Press Coun­cil Ad­ju­di­ca­tion

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

The Press Coun­cil con­sid­ered whether its Stan­dards of Prac­tice were breached by an ar­ti­cle in The Sun­day Tele­graph on 30 April 2017, headed “What ge­nius gave this Is­lam id­iot a soap­box” in print and with a sim­i­lar head­line on­line. The print ar­ti­cle ap­peared on a page headed “OPIN­ION: YOURS AND OURS”.

The ar­ti­cle at­tacked “the failed con­cept of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism” and those who have “fallen over them­selves to pro­mote mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism”. In that con­text, it fo­cused on Yass­min Ab­del-Magied, a Mus­lim wo­man, re­fer­ring to her be­ing pro­moted and self­pro­moted as an ex­po­nent of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

It re­ferred to Ms Ab­del Magied as a “silly Mus­lim wo­man” in the open­ing sen­tence, and fur­ther on as “stupid”, some­one who “was al­ways bound to ut­ter great inani­ties”, “a fool”, “nonen­tity” and “halfwit”. The ar­ti­cle re­ferred to some of Ms Ab­del-Magied’s public com­ments, in­clud­ing “her ridicu­lous (and ex­tremely of­fen­sive) Face­book re­marks about Anzac Day” and ear­lier, her “pro­claim[ing] to great hi­lar­ity that Is­lam was “the most fem­i­nist re­li­gion”. It made ref­er­ence to her “part-time job as an ABC pre­sen­ter” and po­si­tion “on the Coun­cil for Aus­tralian-Arab Re­la­tions, one of the lit­tle perks run by … the De­part­ment of For­eign Affairs and Trade”, and ques­tioned: “Is the gov­ern­ment, is the ABC, re­ally so blind to the flaws in mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism that they seek out in­di­vid­u­als who ap­pear to demon­strate that they grotesquely mis­un­der­stand the na­ture of the na­tion?”

The ar­ti­cle con­cluded: “Don’t deny nonen­ti­ties their right to free­dom of speech but at least de­prive them of hav­ing a hand in the public pocket while they’re on their silly soap boxes.”

Fol­low­ing a com­plaint, the Coun­cil asked the pub­li­ca­tion to com­ment on whether, in em­pha­sis­ing Ms Ab­del-Magied’s re­li­gion in its crit­i­cism of her, it took rea­son­able steps to en­sure fac­tual ma­te­rial was pre­sented with rea­son­able fair­ness and bal­ance (Gen­eral Prin­ci­ple 3), and whether more gen­er­ally, in light of the terms ap­plied to Ms Ab­delMagied, it avoided con­tribut­ing ma­te­ri­ally to sub­stan­tial of­fence, dis­tress or prej­u­dice, or a sub­stan­tial risk to health or safety, with­out suf­fi­cient jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in the public in­ter­est (Gen­eral Prin­ci­ple 6).

The pub­li­ca­tion said the con­tent of the ar­ti­cle was clearly iden­ti­fied as opin­ion. The columnist was en­ti­tled to ex­press his opin­ion of Ms Ab­del-Magied and his opin­ion of her ac­tions. It said that at the time of pub­li­ca­tion Ms Ab­del-Magied was at the cen­tre of a wide­spread public de­bate about com­ments she made re­lat­ing to Anzac Day. Her re­li­gion was rel­e­vant to the con­tent of the ar­ti­cle, to her public pro­file (which em­pha­sised her iden­tity and ex­pe­ri­ences as a Mus­lim wo­man in Aus­tralia) and to her po­si­tion on the pub­liclyfunded Coun­cil for Aus­tralian-Arab Re­la­tions. It said it was in the public in­ter­est for an opin­ion ar­ti­cle to dis­cuss th­ese re­al­i­ties from the columnist’s view­point, ex­er­cis­ing his free­dom of speech, how­ever crit­i­cal he might be. Con­clu­sion The Coun­cil ac­cepts that the ar­ti­cle is, in its en­tirety, an ex­pres­sion of opin­ion in re­la­tion to mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and to Ms Ab­del-Magied as ex­po­nent and ex­em­plar of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. The ar­ti­cle at­tacked her suit­abil­ity as a pro­po­nent of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, a con­cept which it also at­tacks.

As a clear ex­pres­sion of opin­ion, it does not breach Gen­eral Prin­ci­ple 3. The opin­ion ex­pressed is based on ex­plicit and im­plied opin­ions about mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Nor does the ar­ti­cle breach Gen­eral Prin­ci­ple 6. The columnist’s opin­ions are likely to of­fend many. But it is in the public in­ter­est in free­dom of speech that vig­or­ous public de­bate be per­mit­ted, even when ex­pressed in ex­treme terms, as is the case here. Ac­cord­ingly, the Coun­cil con­sid­ers that there has been no breach of its Stan­dards of Prac­tice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.