Following publication of a series of false and malicious articles, flagrantly abusing a member of the public, the Australian Press Council (APC) has today meekly declared support for its fiscal patron, Fairfax Media: “The Council has not been provided with any evidence which was sufficiently decisive to require that a correction be published.“
So, what’s new, you may wonder. This duplicitous and opprobrious organization is entirely funded by those it is charged to investigate. Its track record on issues like Schapelle Corby is that of 100% support for its financial benefactors. Demonstrably, it protects them, come what may, however stark the lie, however repugnant the smear.
What’s new, is that this time, the complainant logged everything. She kept all correspondence. She transcribed every conversation. She recorded the details of every twist and turn, and the name of every individual involved.
The result of this is the cast iron proof that the APC is disingenuous, deceptive, and fraudulent in nature. It serves the needs of those who finance it, whilst creating the illusion of self-regulation. Its disposition is as wilful as it is dishonest.
The grizzly details of its latest turgid betrayal of integrity and function follow. Contents:
A Question Of Timing
The Australian Press Council: The Schapelle Corby Case
The Australian Press Council: The Issue Of Funding
The Australian Press Council: The Complaint & Investigation
The Australian Press Council: Censorship Of Central Evidence
The Australian Press Council: The Fairfax Media Old Boys Club
The Australian Press Council: Malcolm Turnbull
The Australian Press Council: General Complaints
The National Implications
THE COMPLAINT: CONTEXT AND COLLATERAL DAMAGE
The original complaint related to two articles published by Fairfax Media in 2014, which patently constituted outright abuse and vilification of a member of the public. Specifically, they were littered with fabrications, lies and smears. However, to understand why Fairfax Media staff produced such objectionable and unacceptable material, it is necessary to appreciate the pattern of reporting on the case to which they relate.
Fairfax Media’s reporting on the Schapelle Corby case, has, over a number of years, been aggressively hostile. It has published an entire catalogue of fictional and abusive material, much of it under the cover of her dead father (dead men can’t sue). This has centred around a Fairfax Media journalist called Eamonn Duff, who produced a book of hugely damaging fiction, which has been found, by the Federal Court, to have flagrantly breached copyright law, by cruelly publishing Corby family photos next to the most appalling of false allegations. Subsequently, substantial damages were awarded via the Supreme Court for multiple defamations against multiple parties. Having been thus exposed, it was unceremoniously pulped by the publisher, but the damage had been done.
The Fairfax Media position was consistent throughout, and remains so to this day. Rallying around one of its own staff, every opportunity to spin supportive vitriol has been exploited, every development has been twisted and turned, and every possible technique has been deployed to misrepresent and vilify. This media group became a campaigning organ to support Duff, and to discredit and undermine Schapelle Corby and her family, particularly during the long period in which the legal actions against him were pending.
Anyone who found themselves in the firing line, by supporting the Corby family, or by opposing Duff’s manufactured and defamatory material, became fair-game. Hence, the Fairfax Media abuses of Kim Bax (Psychiatric Nurse), Diane Frola (Magazine Editor), Gerry Georgatos (Writer & Humanitarian), Kathryn Bonella (Author) and a variety of others. An entire group of people became collateral damage in Fairfax Media’s ugly and vindictive pursuit of Schapelle Corby and her family.
A QUESTION OF TIMING
It is important to appreciate both the scale and the long-term nature of this context. The sheer volume of Fairfax Media reports, which were hostile and abusive of Schapelle Corby, her family, and her supporters, is unprecedented in the modern era. Hundreds, possibly thousands of articles have been published, which are transparent in their intent to malign and undermine.
In this respect, this report makes essential reading. It examines every Fairfax Media report published during the first four months of 2014, including those referred to the APC: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzzhMgzZm3myYjRWRmlHVUV0VFk/view?usp=sharing
The timing of the abuses is also of relevance. The two APC-referred articles were published during the period of Schapelle Corby’s release on parole, and just days after her mother first appeared in public wearing a t-shirt bearing the URL of the Expendable Project’s website (www.expendable.tv) and a reference to Duff’s and Fairfax Media’s damaging fiction, “Dead Men Can’t Sue”.
