Contributed from Victoria
Leading print mouthpiece of Rupert Murdoch owned News Corp in Australia, The Australian, has just been fined $155,000 for contempt of court. the fine relates to allegations of what it called, the criminal history of John Setka, the Victorian secretary of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).
The company was Also ordered to Pay costs of $45,000.
The Supreme Court found that the story was likely to prejudice a case involving a charge of blackmail against Setka. Union president Shaun Reardon faced the same charge. Both collapsed in may because of the lack of evidence.
Justice Lesley Taylor said that the case newspaper was involved in a “very serious example” of contempt.
“This breach came after warnings had been issued by the then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to The Australian, first in general terms and then, twice, in specific terms concerning the publication of Mr Setka’s prior convictions while his current criminal charges were pending,” Justice Taylor said.
It shows that in publishing the story, News Corp is engaged not in balanced reporting, but a campaign to publicly discredit the union and its senior officials.
The article was written by an obviously ideologically driven Nick Cator. He has since been downgraded, to minimise the damage caused to the newspaper.
Then Victorian editor John Ferguson, in an affidavit to the court, apologised and said the mistake was made by Alan Howe, the editor in charge of the Opinion section of the newspaper.
Trying to pass this off as an unintended mistake and putting one or two people on the pillory does not wash. Doing the same thing repeatedly spells out intention. This is precisely the record of The Australian, which is a standout for bullying those who it gets in its sights. The action that led to the finding of contempt came out of editorial policy.
Something is not quite right, when a major newspaper is able to manufacture stories with impunity, designed to deliberately smear someone’s name to meet a political objective.
Australia needs a democratic media to properly inform and empower the population. News Corp will never provide this.