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May 6, 2011

Posetti accuses The Oz of bullying tactics

University of Canberra journalism academic Julie Posetti has accused The Australian of bullying tactics by running an incorrect story yesterday complaining she failed to disclose the newspaper was threatening her with legal action in an ABC radio interview about Twitter.


University of Canberra journalism academic Julie Posetti has accused The Australian of bullying tactics by running an incorrect story yesterday complaining she failed to disclose the newspaper was threatening her with legal action in an ABC radio interview about Twitter.

The yarn, published yesterday on page 8 of the national broadsheet and headlined ‘Academic warns of Twitter danger’ [not online, despite author Caroline Overington’s claim on Twitter that she would post it by yesterday “afternoon”] quoted Posetti as pronouncing that misleading and defamatory Tweets could lead to “all sorts of trouble” if people “let fingers run ahead of their brain”.

In fact, it was ABC 702 Mornings host Deborah Cameron, not Posetti, that made the “trouble” comment and a quick check of the interview’s audio reveals that neither had made any reference to defamation. Overington’s explanation on Twitter was that the misquoting error was “my bad”.

The Australian and Posetti are currently embroiled in a legal stoush after Posetti tweeted former Oz reporter Asa Wahlquist’s comments at a journalism conference in November  suggesting the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell had stood over his charge to ensure a more skeptical line on climate change. However, a writ is yet to be issued in the case and Posetti contends that her freedom of speech has been curbed while the News Limited legal threat lingers.

In February, Mitchell told the Sunday Canberra Times that he “…had not dropped the action.” Yesterday’s story implied that Posetti was guilty of double standards by apparently endorsing The Australian‘s viewpoint.

Posetti hit back when contacted by Crikey this morning: “I feel that this ongoing pursuit of me by The Australian is having a chilling effect and limiting effect on my rights to academic and journalistic freedom which is extremely ironic in the week of the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom day.”

“I’m perplexed and amused the irony of this story. Having been asked to comment on my ethics in regard to my alleged failure to bring up Chris Mitchell’s renewed threats to sue in a interview regarding the social media aspects of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the real question might be the ethics of a national newspaper assigning a reporter to continue to pursue a story based on the personal agenda of her editor-and-chief.”

“The irony is that a story about my alleged inaccurate reporting was in fact itself inaccurate.”

This morning, The Australian issued a correction over the yarn [also not online], admitting that Cameron’s quotes were mistakenly attributed to Posetti. However, it failed to correct a smattering of other errors. Neither Posetti nor Cameron had ever mentioned defamation, the headline, which said Posetti had alerted listeners to a Twitter “danger” was unfounded and the apology itself misleadingly mashed together the incorrectly attributed quotes.

Sarah Joseph, Director of Monash University’s Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, told Crikey that the Australian‘s campaign was like a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over Posetti’s head. “It’s a chilling thing, the continual allusion to the writ. I guess my question for Chris Mitchell would be why haven’t you issued a writ?”

“There was an enormous fracas when this story broke in November, Chris Mitchell was adamant that he was going to sue despite the arguable defence of fair reporting. I can’t think of the reason for the delay.”

Joseph said the issue wouldn’t get resolved until the 1-year deadline to issue a writ expires later in the year.

Chris Mitchell was overseas and did not respond to Crikey’s invitation to comment on the saga this morning.

*Full disclosure: Crikey is currently being threatened with legal action by Caroline Overington over a previous story.


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13 thoughts on “Posetti accuses The Oz of bullying tactics

  1. stephen Matthews

    ms Posetti should hope that a supplementary action brought for misleading and deceptive conduct under the Trade Practices Act is not initiated. so easy to prove.

  2. Emma Steed

    Hello, can someone please inform us of which previous Crikey story it is, that got Overington so unhappy?


  3. Jean

    Only a “University of Canberra journalism academic” would cling to the fantasy that the media is there to tell the truth 🙂

  4. botswana bob

    What would anyone expect of a “newspaper” owned by that American citizen who is a big contributor to the Republican Party? As I believe was said during a Parliamentary debate about Murdoch’s purchase of THE TIMES: His newspapers’ commitment to the truth are considerably less than an obsession.

  5. rubiginosa

    Yesterday was #trollday I suppose:
    (a). The “really fundamentally wrong and quite annoying” headline accompanying Scott Murdoch’s article on Gail Kelly, and his follow-up.
    (b). Shanahanigan’s weird #headlights article.
    (c). Her master’s voice attempting to have a go at Posetti (and Cameron — cutting Cut & Paste’s grass!) and, of course, including clear errors of fact.

  6. Dave.mg

    “This morning, The Australian issued a correction over the yarn [also not online], admitting that Posetti’s quotes were mistakenly attributed to Cameron. ”

    Um… is that now a double irony on Crikey’s part? It was Cameron’s quotes mistakenly attributed to Posetti!

  7. nerk

    It’s interesting watching the papers grapple with the reality that they’re no longer the proverbial ‘guy with the mike’ that nobody’s game to pick a public fight with.

  8. Barry 09

    Did anybody find the $200 MILLION + that Ruppy dropped from the Ltd News Wagon ??? The Dead Tree company is slowly falling apart and the NBN is going to be the one thing that will drop another $200 MILLION + off the Ltd News Wagon.
    SELL your shares now before he buys another MySpace idea .

  9. rubiginosa

    Also: A propagandistic headline attached to an article by a guy named Murdoch — is that Morissettian irony, or the real stuff?

  10. CliffG

    The problem is partly addressed in Lindsay Tannher’s latest book. These media giants have gained such political power that they really believe they are beyond scrutiny. They can just dismiss any attacks or appeals for the truth and carry on regardless. They are immortal! It’s all quite sickening and quite dangerous.

  11. klewso

    It’s almost funny how so many of these “op-eds”, from where they operate, think that because they went to journalism school – that while they tread the trails blazed by people with real regard for “news” – while their own (in those tracks) work, now more a reflection of their own personal opinions, is thus more “valid” than the “news” they’re covering – their work appearing where it does, with such influence – that they can get away with taking to whomever they please with no consequences or responsibilty, “because I’m a member of the brotherhood of journalists – and who judges them”.

  12. klewso

    They’re not the infallible sages with the powers with which they ascribe themselves – they’re just tin gods, rusting.

  13. Syd Walker

    I found a copy of last Friday’s The Australian in clean condition in a wastepaper bin, so for once I perused the The Newscorp Nationwide Spin (dead trees edition).

    I was interested in the Oz’s take on Libya. What salacious, shocking or utterly horrifying anti-Gaddafi hit-piece had they come up with that day?

    Perhaps I missed it, but I couldn’t spot a single item on Libya. It seemed the line was throttle back for a few day and let readers lunch out on Obama/Osama/Blahyama – while memories of the murder of Gaddafi’s grandchildren fade in the infamously short western attention-span.

    It’s been a year or so since I completely stopped buying Newscorp products. I regard it as my own personal BDS-style commitment to a better world. Muslims might call it jihad – although it’s far, far easier to kick the Newscorp habit than cigarettes.

    I look forward to the day when repeat war-inciters such as Newscorp can only sell their products wrapped in appropriate health warnings – something akin to forthcoming tobacco packaging. That way sports fans and others would be forced to see the carnage and misery to which they contribute when they assist rotten Murdoch’s empire with their hard-earned.


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