Occident Prone

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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of press’

Journalist’s contempt or contempt for journalists?

Posted by occidentprone on July 7, 2008

Refusing to name sources could land a Sunday Times journalist in jail.

ABC reports that Paul Lampathakis today appeared before an Upper House committee investigating the April raid on the Times‘ offices.

(Lampathakis)  refused to answer questions on who leaked confidential Cabinet information to him that formed the basis of his story.

The Chairman of the Select Committee George Cash told Mr Lampathakis that his refusal to answer the question could amount to a contempt of the Parliament punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Mr Cash also warned it could be regarded as a breach of the Criminal Code which would carry a penalty of two years imprisonment or a $24,000 fine.

Mr Cash said the Upper House would need to consider the matter when it next sits.

Lampathakis is cause celebre at Mothership Murdoch and PerthNow

Mr Lampathakis was asked three times to name the whistleblower and three times he refused to answer. 

Mr Lampathakis also declined to answer questions which could identify the source of the information used in the story, saying it was not relevant to the committee’s terms of reference and went against the journalistic code of ethics which protected the identity of whistleblowers.

…During the hearing, committee member Adele Farina asked Mr Lampathakis if he believed he or his sources were above the law, to which he answered no.

She also asked the reporter if he would protect the identity of a source if he knew that person was going to commit murder.

Mr Lampathakis rejected the comparision between a “horrible crime” and a political story.

Let’s think about this. Breaching cabinet confidentiality is an offence. Except if it’s in the government’s interests presumably? Like pre-budget leaks. But what harm has been done to the government in this case apart from ministerial pride injured?

Journalists do not have the protection afforded doctors and priests and lawyers – and nor should they. And many are not living up to community expectations of them but that does not justify witchhunts. Hopefully the community will resist the newsstands and switch off the telly when the service is not ethical and not up to scratch but the community should still expect that their news is not censored in any way – by government or self-censored by a cowed media. 

  • View the MEAA’s journalist’s code of ethics here and count the ways this state’s newspapers, telly, radio and net media can improve.

Posted in Media, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Pork barrelling on press freedom

Posted by occidentprone on July 7, 2008

What’s the best way to kick off an election campaign? Sweeten up the journalists covering it. 

The government of Alan Carpenter, former reporter and telly host, is raising the promise of shield laws for the media if the government is re-elected, says The Australian.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance claims to have a commitment from state Attorney-General Jim McGinty that laws to protect ethical journalists will be introduced in the first term of parliament if Labor is returned at the next election.

MEAA state secretary Michael Sinclair-Jones said protection for journalists and their sources was paramount.

“This is something that has to be addressed immediately,” he said. “It’s something totally unacceptable that journalists should be hauled off to secret inquiries and threatened with three years’ jail and $60,000 fines for doing their job properly.”

In Western Australia, journalists and others can be compelled by the Corruption and Crime Commission to attend secret hearings.

They are forbidden from telling anyone, including their employer or families, and face three years’ jail and a $60,000 fine if they do so.

The CCC also has the power to force a journalist to reveal their sources or face contempt charges.

Mr Sinclair-Jones said the push for the shield laws was because of the CCC’s activities. “It’s absolutely unprecedented,” he said.

Early yesterday, Mr McGinty said he supported the shield laws but would not be drawn on a timeline.

Note the key word “ethical” as in “laws to protect ethical journalists”. Who is judge and jury on this ethical business? The government? The CCC?

And why should press freedom be an election campaign issue instead of a basic rights issue in a modern western democracy? Like sports stadium funding and tax promises?

Posted in Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Plus ca change …

Posted by occidentprone on July 3, 2008

After a week at Promises Promises rehab learning anger management and gas minimisation techniques, I am back in action. There was lots of group where we shared our feelings and chanted “this is not my fault” and “someone else is to blame”  but no internet or newstainment.

So imagine my surprise to find Belinda Neal still drawing attention to herself on the news sites and more oxygen used on Apache developments. It’s enough to make you hit the bottle.

On the news news front:

Schapelle Corby has collapsed after an outing to a beautician. I’ve heard waxing can have that affect – and don’t get me started on electrolysis of facial hair. Actually someone with sensitive cuticles – and Schapelle is a delicate flower – can find pedicure a painful thing. Now, what to do with all the sick pedicurists lingering in Australian jails?

Channel 31 has found its white knight, a businessman who has stumped up dosh to keep community telly alive in Perth. “The station’s board believes the money will be enough to keep the station afloat for another 18 months, by which time it expects the Federal Government will be ready to switch it to the digital spectrum.” (Source: ABC)

WA Police allege that chasing Cabinet leaks is a low priority compared with … say … child abuse. According to The Australian: 

Police have been criticised over the April 30 raid on Perth’s Sunday Times newspaper, which was prompted by a complaint from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The raid, which at its peak involved more than 25 police officers, was recently labelled a “considerable overreaction” by Premier Alan Carpenter’s chief of staff Keiran Murphy in evidence to a parliamentary inquiry. It has also sparked friction between police and the Corruption and Crime Commission about the roles and responsibilities of both crime-fighting bodies.

