As News Corp Australasia boss Michael Miller and Daily Telegraph editor Ben English celebrate their newspapers’ continued coverage of Friday’s Christchurch massacre, one thing they haven’t mentioned is the racist dog-whistling of the Australian media — including their publications — in recent years. Today, they are calling out the technology platforms that allowed the killer’s video to be streamed live, but they are unsurprisingly yet to reflect on whether their own reporting has played any part.
Newspapers lead the way
News Corp’s papers have kept Islam in the news cycle by sheer quantity alone. A OnePath Network study which looked at five News Corp papers over the course of 2017 found almost 3000 articles published that were negative about Islam or Muslims. That covered the year that New Corp most stridently went after writer Yassmin Abdel-Mageid, a Muslim woman who became a target for her 2017 Anzac Day social media post.
The study pointed to 152 front page stories over 2017, which appeared even after then-grand mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed won a defamation case over a Tele front page from the previous year. The article described him as the “unwise mufti” for not condemning the 2015 Paris terror attacks (which he had).
As well as its news coverage, News Corp provides a platform for commentators including Andrew Bolt — found by the Federal Court to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in 2009 for columns about Indigenous Australians — and Miranda Devine — who has been one of Abdel-Magied’s biggest critics, once went “undercover” to Sydney’s Lakemba mosque, and regularly writes about Islam, especially in schools.
The Australian Press Council is still considering an undisclosed number of complaints against a Bolt column last year that argued that a “tidal wave” of migrants was “changing our culture”, under the headline “The foreign invasion”. It was the Herald Sun, News Corp’s Melbourne tabloid, that spearheaded the “African gangs crisis” coverage in Victoria.
Sky News has also played host to extreme views on its “after dark” programming since the channel was bought out by News Corp, including a matey interview with extremist Blair Cottrell, who’s since been banned from the channel.
It’s not just News Corp
News Corp is not the only outlet guilty of racist dog-whistling. Last year, Seven Network challenged a regulator finding that its breakfast program Sunrise incited race-based hatred in a chat segment about Indigenous children being taken from their families.
On that same program, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was given a weekly (and paid) platform to galvanise her successful bid for a Senate seat in the 2016 election, and she continues to be a regular guest. It took until today for host David Koch to call Hanson out on her anti-Muslim rhetoric. Hanson rejected the statement, before saying she would abstain from a vote censuring Senator Fraser Anning over his widely-denounced response to the Christchurch attacks.
Last year, Seven’s social media platforms polled users on “anti-white racism”, which Hanson then used to promote her social media accounts.
Over on Seven’s competitor Nine, Today host Sonia Kruger was found to have vilified Muslims by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal last month over her call in 2016 for a “Muslim ban” on immigration, in response to the 2016 Nice terrorist attack. The tribunal didn’t find her comments to be racist, but it found her comments “would likely encourage hatred towards, or serious contempt for, Australian Muslims by ordinary members of the Australian population”.
In her comments, Kruger also quoted a Bolt column with a similar angle.
Nine’s 60 Minutes last week had Hanson and her NSW party leader Mark Latham on the program in a matey profile filled with jokes, chances for the pair to criticise “lefties” and opportunities for Hanson to talk more about her desire to ban the burqa.
Has anything changed?
Koch’s interview with Hanson doesn’t mean there’s a changing tide in how the media let far-right politicians use them to promote their views. FM radio breakfast stars Kyle and Jackie O had Anning on their KIIS 106.5 program on Monday morning to talk about being egged. The first question for the senator was about how he felt being egged, not about his hateful comments in the hours after the attack.
And as he continued his media rounds this morning, the ABC streamed his press conference as he repeated his statements unchallenged.