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Jul 6, 2012

Defence chiefs condemn News Ltd for naming slain soldier

Defence Force chiefs have slammed the decision by News Limited to publish the name of the Australian Special Forces soldier killed in Afghanistan this week, in scathing letters sent to editors and CEO Kim Williams.

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The Chief of the Army and the Chief of Australia’s Defence Force have slammed the decision by News Limited to publish the name of the Australian Special Forces soldier killed in Afghanistan this week, in scathing letters sent to newspaper editors and CEO Kim Williams.

Editors of News Ltd papers, including the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph, received a “letter to the editor” from Lieutenant General David Morrison calling the decision to make the soldier’s name public in articles published July 4 “unconscionable and un-Australian”.

News Ltd journalist Ian McPhedran published the soldier’s name despite requests from his family to keep it private for the time being, a decision Morrison condemns in his letter to the editors:

“The family in this instance, whose lives are currently consumed with their own grief, had asked Army to wait to release his details so that they could deal with this terrible loss in their way. You have robbed them of this right. Such actions are unconscionable and un-Australian. Our only concern is a desire to look after those of the grieving family of a courageous soldier. Their trust has been betrayed by the selfish act of a journalist intent on being ‘the first’.”

Daily Telegraph deputy editor Mick Carroll confirmed the letter had been received but would answer no further questions. Carroll says via email it is “a matter between us and the army”.

In addition, the Chief of Defence, General David Hurley, contacted Kim Williams to further express the Defence Force’s anger at the publication.

Hurley noted that other media outlets had checked with the department to clarify if it was appropriate for the name to be published, but News Ltd did not:

“In this particular instance, the family requested that Defence withhold the soldier’s name to allow them time to contact extended family and friends. I am dismayed to think that relatives or friends may have learnt about this man’s death in a newspaper.

“At least one media outlet contacted Defence to discuss whether it was appropriate to publish the soldier’s name. News Limited did not and this decision prompted other agencies to follow.

“I accept that some members of the ADF have provided the journalist with details about their comrade but would argue that the media had a moral obligation to handle this information responsibly and uphold the family’s request for time to grieve for a man they love.”

Phedran’s article was published in News Ltd tabloids, while in The Australian a front-page article by Brendan Nicholson and Mark Dodd also made the soldier’s name public on July 4. They wrote: “The Perth-based trooper, named in News Limited papers as …”

Crikey understands News Ltd has formally responded to the letters. Comment has been sought from the company and we will publish their response when it is received.

Amber Jamieson —

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

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46 comments

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46 thoughts on “Defence chiefs condemn News Ltd for naming slain soldier

  1. The Pav

    Mike,

    Neither did I.

  2. Mike Smith

    @Pav: I never supposed ‘harms way’ included copping it from a journalist after you died.

  3. The Pav

    Dear Floorer,

    Re your comment regarding the number of tours.

    How do you view Abbott’s recoent comment that people sign up for the ADF to put themselevs in harm’s way and that it is their duty and that is what they get paid for.

  4. Susan Jarnason

    Curiouser and curiouser…how Mick Carroll the deputy editor demands to be afforded the privacy “between the paper and the army” that he and the journalist in question could not see to offer the grieving family of the solier who died in combat.

    Shoe on the other foot a bit tight and uncomfortable?! Indeed!

  5. Mike Smith

    With luck, Defense will embargo news limited releases by a week from other papers. And the public will boycott news limited papers. But if you look at circulation figures, that’s already happening. Byebye news. don’t let the door hit you in the ar$e on your way out.

  6. floorer

    Ah Fractious into emotive overdrive on a Friday evening understandable but at least you came out to play.

  7. fractious

    Maybe we just don’t agree you sanctimonious tw*t.

    That’s the way. I hope you never lose a loved one or a close mate and have the rabble at Limited News totally ignore your requests they withhold their name until a decent period of mourning has passed. OTOH perhaps I’m wrong and you should hurry up and get that application for a job at Limited News in.

    What the hell is hand waving anyway?

    Never heard of google?

  8. freshly cut grass

    Insensitive and ridiculous reporting by News. However, to hold this up as some sort of an example why this or any other Government of any stripe should regulate the media is ridiculous.

    Government’s should stay well way from media interference, there’s already too much of that happening now and we supposedly live in a fair, free and advanced nation.

    @AR Your point about the soldier returning to Afghanistan to ‘kill’ locals isn’t worthy of reply, beyond expressing my disgust at your comments.

  9. AR

    Disgraceful, except that Mudorcs’s minions wouldn’t understand the concept, but interesting that our tin eared PM & LoO both spoke of “continuing mission”!
    WTF!? Pliz ‘splain.
    On the broader point – this soldier volunteered to return SEVEN times Afghanistan to kill locals?
    How would he have felt were there occupation forces rampaging around Oz?
    Which, given the escalating comments of the shoutjocks, might not be too far off.
    TeaBaggers to the rescue?

