Thursday, 1 March 2018

No need to worry about the possibility that a Liberal-Nationals Federal Government will impose censorship on the free press in Australia

The time to fret over the possibility of government censorship of the media is over because in February 2018 it ceased being a distant possibility and became fact.

This is what the Australian Press Council stated about the News Corp online article….

Australian Press Council (APC):   

The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article published in on 31 May 2017, headed “Islamic State [IS] terror guide encourages luring victims via Gumtree, eBay”.

The opening paragraph read: “ISLAMIC State has released a step-by-step guide on how to murder nonbelievers, which includes how to lure targets via fake ads on Gumtree and eBay”. The article proceeded to relay in detail how an article in “[t]he latest edition of the terror group’s English-language propaganda magazine … encourages would-be terrorists to advertise products on second-hand selling sites … to lure victims and assassinate them”. The article mostly comprised extracts from the source material describing the steps necessary to perform such acts.

The Council considered that the article did publish much of the source material from IS verbatim, with limited accompanying analysis or context, such as comments from experts and websites such as Gumtree. The Council accepted there was no intention to encourage or support terrorism, but considered that republishing content from terrorist entities in this manner can perpetuate the purpose of such propaganda and give publicity to its ideas and practices.

However, the Council accepted the public interest in alerting readers to potential risks to their safety. It considered that on balance, the public interest in alerting readers to the dangerous content of the terrorist propaganda and its instructional detail was greater than the risk to their safety posed by the effective republication of terrorist propaganda content. Given this, the Council concluded that the public interest justified publication of the article. Accordingly, the publication did not breach General Principle 6.

The Council noted that great care needs to be exercised by publications when reporting on terrorist propaganda to ensure that public safety is not compromised. In particular, effectively republishing source material comprising instructional detail in how to carry out particular terrorist acts could pose a risk to public safety, and reasonable steps should be taken to prevent such an outcome.

This is what the Turnbull Government did……., 28 February 2018:

…the article titled “Islamic State terror guide encourages luring victims via Gumtree, eBay” no longer exists.

A week after it was published on May 31, 2017, the Attorney-General’s office contacted to demand it be taken down, saying the Classification Board had ruled it should be refused classification as it “directly or indirectly” advocated terrorist acts.

It appears to be the first time section 9A of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 has been used to censor a news report, since it was first added in 2007.

The action has alarmed the publisher of as Australian media in general were not informed the Classification Board had the power to ban news stories or that the eSafety Commissioner had the power to instigate investigations into news articles.

“The first knew of this matter was when contacted by the Attorney-General’s Department and advised of the Classification Board decision,” argued as part of a separate Press Council investigation into the article.
“The department, board and the eSafety Commissioner did not contact beforehand to advise of the investigation. Consequently, was not given the right to make submissions or a defence in regard to the article.” removed the article as it was facing legal penalties from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) if it refused, including fines or even civil or criminal legal action.
In justifying its decision, the Classification Board noted the article contained “detailed references and lengthy quotations from Rumiyah (Islamic State’s propaganda magazine)” with limited author text to provide context. asked the board why there was no opportunity for news organisations to defend the article based on public interest grounds but a response provided by a spokesman for the eSafety Commissioner did not directly address this.

The spokesman said the board did consider whether the material could “reasonably be considered to be done merely as part of public discussion or debate, or as entertainment or satire” before making its decision.

He also acknowledged this may have been the first time a news article had been censored using this section.

However, as a government which to a man fails to grasp how the Internet works their well-laid plans seldom go off without a hitch and, the article that Turnbull & Co wish to erase from memory remains on national and international news sites as I write.

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