Some unkind souls have accused Murdoch newspapers, The Australian in particular, of whipping up unnecessary fear and loathing about terrorism and Muslims.

And while scaremongering is a tried and true shtick for selling papers, and though The Oz does tend to see terrorists lurking everywhere, the generous spirits at Crikey are reluctant to direct such allegations at the national daily.

Still, it might be as well for the paper’s good name and reputation if they remembered that the internet is still around and that source material for follow-ups and beat-ups alike is only a click away.

Take a story on today’s front page which originated in another of the Sun King’s organs, The Sunday Times. It reported yesterday that “London bombers were initially ordered by al-Qaeda to assassinate the England and Australia cricket teams during the 2005 Ashes, a friend of one of the terrorists has claimed.”

Notice the use of “claimed” in that sentence, and that the Times has attributed this report, as yet unconfirmed by security sources, to just one person – a “friend” of the terrorists. The story was comparatively short, back in the paper and the headline says the “bombers may have planned to kill cricket teams”.

Now, someone at The Oz obviously felt that was no way to report a possible, unconfirmed, from a source once-removed, past its use-by date terror scare that didn’t happen and now can’t happen because the would-be perpetrators are dead, having blown themselves up on in the 7 July London attacks.

No sirree. This is how you do it: “Al-Qaeda plotted to murder the entire Australian cricket team in their change rooms during last year’s Ashes tour of Britain using sarin nerve gas sprayed by the men who bombed the London Underground.”

No ifs, buts or maybes about that lot. Nor in the “Al-Qaeda plotted Ashes gas attack” headline. Even though the expert the paper went to for further comment, Dr Rohan Gunaratna, said “some of the information supplied by the newspaper’s source was incorrect”.

Readers should be afraid, very afraid. Whether that is afraid of what is happening in the world, or afraid of how it is reported to them by The Australian, is something they can best judge.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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