  10. floorer

    ‘All those making suggestions about the ADF’s guilt and the morality of repeated tours of duty aren’t just hand-waving, they are entirely missing the point”. / Maybe we just don’t agree you sanctimonious tw*t. What the hell is hand waving anyway? That’s rhetorical.

  11. fractious

    @ Dr Mick

    Marvellous display of restraint, respect and and indefensible up you to everyone.

    Precisely. Not to mention a display of complete contempt for the wishes of the distraught family and insensitivity for the soldier’s mates in the unit he served in.

    All those making suggestions about the ADF’s guilt and the morality of repeated tours of duty aren’t just hand-waving, they are entirely missing the point. Some commenter’s remarks trying vainly to connect this unforgivable lapse on the part of Limited News with Wikileaks are simply contemptible.

    My view FWIW is that Limited News and McPhedran and his immediate “superiors” (for want of a better word) did this because their greed exceeded what withered moral scruples they still retain.

  12. Harry Rogers

    I dont think there are many people who have much regard for newspaper editors when a story is involved.

    When they get older these editors write books about their choices which are also about “mea culpa” . They are basically ingenuous bastards they can rationalise slavery if they wanted.

    Now balance thaat against the Defence Department probably the most ingenuous department in government and thats saying something. The letter from the Department reads of spin as people have rightly said about the use of “unaustralian”.

    Its generally regarded ,by most ex servicemen, that the Defence Department is solely a super spending area that is based on using fear to scare the populus. They also blow zillions on incompetent management of purchase contracts. However you get what you deserve as a citizen. I noticed some comments about Angus Houston regarding his involvement in the Asylum debate.

    Seriously if you look at Houstons dealing with many Defence Department issues would you want him on your side. I dont think so…

  13. Michael de Angelos

    green-orange
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Why should it be private anyway ? Is the ADF ashamed of something ?

    the police do not reveal names of accident or crime victims until the family have spoken to ensure they can tell relatives in their own way.

  14. floorer

    GOCOMSYS / an others. Trolls and you whingeing about trolls is pretty much on par, then commenting about them not being present is just plain bizarre.

  15. Jolyon Wagg

    Green-Orange, here’s a tip: first read the post and then comment.

  16. green-orange

    Why should it be private anyway ? Is the ADF ashamed of something ?

  17. David Hand

    What does “un-Austral ian” mean? Does it mean that the journos at News Ltd are from overseas otherwise they would never commit such a grubby act? Or does it mean that such bast*rdry would routinel y occur in New Zealand? Or maybe we have a constitution being developed that has a clause reading something like “Journal ists will always respect ADF policy or renounce their citizenship? Or is it a hint that the ADF may in future class some sections of the community as not covered by defence force protection through being “un-Austral ian”?

  18. David Hand

    What does “un-Australian” mean? Does it mean that the journos at News Ltd are from overseas otherwise they would never commit such a grubby act? Or does it mean that such bastardry would routinely occur in New Zealand? Or maybe we have a constitution being developed that has a clause reading something like “Journalists will always respect ADF policy or renounce their citizenship? Or is it a hint that the ADF may in future class some sections of the community as not covered by defence force protection through being “un-Australian”?

  19. Gocomsys

    May I express my deep appreciation at this point in time not having to wade through troll manure.
    Good posts, no need to add anything. Thanks. Well done folks! See ya!

  20. Michael de Angelos

    “geomac62
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    What I fail to see is why its considered a scoop to be first to print the name . All media should respect and inquire the immediate family before printing personal details relating to death . I thought it normal procedure .”

    indeed why did News Corp believe that it was newsworthy to titilate it’s readers with a murdered UK girl’s voice mails but they did.

    Or perhaps the under 18 aged Page 3 girl’s topless photos in The Sun (which since 2003 would have many in the organisation charged with producing child p*rn) but the company apparently believes if there is a taste out there to be profited from, they feel justified.

    It’s a corp that has lost it’s moral compass. No wonder Rupert is setting the publishing side adrift. This is a worldwide company that thought there was no problem in attempting to buy the “saucy” tale of Britain’s (incorrectly) believed youngest father aged 14 in 2006 and labelled it’s critics wowsers until the penny dropped that it may be illegal.

    Personally, I will not contribute a penny to a company that has profited from these distasteful tactics, never would or ever will. To do so encourages them.

  21. zut alors

    I’m with Geomac. Apart from the soldier’s family and inner circle, who would be slavering with curiosity to learn the deceased’s name? I doubt that Murdoch readers in their thousands would’ve known the difference if the name had been reported as John Doe.

