About The Australia Press Council
Australia Press Council is the self-regulatory body of the print media: “According to its recently revised Constitution, the objects of the Australian Press Council are to promote freedom of speech through responsible and independent print media, and adherence to high journalistic and editorial standards…,” “To carry out its press responsibility role, it serves as a forum to which anyone may take a complaint concerning the press.”
The above are the written pledge by the Press Council on their website.
Here is the link to the Council Statement of Principles. (i.e., principles that ensure high journalistic and editorial standard)
How the Council Behave when a legitimate complaint is made with strong supporting evidence that a series of reports made by a newspaper have breached not only the ethic of journalism but each and every of the Council written principles?
Following is a recent letter I emailed to the Australia Press Council on 20 July 2010 outlining the seriousness of the case, and the detail of how each and every of the Council written principles have been violated. I also analysed in detail why the council should waive its 60 days time limit for complaint and consider the case under its special circumstance clause.
I have provided significant amount of evidence in an easy to understand - point by point manner proven beyond reasonable doubt that: a series of reports published by the newspaper concerned were not based on facts but the invention of their Journalist, and it is only one simple step from the Press Council by forwarding my e-mail to the respective newspaper demanding an answer to the 5 questions I raise, and the truth will be out, the Council Principles will be upheld, the right of the Australian people to know the truth will be fulfilled.
However, guest what kind of reasoning the Council used to dismiss my case?
I believe that it is fair for us to ask: “Will a self-regulatory body that served the same interest of the mainstream media be serious about maintaining the ethic of Journalism in this country? Will the Press Council genuinely believe in upholding the right of the Australian public to know the truth?
After reading my correspondence with the Council, a good friend of mine sending me the following remark as his feedback: “Australian Press Council controlling media disinformation? Would you trust John Howard to control racism?" (Author Note: The Howard’s government was regarded by the UN as a racist government in 2000)
The following is my story:
Following is the full content of my e-mail to the Australia Press Council on the 20 July 2010:
To: Jack R Herman/ Executive Secretary
Australia Press Council
Dear Mr. Jack R Herman,
Re: One more step and the truth is out: Defending Australians Right to understand other culture through accurate information
Further to my e-mail dated 15 June 2010, I would like to inform you that The Age has again returned my e-mail as “return without being read”.
The reality is, if you read the content of the latest e-mail correspondents between John Garnaut and myself as mentioned in my last e-mail to you dated 15 June 2010 under the following link: More Dodgy Materials Exposed - The Age and John Garnaut Case Continue, I believe that you will agree with me that, it is only one more step and the truth will be out. And it is only the Australia Press Council has the authority to press the Age for a reply.
Before I make a summary of issues that I hope that the Press Council will assist in securing a reply from The Age, I would like to address the reasons why The Council should regards this case as an exceptional case to Act upon even outside its 60 days complaint time frame.
Why The Press Council Should consider this case an exceptional case outside the 60 days limit?
When I wrote my first e-mail to the Council dated 2 June 2010, I understand that there is an exception to the 60 days policy, that was why I presented it as a case of national security. This is how I wrote: “I also outlined in this article (Media Accountability—The Age must say ‘Sorry’ to Australians) the reason why such behaviour posted a security risk to Australia and urged that we should “Lets’ the world understand each other through accurate information.”
As you have rejected my complaint under the following reason in your e-mail dated 3 June 2010:
“I have reviewed your material. It does not appear to me that you have established any case at all that there has been a breach of the Council’s principles.”
As a result, I have accessed your website again to study the handful of principles lay down by the Council , now I would like to present my complaint base on the Council principles as follows:
The very first statement spell out by the Council’s Statement of Principles is: “the freedom of the press to publish is the freedom, and right, of the people to be informed,” the second principle is the “equivalent responsibility to the public”.
Note: I can assure the Council that this case involved not only one report that is dodgy and baseless, but at least 2. They not only contradicted each other, but I have good reasons to believe that the reports were not based on fact but a baseless story based purely on the invention of The Age China Correspondent’s John Garnaut. I believe that, the Australian readers have the right to know the truth, and under the current circumstances, it is only one more step and the truth will be out. The Australia Press Council has the authority to press the Age for an answer to ratify the series of highly misleading and distorting reports published by the Age (detail at the later part of this letter).
I believe that the Press Council would like to uphold its very first principle “The right of the people to be informed” and the second principle “the equivalent responsibility to the public”.
In addition to the above 2 core principles lay down by the Council, the Council when considering complaints, will have regard for the following general principles as well:
Point 2.) “Where it is established that a serious inaccuracy has been published, a publication should promptly correct the error, giving the correction due prominence.”
Point 4.) “…..Rumour and unconfirmed reports should be identified as such.”
Point 6.) “Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion.”
Note: The nature of my complaint is not only about “serious inaccuracy” (Point 2) and “rumour has been published” (Point 4). It is about deliberate distortion in The Age’s reports, and it is malicious in nature to demonise a country - Our biggest trading partner, China. (detail at the later part of this letter).
The impact is, the Australian public “cannot distinguish what is opinion and what is fact” (Point 6). Despite the reality that China has made dramatic achievement in its human right records by lifting 400 million people out of poverty within the last 30 years; having the highest level of citizens satisfaction with the country direction at 86% and the second highest is Australia at only 61% (PEW survey 2008); and its human right achievement in its rescue, reconstruction and compensation arrangement for the more than 5 million victims in the 2008 Earthquake (The Time Magazine: ‘Haiti and China: A Tale of Two Earthquakes’) - Australians were basically unaware of the above facts. Why?
Their perception of our biggest trading partner is getting worst. For examples (1) Lowy Institute Poll and (2) Investors wary of Chinese money. Why? Our mainstream media has definitely not having any balance in their report as far as issues relating to China is concerned. Why?
In your letter dated 3 June 2010, you stated that “He (John Garnaut) is entitled to report what he saw and heard at the time – not all journalists present will have exactly the same experience”. I fully agree with your above statement. However, not when the statements he made were baseless based purely on his imagination in violation of all the Press Council’s basic principles.
In 2008, we witnessed Chinese students living in the West, having “freedom” of information from the Western Media suddenly went on protest across the Western world by the Tens of thousands of people - protesting against media bias and distorting reports against China. This incident demonstrated that it is in the public interest that the Press Council take this opportunity to ratify the problem of selective, unbalance and distorting report by the media industry and in this particular case - The Age - as a result of John Garnaut behaviour in a series of his reports that violated all the basic principles lay down by the Press Council. The seriousness of the influence of these misleading reports are that many of these reports were republished by other newspapers and magazines within the Fairfax group.
Australia's former ambassador to Indonesia, Japan and Thailand recently warned that “Australia risks being complacent about its reputation in Asia”, I can assure you that our mainstream media culture with selective reports have got to do with the situation.
This is perhaps the reason why Mr Joske (an economic adviser to former treasurer Peter Costello in the 1990s) spoke out late last year (2009) that: ''There's no one in Treasury who can tell up from down on China, beyond what they read in the newspapers.'' And pointed out the sad reality that “BHP bent the ears of senior ministers and exploited the Government's ''policy dysfunction'' to get its way on China.” (Brisbane Time, 15 Oct 2009)
In fact, the resentment against the mainstream media in Australia gone further than that:
Dr Anne Aly in her research into how Australian Muslims were responding to the discourse on terrorism in the Australian popular media observed that: “it was increasingly evident that Australian Muslims were turning to the internet to access information about the United States-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and engaging heavily in propaganda and conspiracy theories.” (Australia Strategic Studies Institute article: ‘Online radicalisation and the Muslim diaspora’, 13 July 2009)
Therefore, I believe that it is in both the national and public interest that the Press Council demonstrated its leadership to ensure it core and general principles being upheld at all time. That is: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced. They should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers either by omission or commission.” (Point 1 of the Press Council’s general principle).
I hope that the Council will forward this e-mail to The Age, so that they will have to give me a reply and ratify the series of dishonest and misleading reports made by John Garnaut with detail as follows:
The Council need just to do the following to uphold the Council Principles
The Council need just to forward my e-mail to the Age and ask them to give my following questions a straight forward and unambiguous reply to uphold the Council Core and General Principles:
Over the last few weeks since I posted my first report: Can we trust our Media? The Shocking Behaviour of The Age Journalist’s John Garnaut (dated 12 May 2010), followed by Media Accountability—The Age must say ‘Sorry’ to Australians (dated 24 May 2010), then More Dodgy Materials Exposed - The Age and John Garnaut Case Continue (dated 14 June 2010), I received a total of 3 e-mails from John Garnaut.
If you examine the content of each of our (John Garnaut and myself) e-mail correspondents, I am confident that, you will find John Garnaut is Guilty as Charged.
