Jul 30, 2010

Indigenous Times publishing spin from discredited operator

In the modern world of online news and information it appears it's one thing to put out a wildly inaccurate and possibly defamatory spray on the web -- but another to entirely to print it in a newspaper.

Bob Gosford — Editor of The Northern Myth

Bob Gosford

Editor of The Northern Myth

On July 10 this year Crikey received from a Michael Anderson a press release that made several serious allegations against the Indigenous Land Corporation (the ILC), a statutory authority created with the primary purpose of: "... assist[ing] indigenous people with land acquisition and land management to achieve economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits ..." The press release, entitled "ILC accused of defrauding Aboriginal people" opened with a statement that:
"Aboriginal people across Australia are expressing great concerns and anger at the operations of the government’s Indigenous Land Corporation ..."
The email goes on to make several allegations of fraudulent conduct by the ILC, including in relation to a large property in western New South Wales known as Haythorpe Station and Roebuck Station in Western Australia, the ILC’s dealings with which were described as being "... corruption of the highest order". The press release also made allegations of conflict of interest and official misconduct against the chair of the ILC, Shirley McPherson. The email is one of an irregular series of sprays Crikey has received from the pen of Anderson, who describes himself as the "leader of the 3000 Euahlayi living on both sides of the Queensland and NSW border". Crikey doesn’t know much about Anderson, other than that he usually makes the sort of wild allegations typical of the fringes of any political movement. Crikey first heard of Anderson in August 2009 when we received an email from Diet Simon, a "retired journalist" who wondered if we might be interested in receiving press releases from Anderson. Simon told Crikey that he and Anderson had been friends for more than 10 years. For the sake of prudence and our bank balance, Crikey will not republish the contents of Anderson’s press release here. Others were not so cautious. IndyMedia published Anderson’s piece in full on its website on July 10. As of this morning that site had received 946 views and one comment. That sole comment was published on July 16 and comes from David Galvin, the general manager of the ILC. Galvin says in part that:
The story above on the Indymedia website on July 10 is an inaccurate, untrue and misleading and is a personal attack on ILC Chairperson Shirley McPherson. The story ... containing comments allegedly made by Michael Anderson, is factually flawed and probably defamatory and has to be answered in detail to set the record straight.
Which he then proceeds to do in the firmest possible terms. The National Indigenous Times, whose recent editorial and administrative woes Crikey reported on earlier this month also ran Anderson’s spray -- in full in it’s print edition and with this teaser on its website. Even in the modern world of online news and information it appears it's one thing to put out a wildly inaccurate and possibly defamatory spray on the web -- particularly on the fringes where only a relative few will ever read it -- but another to entirely to print it in a newspaper that, until recently at least, had a solid reputation as an authoritative voice and journal of record for the indigenous affairs sector. The NIT published Anderson’s press release in a half-page spread on page six, in the "Early News" section, of its most recent issue 206. That issue hit the streets on July 22, six days after the ILC’s David Galvin posted his statement on the IndyMedia site. Crikey understands that following the publication in the NIT officers from the ILC have been in negotiations with new editor Stephen Hagan over the terms of a comprehensive retraction of the assertions made by Anderson and an apology to McPherson. When Hagan took over as editor he advised via press release from the University of Southern Queensland (the USQ), where he is employed as a lecturer in indigenous studies, that he intended taking the NIT in a "new direction". Crikey attempted to contact Hagan but he didn't respond to phone calls or emails by deadline. Beverley Wyner, NIT’s general manager, thanked us for our call but hung up before we could ask about Anderson’s press release and any negotiations between the NIT and the ILC, telling us that she had "no comment". Anderson told Crikey that he had held several discussions with Hagan about his views on the ILC and had provided Hagan with further allegations of corruption and maladministration in the affairs of the ILC. Anderson doesn't resile from his comments and maintained the ILC was corrupt and had continued to "act in a manner that was not in the best interests of Aboriginal people". Anderson, who Crikey understands uses several surnames, said he had recently registered to run as a NSW Senate candidate as "Michael Eckford" in the upcoming federal election and would continue to voice his opinions about the ILC during the election campaign.

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