Have a civilised dis­cus­sion

Shepparton News - - OPINION -

The same-sex mar­riage vote is gen­er­at­ing heat from both sides of the de­bate with en­trenched views be­ing aired across all me­dia plat­forms.

Some me­dia out­lets have cho­sen to make their edi­to­rial opin­ion plain such as The Age, which made its po­si­tion clear with a poster front page declar­ing its sup­port for the Yes vote.

The News has not done this out of re­spect for both sides of the ar­gu­ment.

While our in­di­vid­ual staff mem­bers have their own per­sonal views — the news­pa­per’s view is that ev­ery­one must be al­lowed to have their say in a fair and bal­anced man­ner.

Which is why we have cho­sen not to sup­port one side or the other.

We be­lieve this news­pa­per should pro­vide an un­bi­ased fo­rum for pub­lic dis­cus­sion as long as the views ex­pressed are not defam­a­tory, racist, ob­scene or an in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence.

These are the bench­marks of all civilised dis­cus­sion.

We have pub­lished the views of some with strong opin­ions and we have been crit­i­cised on so­cial me­dia for that, but we do not apol­o­gise for our de­ci­sion.

Un­like Amer­ica’s Bill of Rights, we ac­knowl­edge there is no clear law Aus­tralians can point to re­gard­ing a right to free speech.

How­ever, The News ad­heres to an im­plied def­i­ni­tion of free speech — the right to ex­press opin­ions with­out cen­sor­ship or re­straint.

We are, of course, sub­ject to a va­ri­ety of laws re­strict­ing free speech, in­clud­ing defama­tion laws, hate speech laws, sex­ual ha­rass­ment laws and laws against threat­en­ing oth­ers.

Read­ers’ opin­ions are wel­come from all sides as long as they ad­here to the rules above.

We em­pha­sise that a reader’s let­ter ad­vo­cat­ing a ‘‘no’’ vote in the same-sex mar­riage plebiscite does not mean this news­pa­per en­dorses that view.

We would en­cour­age any­one ad­vo­cat­ing a ‘‘yes’’ vote to con­trib­ute to our Let­ters to the Editor sec­tion — again ad­her­ing to the rules of civilised de­bate.

Sim­i­larly, a paid ad­ver­tise­ment en­cour­ag­ing a ‘‘yes’’ vote in the plebiscite does not im­ply this news­pa­per sup­ports the same view.

Any­one with an op­pos­ing view is equally en­ti­tled to spend their money to pub­li­cise their mes­sage.

We re­alise there is much heat in this de­bate be­cause it pits the be­liefs held sa­cred by some against the de­mand for equal­ity by oth­ers.

Our role is to foster an en­vi­ron­ment in which ev­ery­one, the em­pow­ered and the marginalised, feel free and safe to speak up.

We will not cen­sor any­one’s opin­ion as long as that opin­ion is ex­pressed with­out hurt or hate. And who de­cides that? Well, as gate­keep­ers, we do. There are no hard and fast reg­u­la­tions in this busi­ness — which is why jour­nal­ism is an art and not a science.


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