When you’re banned, it’s hard to get a run in the Murdoch tabloids but
I’ve discovered a new way – lodge a complaint with the Australian Press
Council. Even though the Press Council dismissed the complaint, the following
appeared on page 19 of The Daily Telegraph on Friday under the
headline “Telegraph article is vindicated”.

The Australian Press Council has
dismissed a complaint against The Daily Telegraph from Stephen Mayne concerning
a December 2005 Piers Akerman column in which he was mentioned.

The article discussed the Federal Government’s proposed sedition laws aimed at preventing the ‘urging’ of
violence and argued that journalists would not be caught by them. Mr Akerman continued: “While some media
figures have been arguing for a shield law specifically to exempt the media
from the anti-terrorism laws, it can be argued that almost anyone can call
themselves a journalist these days, as evidenced by the nonsense published by
people claiming to be journalists on websites such as Eric Beecher and Stephen
Mayne’s Crikey.”

In a brief letter to the editor
emailed four days later Mr Mayne wrote: “Piers Akerman blithely opines that
‘almost anyone can call themselves a journalist these days’ and then describes
me as someone ‘claiming to be a journalist’”.

In two following sentences Mr
Mayne outlined his journalistic credentials. The newspaper replied that Mr
Mayne’s complaint was “entirely without substance” and that a careful reading
of the article showed that Mr Akerman did not label Mr Mayne as someone
“claiming to be a journalist”.

The Council agrees with this
interpretation. It does not see any
implication in the column that impugns Mr Mayne’s journalistic credentials. Nonetheless, the Council
believes that, had the newspaper printed a letter from the complainant (the
Council frequently recommends that complainants write letters to the editor to
achieve balance), this matter could have been resolved at the outset.

Given that Crikey has never failed to publish a letter from someone at
News Corporation, it is a bit rich that I’m now batting zero for six in
getting letters to News Ltd published and even had my entire platform
censored when running for the board in 2002.

The Tele’s executive editor Roger Coombs was told at the mediation
in May that if they didn’t run my polite 96-word letter I would run for
the News Corp board again this year. Naturally, the Murdoch power-abusers
never give an inch so the nomination is in although it might be
withdrawn if the Herald Sun lifts its silly six year ban as we count down to the Victorian election on 25 November.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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