    It was a senseless and pointless violation of privacy. Murdoch’s scribes should be attending to more important stories such as the estimated value of Suri Cruise’s wardrobe.

  22. drmick

    This is the mob who want self regulation aren’t they? Marvellous display of restraint, respect and and indefensible up you to everyone. Fish and chips reject this rubbish now. Un-Australian? Typical I would have thought

  23. klewso

    “Scooping” again.

  24. David Allen

    Yes cairns50. As soons as I see ‘unAustralian’ I know that the writer/utterer has nothing to say that I’m interested in listening to.

  25. cairns50

    nothing but nothing at all would surprise me about what news ltd papers write

    for that organisation simply has no moral compass

    but i must also ask who in the defence force penned the letter to include unaustralian

    that term is becoming the most badly used phase in our daily lives

    whatever news ltd printed about the soldier it was not unaustralian

    it was morally bankrupt, but what else could one expect from that organisation

    mr williams has obviously not had any lessons in morality or decency from his father in law gough whitlam

  26. geomac62

    What I fail to see is why its considered a scoop to be first to print the name . All media should respect and inquire the immediate family before printing personal details relating to death . I thought it normal procedure .

  27. floorer

    Nothing is going to happen to News Ltd, they thrive on this stuff.

  28. paddy

    While I’d hardly expect News Ltd to be a paragon of decency and consideration for a grieving family. This time they’ve done it to one of their core constituencies.
    I suspect there are a few nervous editors in the News stable right now.
    Management looking to cut costs might seize on this snafu to fire a few.

  29. Stiofan

    Curious to know how many of those now rushing to condemn News are unapologetic supporters of the odious Assange and Wikileaks.

  30. floorer

    Yes Mack you are right and I knew it, but I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition and while I’m no fan of that naughty News Corp I’m sick of Crikey and posters getting another chance to be indignant. A bit of proportion was required.

  31. Michael de Angelos

    The only way to deal with the intransigence and power of media outlets is for a government funded tribunal for ordinary citizens to access for relief as Justice Leveson in the UK has mooted.

    News Ltd have many problems, one being the Slipper matter with the game being given away today as they wail about a summons to a hack to supply emails etc.

  32. Mack the Knife

    Floorer, you’re talking apples and oranges. There’s no relationship between his tours of duty and this reprehensible action by News Limited.

    It seems such a long, long time ago The Australian was the only newspaper I purchased and Nine’s Sunday program was essential viewing.

  33. Tyler T

    *isn’t responsible rather

  34. Tyler T

    no one is suggesting that ultimately the government is responsible for this man’s untimely death. What they are saying is that given the sad circumstance the very least you could ask of a media organisation is to respect the grieving families wishes. News Ltd are far too obsessed with the ‘scoop’ to let a notion like respect get in their way

  35. floorer

    Respect would have been not sending him again an again…..

  36. Jasmin Chill

    Floorer – at least Defence were trying to respect the family’s wishes, unlike McPhedran!

  37. David McRae

    If that was true Madonna Airy, I would expect the response from News Ltd to be near immediate as their defense is solid.

    Instead we have silence and I can only presume that there’s a platoon of lawyers and PR spinsters crafting a response to polish this turd.

    Like Holden Black, either production schedule or they may just go submarine like, go silent, disappear into the depths, and ignore it completely, safe in the knowledge nothing of consequence will come of it – bastards.

  38. floorer

    So the Army sends this guy into action for the seventh time, his number comes up and News Ltd is the one in trouble.

  39. Andrew McIntosh

    Not a good look in the eyes of News’s normally conservative readership, I would guess.

  40. Tyler T

    disgraceful but all too typical of News Ltds utter arrogance and lack of respect for any other institution

  41. Madonna Airey

    I’d prefer to suspend judgement until news limited’s reply is made available.
    Who knows if a journalist made direct contact with deceased soldiers family before releasing the article.

  42. Holden Back

    Small wager with self on the blame being put on some production schedule.

  43. negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com

    More Murdoch newspaper arrogance – whether it is this or Millie Dowler.

  44. MJPC

    If NEWS Ltd responded to the letters, was it in the format of the Leters to the Editor column, to exhibit to their esteemed readers the lack of moral fibre and compassion the editors of their rags have?
    Pardon the pun, yet more ammunition for Sen Conroy’s legislation into media.
    Funny how people said the phone hacking acandel could not be happening in Australia, yet repeated actions by News Ltd rags say everything to the contrary- any news at any cost.

  45. NQAussie

    simply another `up you lot` from an organisation that is desperate for readers, who would come from the lot they have just insulted!

  46. Liz A

    Poor General Hurley, he is clearly deluded, linking the terms “moral obligation” and News Limited. Surely he realises that these two states are oil and water?

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