Twitdef encouraging more forensic scrutiny of The Australian

December 3, 2010

Have you seen Caroline Ovington’s short Media Diary entry on the #twitdef saga from The Australian. It was written one day after Julie Posetti received a lawyer’s letter demanding an apology to Chris Mitchell. Is that significant?

Media Diary | November 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

THE ABC has obtained audio of former rural reporter for The Australian Asa Wahlquist speaking at a journalism conference in Sydney last week.

The tape is here.

Canberra academic Julie Posetti live-Tweeted the event. Her Tweets are a fair summary of what Wahlquist said.

Wahlquist, who left the Oz a month ago, has told Mitchell that her comments have been taken out of context.

The Australian’s editor in chief, Chris Mitchell, says the Tweets are defamatory of him, and that Posetti did not contact him to get his side of the story.

And there it rests.

(There’s some confusion on Twitter as to what `there it rests’ means. It means: that’s all I have. I have no more.)

“I have no more.” What a sad admission for a senior journalist with excellent access to many sources on this story – including Chris Mitchell. Ovington could have consulted any number of independent media law experts. I’m sure Mark Pearson would have spoken to her about defamation, fair report and comment, or possible defences.

Mark has had plenty to say.

So too has another independent media academic: NYU’s Jay Rosen.who did a great Q&A with Woolly Days’ Derek Barry.

Rosen told me he saw it as a critical part of a larger battle.
“As the Murdoch empire faces the loss of the emperor–his lost grip, his inability to master digital, or his eventual passing–it starts behaving erratically and in that state it becomes rather dangerous: to itself, but also to other people and to cultural treasures like freedom of the press,” he said.

But the Empire has an Achilles Heel, according to Rosen: “Murdoch cannot master digital.”

In fact, Ms Overington could have written a cracker of a piece just by reviewing what the blogosphere was talking about. But maybe Jay Rosen’s got a point.

The suggestion’s been made that Overington’s diary note signalled that Chris Mitchell was prepared to drop his legal action and that acknowledging that Posetti’s tweets were “a fair summary” was a sign the paper would back off.

The #twuckup has also åttracted attention on science blogs. The debate has widened into an examination of several issues.

An interesting one, that I’m sure will cause Chris Mitchell some regret, is the focus on The Australian’s climate reporting.

On The Drum Jonathan Holmes also has another go on that score too.

It’s also worth noting that this is not Julie’s first run-in with The Australian. She explains it all in this post on The Drum from 5 October this year.

What appears to have surfaced here is that The Australian actively campaigns against its social media critics.

If the allegations revealed here are true then it’s a national scandal.

If you believe the accounts of several Twitter users who contacted me last week, bullying tactics were employed in the process of trying to manage the criticism of The Australian – and James Massola’s stories specifically – as tweeters reacted en masse to Grog’s Gamut’s outing.

They claimed that a reporter on The Australian had telephoned their employers, asking for action to be taken against employees for comments (some using very strong language) directed at James Massola via Twitter.

One of those allegedly targeted – an employee of a large corporation who asked to remain anonymous – told me:

“(He) contacted someone at my work to complain that I was being unpleasant… on Twitter. My work stated that employees were free to speak their minds on their own time. It did however leave me with a sense of caution – no-one likes having their employment threatened by a major newspaper’s employee merely for expressing an opinion.”

As you can see, there’s certainly a fire burning around here somewhere – just look at all that smoke.


Big News apology – Salient editor admits mistakes

April 30, 2009

Good news. The legal action threatened against Wellington-based blogger Dave Crampton for alleged defamation has been dropped.

Dave has posted the details, so I won’t repeat them here.

However, EM wants to make it clear that the original “suspect” in this matter, Mr Michael Oliver, was not the person responsible for the spam attacks on Dave’s blog. The spamming did occur in the Salient offices and a Salient volunteer has admitted to doing it.

I have also decided to place a note my previous posts on this issue to make this clear.

Previous EM posts

28 April: Legal letter freaks Big News

22 April: Someone’s lawyer might be interested in this

Legal letter freaks Big News – should the Internet be “Adults Only”?

April 28, 2009

A week ago I mentioned an interesting little blogwar breaking out in Wellington, now the skirmish has gone nuclear with one protagonist sending a lawyer’s letter to Dave Crampton host of  the Big News blog.

The row started when someone began to spam a Big News post suggesting that the media now back-off in the Tony Veitch case. Whoever the spammer was posted something like  40 comments in less than half-an-hour. The spammer used the names of Tony Veitch, Zoe Halford, Glenda Hughes, TV3 producer Carol Hirschfeld, Sailent editor Jackson Wood, big News host Dave Crampton and TVNZ’s Mark Sainsbury to put offensive and stupid comments into the post thread.

Now it’s come down to a threat of legal action. A threat that could have serious consequences for the blogosphere in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

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Veitch: “It felt like a trial”

February 22, 2009

Tony Veitch has spoken publicly for the first time in almost eight months. In a statement sent to the Sunday Star Times and reported today, Veitch thanked Sky TV sports presenter Murray Deaker for throwing him a lifeline.

Veitch appeared on Deaker’s show last Wednesday and is slated for more guest spots in coming weeks, according to the SST.

Tony’s comments to the paper make interesting reading, particularly between the lines.

Veitch basks in limelight back on screen

Gossip queen Bridget Saunders also gets in on the rehab act

However, not everyone is singing Veitchy’s praises. According to the Herald on Sunday, legal eagles have been engaged to force an apology from Willie Jackson who said putting Tony back on television while there’s a “huge question mark” over his head was “not appropriate”.

Apparently Jackson went further than this on his radio show and Veitch’s lawyers were talking defamation before Jackson apologised.

Jackson apologises after slating Veitch

Well, I did say last week that it would all end in tears.

What a coincidence, it seems that the same (or almost identical) statement was  sent to the HoS as well as the SST, which makes me think it was a choreographed move. It just goes to show the value of having a good [spin] doctor in the house, or at least on a fat retainer.

Gopalan Nair – bloglines update

June 6, 2008

The Gopalan Nair case is beginning to attract some attention. is a good place to get updates. A 6 June update quotes a US Embassy official as saying:

‘The embassy continues to follow the case very closely. The United States consistently advocates freedom of expression, including the Internet.’ [Yeah right.]

A number of other Singapore-related blogs are also commenting quite frequently.

The States Times blog suggests that human rights have been abolished in the Singapore legal system.

Freshly minted Attorney-General Walter Woon had declared human rights is “all hyprocrisy and fanaticism,” and posited “that we should not confuse public law with politics, and that some people assume that their definition of human rights is the decision of the rest of humanity.”

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Is Chee Soon Juan in prison?

June 6, 2008

More grim news from Singapore. Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan was sentenced to 12 days in jail on Monday 2 June. He was found guilty of contempt of court during his own defamation trial.

According to a report in the AFR [4 June p.53], it was a “theatrical performance”:

Chee said justice in Singapore had been “kicked”, “raped” and “quartered”. I can’t link to the story because it’s PPV.

Chee and his sister, Chee Siok Chin, are also facing longer jail terms and heavy fines for speaking in public without a permit. He is bankrupt, so very likely to go to jail.

In my view the Chees would be political detainees – or as Amnesty International might put it, they’d be “prisoners of conscience”, like Soon Juan was in 1999.

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