Thursday, October 04, 2007

MEDIA: Telegraphic hypocrisy?

The Daily Telegraph recently reported on a stoush between shock jock Ray Hadley and ABC Media Watch host Monica Attard.

MEDIA Watch host Monica Attard has had the tables turned on her after being exposed for initially refusing to pay a tradesperson - then hiding behind legal threats through ABC lawyers.

The "self-appointed guru of what's right and wrong" copped a serve of her own yesterday after 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley read on air an email complaint from a listener referring to Attard as "the rudest person I think I've ever spoken to".

I'm not sure when Monica declared herself a guru of anything, let alone so difficult a subject as ethics. However, it is a bit rich for the Telegraph to be accusing Ms Attard of using ABC's in-house lawyers.

Why do I say this? Because some years ago, I myself was threatened with defamation proceedings by a Tele journo for a posting I made on a closed internet discussion group which at the time had less than 100 subscribers.

The letter I received (which I still have a copy of) was written by ... you guessed it ... an internal News Limited lawyer! I refer to that incident in this article ...

Some years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the first Bali bombing, a former client of mine was charged with possessing possible explosives. One journalist reported that this fellow had Arabic books in his house and had recently started attending religious classes at the local

The police involved in the investigation had already ruled out the possibility of terrorism. Yet the journalist involved wanted to use the pages of his Sydney newspaper to spread hysteria about the
possibility of terrorism by making reference to a recent religious conversion on the road to Damascus (or in my former client’s case, Mecca).

Ironically, the journalist involved had a distinctly Arabic-sounding surname. His* own background suggested that a visit to his own home might reveal Arabic books and possible visits to the institutions of religious denominations at the heart of Middle Eastern conflict. I raised these points on an e-mail group, with a view to levelling the playing field and exposing what I felt was the journalist’s hypocrisy.

Some four months later, I received a letter from an in-house lawyer of the media organisation for which that journalist worked. That letter corrected some erroneous assumptions I had made concerning the journalist’s ethno-religious background (I got his Middle Eastern denomination wrong in my e-mail).

More importantly, the letter threatened me with defamation proceedings for daring to question the journalist’s integrity on a private subscriber-only e-mail list. Perhaps the journalist should have
realised that sometimes threatening a litigation lawyer with legal proceedings is as effective as threatening a surgeon with a penicillin injection.

To make matters worse, the journalist did not even bother to spend his own money to brief a lawyer, preferring to use the resources of the company’s legal department to fight a personal legal

(*Not the journalist's real gender.)
So what's good for a tabloid scribe isn't good for an ABC journalist. Then again, this is the same newspaper that complains about a TV Soap that "leads kids astray" while showing pole dancing, yet makes hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising strippers, massage parlours, brothels and other "adult services" in its classifieds section.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

Yet another case of non-integration?

Under the headline “Police in Denial over hangs: Andrews", Oz reporter Dick Kerbaj clutches at straws to overcome compelling evidence from Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon that Sudanese refugees are no more represented in crime figures than any other group. Yet all he can find (apart from some allegedly confidential Cabinet material) is the claims of one anonymous police officer.

Andrews claims Nixon and her colleagues are trying to paint a rosy picture "in the interest of creating "a perception of community harmony"". Naturally, if Nixon turns out to be correct, we can conclude that Andrews himself is distorting the evidence to undermine community harmony.

Yesterday Andrews told Neil Mitchell of “problems” with Sudanese and other African refugees. He claimed “settlement wasn’t occurring at the rate that occurred with other refugee and other migrant groups in Australia .”

Sounds familiar? Hardly 18 months ago, the PM made virtually identical claims about “a small minority” of Muslim migrants who posed greater challenges to Australia ’s social cohesion than any other migrant group. Since then, he has used every available opportunity to ram that message home.

We should recall the words of Gerard Henderson in The Age about his old boss having

... the one significant blot on his record in
public life … a certain lack of empathy in dealing with individuals with whom he
does not identify at a personal level: for example, Asian Australians in the
late 1980s and asylum seekers in the early 21st century.

On all such occasions, Howard has complained that the most recent undesirable group has failed to integrate as well as previous groups. Meanwhile, some of his government’s close allies show their excessive integration by calling for the Christian Right take over Australian politics, while others belong to extremist sects that make Sudanese look like the HR Nicholls Society.

Today’s Herald-Sun editorial suggests African refugees are being curtailed to allow for refugees from the Burma and Iraq . But should a Burmese mother mourn her son’s violent death in the suburbs of Melbourne or Sydney on the eve of an election, will we be seeing another reference to integration? Will Burmese refugees be told their numbers are being cut back (as Howard said in 1988) "to ensure the maintenance of social harmony and cohesion”?

And how can we be certain that future Iraqis aren’t just treated by wedge-seeking politicians as just another undesirable group “of Middle Eastern appearance”?

© Irfan Yusuf 2007