Why is the Expendable Project’s website of importance?
It is important because it holds dozens of pages of content which document the entire catalogue of abuses by Fairfax Media. It must also have glaringly obvious to Fairfax Media’s staff that there was every prospect that Schapelle Corby would use an interview on national television to draw attention to this.
The motive to discredit it, by whatever means were available, is therefore, absolutely clear. Pretending that the website, and the material on it, didn’t exist, looked increasingly like it may no longer be an option.
The route chosen by Fairfax Media was predictable. The huge cache of official FOI data it held could not be referred to as what it was: direct factual information obtained from government. Instead, it had to be labelled as a “conspiracy theory”. Anyone supporting it had to be presented as unbalanced, or a “fanatic”. Mud had to be thrown, and the full force of the Fairfax Media organization was immediately engaged in throwing it.
This is the noxious agenda into which magazine editor, Diane Frola, innocently walked.
The reports linked her to the Expendable Project through ludicrous exaggeration and entirely false allegations. They then smeared her with outright lies and vitriol, to undermine, by association, the Expendable Project material which demonstrated Fairfax Media’s long term abuses of Schapelle Corby.
The actual abuse of Ms Frola was crude and infantile, and of course, was absolutely unfounded: “Queensland UFO fanatic, anti-vaccine crusader, fluoride sceptic and conspiracy theorist”. The same applies to the other individuals who were similarly linked and targeted.
This was direct vilification of anyone who could be used to undermine public perception of a data cache which exposed Eamonn Duff’s false narrative and Fairfax Media’s clear malfeasance. Given the ongoing defamation cases, many observers have also suggested that it may have constituted contempt of court.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: THE SCHAPELLE CORBY CASE
Over the years, the Australian Press Council has ignored dozens of complaints regarding media reporting on the Schapelle Corby case. Where it has been forced to apply process, it has, without exception, supported the publishers. The latest example of this came in December 2014, with respect to a complaint made about an outright fabrication published about Schapelle Corby’s mother, Rosleigh Rose.
This was part of a typical Fairfax Media onslaught, comprising entirely of manufactured fiction, but presented as news. This highly irresponsible diatribe began the process of false speculation regarding media payment for an interview with Schapelle Corby. It plucked ridiculous figures from thin air, which helped to set an agenda which eventually led to a further human rights abuse, in the form of an illegal gagging order.
Part of this damaging fiction was the false allegation that Rosleigh Rose “even allowed the (Seven) network to fly her to Bali”. This was, bluntly, another Fairfax Media lie. Rosleigh even presented her bank statement to the APC to prove it.
Fairfax Media did what Fairfax Media does: it hid behind the skirt of the anonymity of sources. It totally abused the protection offered to journalists with respect to confidentiality by spinning a cover story around this concession.
In the APC’s words: “It said the statement about Ms Rose’s flight was based on two independent sources, each of whom was directly involved in the matter and had knowledge of the flight arrangements. These sources refused to provide details of the method of payment for the flight, lest they risk damage to their relationship with the Corby family. The publication said it had no evidence to refute the sources and the publication’s strained relationship with the family weakened its capacity to communicate with Ms Rose.”
In other words, to back up its lie about Rosleigh Rose, Fairfax Media offered no documentation at all. It cobbled together a story about sources it wouldn’t name (presumably because they didn’t exist) and brazenly refused to accept that it had been nailed. It presented no substantive evidence at all.
Weighing the actual bank statement and documentation provided by Rosleigh against the obvious bluster of Fairfax Media, it did what it always does. It supported Fairfax Media. It again endorsed flagrant lies.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: THE ISSUE OF FUNDING
Given the multitude of examples of such Press Council impropriety, a closer examination of this media funded enterprise is not only long overdue, but is a matter of public interest.
The APC has been asked repeatedly, by Ms Frola, and others, to disclose its revenue sources. Specifically, it has been asked how much it has received each year from Fairfax Media.
