out late on Wednesday night.

At the centre of town we pass the other campus of Beichuan Middle School, where officials sent their children. The school was obliterated by a rock-slide and 1000 children lost their lives.

Workers are now focusing their efforts on building a memorial ground, erecting huge political banners and steel support frames for tilted buildings, which will soon provide a moving backdrop for when visiting leaders front the cameras on Tuesday.

Zheng Rentian points out the crushed bakery shop where his ever-smiling sister used to work. He had assumed she had been killed. But his sister, Zheng Xiaobi, had in fact being delivering bread to a nearby town and had miraculously survived.

"I was hurrying back across the river on my motorbike when the bridge started wavering so hard I could hardly balance," she says. "A crack opened up in front of me and I accelerated to try and get across. Two old people were walking the other way towards me. I could see their faces as they screamed and I felt myself falling."

She doesn't know how she survived the 20-metre fall with a collapsing bridge, without a helmet. When she regained consciousness she heard the old man grieving for his friend. She tried to help but her ribs were broken and she couldn't move.

Zheng Xiaobi now works at a new bakery in nearby Anchang town. It was her son (Zheng Rentian's nephew) who had survived the school collapse above the town. He lost 50 of 70 classmates. Whenever he feels a tremor, he runs outside, and often he refuses to sleep indoors.

Zheng Xiaobi has come to see herself as lucky. "I was someone who loved to laugh and smile," she says. "I lost my smile for half a year, but now I'm coming back to normal."

John Garnaut is China correspondent.




Latest development to this case:
More Dodgy Material Exposed - The Age and John Garnaut case continue:

John Garnaut should be an Indian correspondent!!!