Wednesday, July 22, 2009

PM questions Murdoch's role in Australia's democracy

Finally, apart from Jonathan Holmes, someone else points the finger at Murdoch:

Alex Mitchell reports on the "Real Utegate Scandal" in 'New Matilda':

"... Over four extraordinary days in late June, Rupert Murdoch's flagship, The Australian, and his capital city dailies in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide waged war on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan — armed only with a forged email..."
In his article, Mitchell says it is the first time in living memory an Australian PM has criticised the Murdoch press, and links to the transcript of a press conference held on 2 July:

"...It may simply be that what people want is just some basic answers as to how that might have happened, that’s a pretty basic thing.

The other thing I saw the Chief Executive of your own news organisation do yesterday was, in responding to this, indicate that somehow the Deputy Prime Minister was raising these matters because she’d felt set upon by your newspaper over the coverage of the Building the Education Revolution stuff. Well, all’s fair in love and war, I mean, you guys will take whatever editorial position you want on the Building the Education Revolution and that’s been the case.

I noticed when the Deputy Prime Minister in Parliament a week or so ago raised systematically questions of the accuracy of your newspaper’s reporting on various of the case studies it sought to advance in the implementation of the school modernisation program on the ground and said that they were wrong, that the response from your branch of News Ltd was to the, shall I say, up the ante for several days following that and engage in what I can only describe as a good old exercise in journalistic retaliation.

So when I saw yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister’s motives being brought into account on this and saying that she might be retaliating against News Ltd because of the coverage that week, it may simply be that her interest, like a whole bunch of people out in the public, would be, how is it that the Murdoch press got something so fundamentally wrong and what were the journalistic standards which applied? These are just basic questions which we – I haven’t heard anything from the three editors in question, I haven’t seen any statement from them, but I did see that the Chief Executive of News Ltd organisation said yesterday that it was all fine and dandy.

I think on these sort of things, and given your question is about transparency, I think it’s good that we have a general discussion about these things. I think it’s important because of the role of your particular newspapers in the overall fabric of the Australian democracy, and I’d hate to see a stage where we got to in national political life whereby we as political leaders couldn’t say that X, Y and Z has been wrongly reported and ask why, and then for the standard response to be ‘you can’t answer that because – you can’t ask that question because you’ve got a glass jaw’.

Or on top of that, to fear that in asking that, you’re going to invite retaliation from the newspapers in question. Now I don’t think that’d be very healthy in anyone’s democracy, least of all ours.

Thanks folks..."

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