It has consistently refused to offer any transparency whatsoever.
The actual figures, which represent substantial sums, are hidden, and remain a secret. The APC has refused to discuss the issue. In most cases, it simply ignored the question.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: THE COMPLAINT & INVESTIGATION
Ms Frola submitted her complaint on 8th February 2014. It was rejected, as APC staff sought to brush it under the carpet, and refused to refer it for investigation or to its adjudication ‘panel’.
She appealed. After numerous exchanges, over a lengthy period, during which it became clear that her complaint was unwanted, it was finally accepted for further scrutiny.
As a result of this struggle, she had already been cast as an outsider, whose approach was unwelcome. Nonetheless, she continued unabated. She fully documented her response to each of the lies and smears which had been published by Fairfax Media, and submitted it.
Months later, the APC provided her with an abridged version of Fairfax Media’s response. This was a catalogue of further fabrication and deceit. As with the Rosleigh Rose complaint, above, Fairfax Media presented another catalogue of fiction to cover for its original lies.
In response, Ms Frola wrote a 13 page report, covering each and every false statement, including those within the Fairfax Media response to the APC. She supported this with a number of documents and direct items of evidence. This was submitted to the APC’s secretariat, along with a note which explained its central importance to her case. This was the fundamental and core item, the narrative which actually presented the case itself.
At this point, clearly under pressure, the APC began to introduce further difficulties, in terms of what she was and was not allowed to submit. The process of censoring direct evidential material had begun.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: CENSORSHIP OF CENTRAL EVIDENCE
She was informed that her 13 page submission would be censored from the APC’s adjudication panel. The panel would not be allowed to see her case. The clear and unambiguous but short document, which conclusively countered and evidenced Fairfax Media’s abuse and lies, both to the public in the original article, and to the APC itself, would not be seen by those who would determine the outcome.
Ms Frola protested, repeatedly, at this affront to natural justice, but to no avail. Her evidence, and the critical details of her case, were to remain hidden.
She was then told that she must engage in a telephone conference with the panel, for it to proceed at all. She would be allowed 5 minutes at the start to put her case. Clearly, there was no possibility that 13 pages of incisive text could be conveyed, in a hostile environment, in 5 minutes. She made this point repeatedly, again to no avail.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: THE FAIRFAX MEDIA OLD BOYS CLUB
At this point, another scandal emerged. The composition of the panel itself was entirely skewed. It comprised largely of Fairfax Media associates! There wasn’t even the pretence that it was independent. She was confronted with what was, in effect, a Fairfax Media old boys club.
She therefore spent her 5 minutes explaining that the central evidence was being censored from them, that the playing field was not level, and that there was, therefore, little prospect of a just outcome. She then left the teleconference.
The next day, she dispatched the following letter:
As you are aware, yesterday, I used my opening statement to read the words below, which are an accurate representation of the stilted process to which I have been subjected by the Press Council. I then left the teleconference.
Given that the Press Council secretariat, point blank, refused to allow my case and evidence to be provided to the panel, it was absolutely clear that the playing field was tilted, and that this was fundamentally contrary to the concept of natural justice.
For me to continue could have been presented by Fairfax Media as an endorsement of what, in practice, were manifestly unfair proceedings. Further, I did not wish to subject myself to the pain of Fairfax Media insulting me and lying about me again, particularly as the proof of their dishonesty and duplicity had been censored.
The panel itself was presented as two public members (Dr Suzanne Martin and John Bedwell) and the following individuals:
- Julian Disney, Chair (directly responsible for censoring out my evidence and case)
- Alan Kennedy (19 years spent at The Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media)
- Peter Kerr (Executive Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media, until 2012)
- Russell Robinson (occasional contributor to Fairfax Media publications)
I wonder how many would consider that to be an appropriate panel to assess serious abuse and fabrication by Fairfax Media?
