Press Council upholds three, dismisses two

The Australian Press Council has issued adjudications on five separate cases this month.

A complaint against Fairfax Media’s The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times was partly upheld, and complaints against and The Advertiser in Adelaide upheld .

Separate complaints against The Sunday Mail and The Age were dismissed.

Fairfax’s trio of metropolitan mastheads had a complaint made against them by law firm Slater & Gordon about two articles concerning Julia Gillard’s time at the law firm.

The first was a news report which led with a claim about the role of Ms Gillard in the incorporation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association in 1992. Slater and Gordon complained two statements in the report inaccurately implied it was concealing the existence of a file about the incorporation, and preventing or delaying the release of the file to a person who was entitled to it.

The Council concluded that the firm should have been given a chance to respond to the claims before they were published. It also said there was no good ground for fearing that seeking comment on these particular claims would trigger an injunction. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.

However, a complaint against the second article where the law firm said it had not been given a reasonable opportunity to comment on several other claims prior to publication was only upheld in relation to some of the claims. also had a complaint upheld about an article published on the website titled “Autistic man convicted of murdering WA mum”.

The complainant said identifying the man as autistic inaccurately implied his condition was a contributing factor to the murder.

The Council considered that some reference to the man’s autism could reasonably have been made in the article. But the only references, in the headline and first sentence, were likely to have lead many readers to conclude incorrectly that autism had been found to be the main or a significant cause of the murder. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.

The Advertiser also had a complaint upheld about a story on welfare fraud. The newspaper inaccurately claimed welfare fraud had cost $78 million, when the real figure was $2.5 million.

The newspaper attempted to fix its mistake with a clarification on page two and promptly removing the article from its website, but the council deemed it was not enough. Complaints about the clarification and the inaccuracy of the claim were both upheld.

Meanwhile, a complaint against The Sunday Mail about the alleged misrepresentation of Hilary Clinton’s speech about Israel at the United Nations General Assembly was dismissed.

A complaint against The Age which claimed it was inaccurate in stating that Israel was targeting journalists in Gaza also was dismissed.

The adjudications can be viewed in full on the Australian Press Council website.

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