Let’s put aside the 3 dodgy reports he made in regard to Chinese top leadership direct involvement in the Rio Tinto bribery case without any sources being quoted (detail in More Dodgy Materials Exposed - The Age and John Garnaut Case Continue), The mere fact that, he has great difficulty to answer the questions I posted with regards to the content of the report he attached to me in his email dated 7 June 2010 tell a lot about the credibility of his story.
This is the content of his e-mail dated 7 June 2010:
Dear Wei Ling,
Here is a May 2008 report, setting out in more detail the circumstances that you said I invented a year later:
The witness in that story was engaged by me at the time.
To dispel another of your excited allegations, I do not have two names. Jophiel Bushnell works at the news desk in Melbourne and forwarded your complaint on to me.
I trust you will find some more fruitful conspiracies to spend your time on.
If you read the content of John Garnaut above attached link to his (May 2008) report. The report title is (Taking a great leap for Wen, dated 17 May 2008), you will find the following key words and sentences that place the credibility of his story in doubt:
- slipped past the road block;
- At 10.11am he snapped a picture;
- we carried; and
- Until dusk on Wednesday in Beichuan, at least, they were just blocking the road.
In my e-mail reply to him dated 8 June 2010, I pointed out that the date “Wednesday” in the report (Taking a great leap for Wen) was on 14 May 2008, and it was through the eyes of an unnamed Chinese Journalist (ie, 3rd party account of the event). However, his report a year later in 9 May 2009 (‘Journey through an earthquake’) has became a First party witness statement. This is how I asked John Garnaut in my email reply:
In your report on the 9 May 2009 ‘Journey through an earthquake’, you mentioned that: “On May 14 and 15, The Age watched People’s Liberation Army….”, that mean, you personally witnessed People Liberation Army looting on May 14 and May 15, 2008.
But in your report (Taking a great leap for Wen) dated 17 May 2008, the description wasn’t a first person account. It was through the eyes of an unnamed Chinese Journalist. So, why are you using the statement “The Age watched…..” in your 9 May 2009 report?
When you mentioned “Wednesday” in your 17 May 2008 report, I have just verify that that day was 14 May 2008. You have this statement that put yourself on the scene as a first hand witness: “Later, the soldiers were still loitering and sticking out their hands for drinks “we carried” to the exhausted rescuers actually looking for survivors.”
My questions are:
a) Have you “slipped past the road block” as well like the (unnamed) Chinese Journalist on Wednesday (14 May 2008)?
b) As a professional Journalist, I believe you did carry a camera with you, have you taken any picture of those scene you witnessed on 14 May 2008?
c) Can you tell us the date of the 3 photo series produced under your name on the Age website: http://www.theage.com.au/multimedia/china_earthquake/index.html
d) Again, why didn’t you report your story on the Sydney Morning Herald on the 15 May 2008 (‘Horror of entire towns flattened’)?
e) By the way, who is the other person who witnessed the event of “Later, the soldiers were still loitering and sticking out their hands for drinks we carried to the exhausted rescuers actually looking for survivors.” Who is the other “We” that can support your account of the event?
This question is posted under the subheading special note in my e-mail dated 8 June 2010. This is how I asked John Garnaut:
The questions here are, who was that Chinese Journalist named in your report? What is his name? When and where did you and him engaged in those conversation and under what circumstances did you all got to know each other? Since he told you so much of his account of what he witnessed in such great length and detail, including statement such as “At 10.11am he snapped a picture of a group of soldiers running...”, that mean you all knew each other quite well. Why don’t you buy the photos from him as it should worth owing those materials as they were the only evidence of People Liberation Army “loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops, while the cries of trapped citizens rang out from buildings nearby,”.
Given the hostile International (Western) environment against China, I believe that those evidence of “People's Liberation Army soldiers loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops” should worth a lot of money. As an experience journalist, don’t you have the instinct and urged to owe those evidence and make it an exclusive report with worldwide circulation? There are going to be a lot of money $$$ to be made, don’t you think so?
I believe that the above 3 questions are reasonable and if John Garnaut story was credible, he should have no difficulty to provide an answer. However, this is how he replied on the 8 June 2010:
It really is more simple than you think.
The Herald and Age buy stories from wire agencies, like Reuters and AP. Sometimes their stories get interwoven with mine by editors in Sydney or Melbourne and I don't even know that it has happened, so it might look like a jointly written story when it wasn't. For example, I have never heard of Francois Bougon. I reported what I saw, he reported what he saw, it is not surprising that we did not see exactly the same thing.