I would note in this context, that the abuse itself was perpetrated in support of, and partially by, a Fairfax Media journalist whose own external published material (on the same story) was subject to multiple defamation actions, including by a personal friend of mine. The outcome of some of these cases is now known, of course, and substantial damages have already been paid. I would suggest that this, in itself, raises a number of serious questions.
I also have to state that your non-reaction to the additional lies they told directly to yourselves, in their submission, which were unraveled in my censored evidence, astonished me. That was the point at which I realized how slim the prospects of a just outcome actually were.
What Fairfax Media did to me was devastating. It was wilful and despicable. However, that the Press Council should compound this, by subjecting me to this hurtful and unsupportive process, goes some way to explain why they felt confident enough to engage in such damaging abuse.
Furthermore, it also helps to sustain the conditions in which other members of the public may be similarly vilified in the future. Fairfax Media appear to have a carte blanche to insult, fabricate and abuse members of the public at will.
Little wonder that you told me that I wasn't allowed to have a lawyer with me.
The only positive in lodging this complaint is that I now understand how they get away with it, and have a small inkling of what Schapelle Corby's family has endured at the hands of Fairfax Media journalists for so many years.
Regrettably, the Press Council itself bears much of the responsibility.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: MALCOLM TURNBULL
The numerous attempts to stop the complaint proceeding, the point-blank refusal to allow the central evidence to be submitted to the panel, and the panel itself comprising largely of Fairfax Media associates, made any prospect of a fair outcome impossible.
The whole process was clearly constructed to support the APC’s own benefactor, Fairfax Media. The complainant was isolated, blocked repeatedly, and denied any semblance of support or natural justice.
This is the nature of the Australian Press Council, and it is quite clearly, disingenuous and corrupt.
It is absolutely clear that, with respect to Schapelle Corby, her family and supporters, Fairfax Media can publish direct lies, can vilify, and can openly abuse members of the public without any fear of censure. It can spin the most ridiculous fabrications to the APC to support this, which are accepted without question. It is, in practice, wholly unregulated.
The Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, whose remit this plainly compromised organization falls under, was therefore approached. His response was perhaps predictable, given his government’s own misconduct on the case. He simply passed the buck, back to… the APC:
The last word is rightfully reserved for Ms Frola, who courageously confronted this myriad of self-interest and corruption, despite such personal cost. This week she informed the Press Council that:
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL: GENERAL COMPLAINTS
Over the years complaints have been lodged, by a significant number of individuals, regarding the entire catalogue of abuses perpetrated by Fairfax Media with respect to the Schapelle Corby case. On occasion, dozens of Fairfax Media reports have been collated and submitted to demonstrate the overall agenda of hostility, and of the relentless support for Eamonn Duff’s damaging and defamatory fiction.
These have invariably been rejected outright, with the following constituting a typical Press Council response.
In every case, the door has been firmly slammed, with complaints often ignored completely.
For the record, as suggested by the APC, Fairfax Media has been contacted directly on many occasions. This is an example of a response received by a member of the public, who had complained about Eamonn Duff’s activities:
THE NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS
The implications of all this should concern every citizen. The Australian media is the least accountable in any western democracy. It is the most corrupt and unethical, and the most prone to censorship. It is not serving democracy at all, but rather, is undermining it, a situation wholeheartedly supported by the government itself.
Within Fairfax Media, this sustains a certain culture: not just a cheque-book and gutter culture, but a culture of sneering disdain, of gratuitous back slapping, and most importantly, of fundamental prejudice. This is entrenched and it continues unabated to this day.
Regarding the APC, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Demonstrably, it is corrupt; a charade, created by the media itself to maintain the status quo. It routinely underpins and supports the most abusive and destructive of journalism, and is manifestly a significant part of the problem.
The public, the people of Australia, must one day overcome this, not only to call those responsible to account, but to create a free press worthy of the name. Regrettably, given the obvious indifference of Canberra, this is unlikely to occur any time soon.
The Australian Press Council
The following article was published across social media in April 2014. It provides a detailed analysis of the role of the Australian Press Council, with respect to the media abuses of Schapelle Corby, her family, and supporters.
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