Mr O’Callaghan said that following the high level of public debate over the raid, investigating cabinet leaks would probably no longer be a police priority.

“My view is that we probably should not have got involved in it in the first place,” he told the ABC.

“Now this whole thing has come to a head, and has been the subject of much public debate, in hindsight it looks like police would be better off not doing this sort of work at all.

“We will certainly triage it and prioritise whether it is something we will put at the top of our list or whether there are more important things to do.

“For argument’s sake, there are many child abuse cases to be investigated in Western Australia at the moment, and I think the community would rather us go after the perpetrators of those offences than try to track down leaks out of parliament or cabinet.”

Major Fraud Squad officers executed a search warrant on the newspaper after journalist Paul Lampathakis revealed a request from Treasurer Eric Ripper for $16 million to pay for campaign advertising.

Now that’s sobering.

Posted in Diversions, Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fairfax or fair go?

Posted by occidentprone on June 10, 2008

Fairfax Digital is giving The West Australian a run with the launch of WA Today. And Alan Carpenter, despite claiming he has no untoward relationship with Fairfax, lent his name and clout by launching the website.

There’s gold in them thar advertisements for a quality news website in WA. Money is flying thick and fast in the west and the masses are hungry for a proper website with proper news and proper online classifieds. The West has just realised what it could lose and this very week re-launched its own site which visually at least now resembles a real news site. But too little too late.

WA Today says it will feature scribblings by Fiona Stanley, Patti Chong and … Howard Sattler. Stanley and Chong are beloved by West Australians and will draw the high-end readers but it’s a bit rich to describe verbal thug Sattler as a social commentator.  He’s in the Fairfax stable so I guess they had to find a use for him. They also list blogs that cover the usual ho-hum ground – “a wry look at the week’s news” and what appears to be a Sex And The City wannabe, Daile Pepper. 

At first glance it’s good to see space and emphasis on the front page given to the regions – Albany, Kalgoorlie, Busselton etc. Fairfax’s Rural Press cohorts are no doubt having more blood squeezed from their stone – they’d be used to it by now and at least they are getting a wider readership (and more importantly better exposure for their overworked, underpaid bylines).

The Australian, pretending to be an unbiased observer, details the West-Carpenter stoush and how Fairfax will warm the Premier’s toes in their new relationship:

An internal memo obtained by The Australian referred to a meeting late last year at the West Australian Government offices between senior Fairfax Digital executive Pippa Leary, and officials from the WA Government, a key potential advertiser on the site.

The memo — written by Paul Giles, then acting manager of strategic communications for the WA Government’s Media Office — stirred controversy by mentioning that the meeting would discuss “news format, editorial stance and media mix along with advertising opportunities, promotional activity and other matters of interest”. 

Mr Giles’ note to his staff also stated, in clear reference to The West Australian: “Perth deserves a reputable, fresh and unbiased news service, so your input will help ensure it provides all that is lacking.” 

However, at the time, the head of Fairfax Digital, Jack Matthews, denied the memo meant Fairfax’s views were for sale to the WA Government. “If there is anything Fairfax Media has stood for over 175 years, it’s that nobody buys our editorial position,” he said.

Did we mention there’s an election this year? 

Posted in Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Fran the man wants a gag

Posted by occidentprone on May 27, 2008

Despite the name, Fran Logan is a man. Well, he’s male but we’re not sure how much of a man he is. Is it manly to proposition subordinates to join him in a threesome? It was a joke, he says. What a wheeze. The alleged propositionee says she was offended, although it has taken three years for that offence to go public.

Fran Logan is the West Australian Minister for Energy, Resources, Industry and Enterprise. A menage a trois implies he has the energy and maybe even enterprise. But Minister for Wishful Thinking would be more accurate. Or Minister for No Way On This Earth You Filthy Old … His press secretary is right now earning every penny, combing over every salacious detail and alleged detail looking for the right degree of spin.

Just when you thought WA politics couldn’t get any sadder or sink any lower a minister of the Crown plumbs new depths – and is threatening to sue for reporting it.

The West Australian says today that Logan:

has hired one of Australia’s biggest law firms in an apparent bid to gag debate about his offer of a “threesome” to a Government adviser, threatening last night to take legal action against The West Australian if it continued to pursue the issue or refer to the matter again. 

Does that gag extend to blogs? And what does reporting of the “issue” mean? What about reporting that it was reported? What about printing his denials? What about discussing the joke he says it was in the broader context of the joke that is WA politics right now? 