Unfortunately yours is a conspiratorial mind. You are determined that journalists like myself are simply elements of the "hostile international (western) environment", inventing stories from our imagination, to use your words. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps you believe that you know more about everything that I write about than I do, but perhaps you are not omniscient as you think. Perhaps it's been so long since you really connected with China that you have no idea how it works. Unfortunately I cannot spend more time reasoning with a fanatical anti-western 'patriot' who cannot be reasoned with. I have to get on with reporting China as I see it, with all its courage, colour and sometimes tragedy.
If I sent you the Beichuan photo that you asked for, I would hope that you might then find something more useful to spend your time on. But I suspect that you will invent another conspiracy - or, more likely, continue to recycle old conspiracies from the anti-CNN website as you have been doing - to hurl at me from your own website because it makes you feel important.
As you may observe from the above e-mail statement, John Garnaut has just denied that the Joint Report he made with Francois Bougon in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 15 May 2008 (‘Horror of entire towns flattened’) was not his work.
So I believe that the following questions I posted in my e-mail reply to him dated 9 June 2010 is reasonable and deserve an unambiguous reply.
I would like to put it as Question 4 in this letter as follows:
When you state that “I have never heard of Francois Bougon. I reported what I saw, he reported what he saw, it is not surprising that we did not see exactly the same thing,” are you trying to suggest now that the report on the Sydney Morning Herald on the 15 May 2008 (‘Horror of entire towns flattened’) with your name on it, is not your work? If that is the case, please tell us, the content of your original work? It must have been published somewhere else? Can you please show us the link?
I also would like to ask one more question: did John Garnaut received the commission from his report on the Sydney Morning Herald dated 15 May 2008?
In regard to his other statement: “If I sent you the Beichuan photo that you asked for, I would hope that you might then find something more useful to spend your time on. But I suspect that you will invent another conspiracy”
I would like to post him the 5th question as follows:
Since John Garnaut indicated that he has the “Beichuan photo” that I asked for, I would like him to show us the photo with images showing “People's Liberation Army soldiers loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops”, and then explain to us: Why didn’t he published those photos on:
15 May 2008: (‘Horror of entire towns flattened’)
17 May 2008: (‘Taking a great leap for Wen’)
9 May 2009: (‘Journey through an earthquake’)
Why didn’t any of the 3 photo series produced in the Age website (http://www.theage.com.au/multimedia/china_earthquake/index.html) under John Garnaut name showing “People's Liberation Army soldiers loitering aimlessly and helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops”?
Please bear in mind that the day John Garnaut witnessed “People's Liberation Army soldiers….. helping themselves to goods looted from shattered shops” is on the 14 and 15 May 2008. Why can’t he backed up his claim with photos he claimed to have in his e-mail dated 8 June 2010?
China through a series of political and economic reform has become our biggest trading partner with its national reserve still growing dramatically after the 2008 financial crisis (more than USD2.4 trillion to date). Our A$17 billion dollar education industry is supported by 150,000 Chinese students.
Some of these students may become the future Chinese leaders, and the way our mainstream media treating China with all kind of selective, partial, and distorting news has upset many. The 2008 Chinese student street protest across the country is just an example of resentment and anger.
Media negativity against other culture and countries also resulted in negative behaviour of some of our less inform citizens attitude towards other culture, nationals and migrants in this country. As a result, there are serious racism and racist behaviour both among our political leaderships and some session of the community.
These are the real security risk to Australia future prospect in the Asia pacific region and the world at large.
I believe that John Garnaut through the series of his ‘imaginary’ reports against China have effectively violated all the core and general principles spell out by the Press Council. The intention is Malicious and the effect is toxic. The evidence and logic I have produced so far are solid, and all the 5 questions I raised in this letter deserved an unambiguous reply from the Age. The way, The Age Foreign Editor deleted my e-mail without being read showing that: “dodgy journalism” is the darling of the media.
I hope that the Australia Press Council will take this opportunity to demonstrate to the world that, Australia is serious about:
- “The right of the people to know the truth”
- “Where it is established that a serious inaccuracy has been published, a publication should promptly correct the error, giving the correction due prominence”.
- “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced. They should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers either by omission or commission.”
As you have mentioned in your last e-mail when you rejected my complaint: “He (John Garnaut) is entitled to report what he saw and heard at the time – not all journalists present will have exactly the same experience” indicated that it is not an easy job to prove that a report or reports were dodgy. I have already done the hard work of analysing through strong logic and reasoning and proving beyond reasonable doubt that those reports were dishonest in nature, and a small step from the Press Council will allow the Australian people to know the truth.
Let’s work together to uphold the Press Council core and general principles on Journalism. Let’s defence Australians right to understand other culture through accurate information.
Thank you very much
Hope to hear from you soon with a positive response.
Wei Ling Chua
This is How The Press Council Reply dated 21 July 2010:
Mr Wei Ling Chua
Thank you for your letter of July 20.
I have read your comments but can find no reason to re-open the matter. Your complaint is based on your interpretation of the events; it is not the only interpretation. But more importantly, you seek to raise a matter that is well past the normal time and you do not press any concerns that would make that an issue the Council needs to take up at this late stage.
I can add little to what I said in my June 3 letter. The situation remains the same.
Jack R Herman
ACMA (Australia Communication and Media Authority) is a government body set up to regular the conduct of TV, Radio etc (non printed media). They also have their written code of practice and a 60 days policy.
However, unlike the Australia Press Council, the ACMA’s 60 days policy is not designed to be used to prevent the public from making a legitimate complaint. Their 60 days policy is for the offenders to response to the public complaint within 60 days.
When you go to the Australia Press Council homepage, you will find the item ‘How to make a complaint’ on the left hand side of the homepage. When you place your cursor on the item ‘How to make a complaint’, you are most likely to automatically select the very first item that drop down from the screen. That is ‘Overview’.
Click on the ‘Overview’, and you will find this statement: ‘Complaints must be lodged within sixty days of the initial publication’. Many people may decided to drop off their complaint from this point onward. However, I decided to search every pages, and found this statement: “The Council will only consider waiving this requirement in special circumstances”. It has been obvious to me that, unlike the ACMA, the Australia Press Council has not being sincere in having the public to lodge a complaint and act to upheld its so-called “high journalistic and editorial standards”.
The seriousness of this case is not only about the basic ethic of Journalism has been violated but virtually all the core and general principles of Journalism lay down by the Press Council have been breached.
In my reply to the above Press Council E-mail dated 21 July 2010, I have written the following statement:
“I am not sure how you can interpret those 5 questions I raise in any other way? At least John Garnaut, the first party in the case appear not being able to handle those questions through the content of his recent 3 e-mails to me. I believe that the most objective and impartial thing to do is to ask The Age, the party who published those materials to interpret them for us. Why speculate about the interpretation before the party in the case tell us how they will interpret the 5 questions I asked?”
“The problem with the Age’s account of the stories are that, they not only contradicted tons of other journalists reports on the same event, they even contradicted each other statements including statements made within the same report. All those stories also contradicted the photo and video images produced under the name of John Garnaut on the Age’s photo and video webpage. Therefore, I believe that in the mind of any reasonable people, it is unreasonable to limit the accountability of a series of dodgy reports with such malicious nature to strictly 60 days if the council is serious about upholding the Council core and general principles for Journalism.”
“The outcome of this case required only one simple step from the Council by simply forwarding my properly written letter with an unambiguous point by point evaluation and questions to the Age newspaper for an unambiguous reply and the truth will be out, the Council principles will be upheld and the Australian people right to know the truth will be fulfil. If the Age is not guilty of publishing “invented stories”, their name is clear as well.”
“The materials may be over the 60 days limit, but all the materials are readily in place for analysis including the content of the 3 very recent e-mail from John Garnaut.”
“Please bear in mind that we are dealing with a case of “invented stories”, it is more serious than any of the principles outlined by the Council. To get the truth, it is only one small step from the Council – a few second job. I believe that Australian people would like to know and have the right to demand for an answers from the Age.”
This is how the Council reply on 23 July 2010:
“Thank you for your letter of July 22.
I have read your comments but can still find no reason to re-open the matter. I can add little to what I said in my June 3 and July 21 letters. The situation remains the same. Your complaint is well out of time.
This correspondence is now ended.”
The issue now is: Can we trust our mainstream media? Can we trust a self-regulatory body who served the same interest of the mainstream media to regulate the conduct of the very same interest they served? Should we campaign the government to set up an independent body like the ACMA to defence Australian rights for honest journalism and truthful information?
Anybody with any suggestion, please leave your comment at the end of this article.
Written on 29 July 2010 by www.outcastjournalist.com
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