A sacked NT News reporter is suing the newspaper’s company and editor under workplace relations law, alleging a deal between the Northern Territory government and management at the paper.

Chris Walsh, who was a political reporter for the NT’s only daily newspaper for more than three years and has written books about politics in the Territory, left the paper suddenly in October last year.

In court documents obtained by Crikey, Walsh alleges that the editor Matt Williams and general manager Greg Thomson arranged with the head of the Chief Minister’s department Jodie Ryan to blind copy them into any media queries from Walsh without his knowledge. He said in the application to the Federal Court that this arrangement was agreed in a meeting about advertising in the newspaper, because Ryan was unhappy with being held to account for decisions made by the department.

The NT News relies heavily on government advertising, in an Australian print media market that is struggling across the board.

Walsh claims he was disciplined and then sacked after he found out about the deal and complained. The week he found out about management being copied in on his responses, Walsh says one of his political news stories was spiked because Williams “was under pressure from the top”.

Walsh would not comment on the matter, and his lawyer John Laxon said it was premature to comment other than to say:  “It’s a cracker of a case that goes to the very heart of the freedom and independence of the media”.

A News Corp spokeswoman said the allegations were rejected.

“News Corp Australia and the NT News strongly refute the claims made by Mr Walsh who was dismissed. As the matter is currently before the court, we have no further comment.”

The case will be heard in Sydney early next month.

NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the type of court action being taken.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey