What kind of responsibility comes with owning more than 70% of Australia’s metropolitan and national news journalism?
That’s one of the biggest questions confronting the government’s freshly-mandated media inquiry, which starts its hearings next week. Yesterday, in a Melbourne courtroom, we all got a glimpse of the answer:
Negus: ”Look, I am formally requesting you from the AFP, Victoria Police and ASIO not to go ahead with this story. People’s lives are at risk if you publish this story tomorrow.”
Whittaker: ”Well, how many lives are at risk?”
Negus: ”Well, if these people are aware of police interest, they may well not go for their intended site … Publishing the article will put public safety at risk!”
Whittaker: ”Well, what are we talking about? One person being killed, or … a number of people being killed?”
Negus: ”You do not have the entire story and The Australian’s intended publication … has far more serious consequences. There are domestic aspects to this investigation, which involved planned attacks on a military base.”
This conversation comes from a statement tendered to the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Negus is Australian Federal Police commissioner Tony Negus; Whittaker is Paul Whittaker, until recently the editor of The Australian. The dialogue is Negus’ version of a discussion between the two before The Australian published this story by Walkley Award-winning reporter Cameron Stewart surrounding the Somali terror raids on the morning of Tuesday August 4 last year, which occurred hours after the paper’s report of the operation hit the streets …
Whittaker’s company is responsible for the vast majority of Australia’s national and capital city print and online news journalism. If the above exchange is a mark of how they wield that responsibility it’s no wonder we need an inquiry.
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