It is another try from among the WA Government to muffle debate and discussion and it is a push that should be resisted from both mainstream media and from blogniks. So stand up and expose! (We’re talking to the media not you politicians, we’ve seen enough of you already.)

Talk about enough to make you gag …

Posted in Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Premier Carpenter talks press freedom from Siberia

Posted by occidentprone on May 3, 2008

West Australian premier Alan Carpenter is reported in The Australian as commenting on last week’s raid on The Sunday Times. Carpenter was in Siberia – no really, he was in that cold part of the former Soviet Union where dissidents and those committing crimes against the state were sent. That same Siberia which became a byword for extreme punishment in exile.

The Australian:

Mr Carpenter said Treasurer Eric Ripper “may have been annoyed” on February 10 when he read the Sunday Times report revealing his plans to use $16 million of taxpayers’ money for Labor’s re-election campaign, but he said his department was required by law to complain to authorities when it suspected the leak of a confidential document to the media.

“I understand why the Sunday Times journalists would feel as though this is completely unfair and of course I would be responding with the same sentiment but this response has not come … as a direction from me or any minister as far as I’m aware,” Mr Carpenter, a former journalist, told ABC radio from Siberia, where he was completing a trade visit.

“There is no way that we’d direct the police to respond in that way.”

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance national secretary Chris Warren yesterday described the Government’s stance as breathtaking hypocrisy, saying the Carpenter Government was aware of the push for shield laws for journalists.

“They could go into parliament at any time and seek to amend the law and they choose not to,” he said.

The raid on The Sunday Times on Wednesday by 16 members of the Major Fraud Squad has further strained the Government’s rapport with the media.

In the metaphorical Siberia we find Troy Buswell, who admits to The West Australian that more sordid details of his escapades could emerge. That’s the problem with a life lived large – so many of the best drunken memories are hard to remember.

“I’m a robust character,” he says. Well so is Sir Les Patterson, but we don’t want his leery, drunken visage as our premier.


Posted in Media, Perth, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Watch out blogniks, you could be next

Posted by occidentprone on May 1, 2008

The Carpenter state government is full of surprises, not least its attitude to journalists. Alan Carpenter was a good and respected journalist who had worked in both print and electronic media, culminating in hosting the Perth 7.30 Report for ABC TV. And yet his government seems to treat journalists with contempt.

Yesterday we saw another example. The Sunday Times had its offices raided and a lockdown ensued. How dramatic. The paper says a reporter, one Paul Lampathakis, had written an exclusive in February which sparked yesterday’s raid by the major fraud squad. We’ll leave the tabloid descriptions of the raid to those who do it best, in this case paper’s affiliated website, Perth Now:

Police searching Lampathakis’ desk were requested to take particular note of anything from the “expenditure review committee”, which is chaired by Treasurer Eric Ripper.

The warrant executed by police was for: “Any and all documents pertaining to the information held by The Sunday Timesemployees pertaining to the investigation conducted for the article titled ‘Bid to buy Labor win: Ripper wants $16m for poll’, published on page 3 of The Sunday Times, 10th February 2008, including source details, notebook entries, records of conversation, editorial notes, scribings, telephone records, any form of recording (electronic or otherwise) and records of conversation.”

Staff were told by Detective Sergeant Alan Jane that police had been posted on all the building’s exits.

Anyone who left would have their names and details taken and would be searched in a “non-invasive” way for the items on the warrant.

Whatever you think of the paper, its style of reporting the facts (or not) and the government, this is really important stuff for us all to be thinking about.

If you want your news served up without fear or favour, if your want your favourite papers and TV stations – and bloggers – to be courageous and uncowed by the state, to bring you the facts untainted by spin, unhindered by censorship take notice of what is going on.

Attorney-General Jim McGinty has also taken on the media in this state. He has blackbanned reporters from The West Australian and Lampathakis from advance notice of media events. McGinty, whose own daughter was once an industrial organiser for the journalists’ union MEAA, has drawn himself to full height to confront The West and its editor.

Alan Carpenter, while giving his imprimatur to two journalists – Reece Whitby and Karen Brown – for preselection in the next election, has given Kerry Stokes the nod of approval to further concentrate media in this state because of his government’s running beef with the monopoly daily. Stokes failed but is not likely to slink under a rock so we will have to wait and see on the fate of The West.

No one expects a government and the fourth estate to have a mateship – that’s just wrong. They should be keen adversaries, aggressive enemies even. And the ministers are right when they think some sections of the Perth media are biased and out to get them. But when the government starts a war on the media, it is an assault not just on one reporter, or editor or newspaper. Watch out West blogniks – you could be next.

Posted in Media, Perth | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »