Tag Archives: self-regulation

New Australian Press Council standards start August 1

Guest report from JASMINE LINCOLN, Griffith University media freedom intern

THE Australian Press Council (APC) has released its new Statement of General Principles as part of its Standards Project where it is reviewing its Standards of Practice and creating new ones.

It applies to all print and online news material from August 1, 2014.

Mark Pearson ( ) recently had the chance to interview Australian Press Council chair Professor Julian Disney on the role and direction of the Council.

In this interview he discussed the recent reforms to the Council, the move to improve its editorial standards, and the future for media ‘self-regulation’ as broadcast, print, online and social media formats continue to converge.

(12 mins, recorded 17 March 2014). Apologies for some audio sync issues!

The Council states on its site:

The revised Statement of General Principles does not seek to change substantially the general approach which has been taken previously by the Council. The main purposes are to ensure that the Principles accurately reflect that approach, are as clear as possible and are succinct.

Amongst other things, the new Statement of General Principles clarifies

• the principle that reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that factual material is accurate and not misleading applies to material of that kind in all types of article;

• the principle of reasonable fairness and balance applies to presentation of facts (including presentation of other people’s opinions) but not to writers’ expressions of their own opinion.

The Principles focus on four sets of key values:

• accuracy and clarity;

• fairness and balance;

• privacy and avoidance of harm;

• integrity and transparency.

The first phase of the Council’s ongoing changes has involved a review of the General Principles and the development of Specific Standards.

The next phase of the project includes a number of developments, including reviews of Privacy Principles and new Specific Standards on technological media outlets.

Also amongst these developments is a “systemic monitoring of compliance” (Australian Press Council, 2014) regarding the practice of the new standards.

This will directly affect the work of journalists because they will have their articles examined by the APC.

According to Press Council chair Professor Julian Disney, there are two main reasons for this Standards Project: so that the Standards of Practice are clearer and so they appropriately reflect the modern media context.

As a result of this project, the APC hopes that the new standards “will deal more effectively” with numerous complaints that they receive each year.

Sources:

Australian Press Council (2014). The Standards Project. Retrieved from: http://www.presscouncil.org.au/the-standards-project/

Robin, M (July 2014). Higher standards for opinion writing as Press Council refocuses for digital age. Retrieved from: http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/22/higher-standards-for-opinion-writing-as-press-council-refocuses-for-digital-age/

© Jasmine Lincoln 2014

Disclaimer: While this blog is about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Australian Press Council Chair Julian Disney with @journlaw

By MARK PEARSON

I recently had the chance to interview Australian Press Council chair Professor Julian Disney on the role and direction of the Council.

In this interview he discusses the recent reforms to the Council, the move to improve its editorial standards, and the future for media ‘self-regulation’ as broadcast, print, online and social media formats continue to converge.

(12 mins, recorded 17 March 2014). Apologies for some audio sync issues!

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Cyberbullying and the law in Australia: key legislation and cases

By MARK PEARSON

If you are looking for an excellent summary of the main laws controlling cyberbullying in Australia you need look no further than here:

Where does Cyber-bullying fit in the Current Australian Criminal Framework?.

It covers key Commonwealth and State laws including misuse of telecommunications services, stalking and harassment, and criminal defamation.

See also these previous posts on journlaw.com:

…  from my public lecture ‘Social Media – Risks and Rewards’] We hear a great deal about the downside of social media …  in schools. There have been well publicised examples of cyberbullying, defamation of teachers and principals, stalking of children by …
…  sad news of the death of television personality Charlotte Dawson over the weekend,  I repost this commentary I wrote for The …  in the near tragic saga of TV personality Charlotte Dawson and Twitter. [2014 note: clearly, it is now tragic] Andthose lessons must …
…  from my public lecture ‘Social Media – Risks and Rewards’] Administrators andparents are indeed concerned about social media – partly because the …  committed to it, one might be excused for believing cyberbullying had driven young people to the depths of depression and anxiety …
…  MARK PEARSON Follow @Journlaw [Professor of Journalism and Social Media, Griffith University, Australia] Public lecture presented …  in schools. There have been well publicised examples of cyberbullying, defamation of teachers and principals, stalking of children by …
…  issue of discriminatory abuse in my new book  – Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued: A global guide to the law for anyone writing …  to their type, scale, andjurisdiction. They include: cyberbullying, cyberstalking, online trolling, malicious online content, using …

 

For information about cyberbullying go to cybersmart.gov.au or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

© Mark Pearson 2012 and 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Blended learning and instructional scaffolding in a Media Law course

By MARK PEARSON

I’m thoroughly enjoying a revitalised enthusiasm for my media law teaching thanks to the Blended Learning team at Griffith University.

I’ve recently been a student in an Online Course Development course run by expert faculty in my Arts, Education and Law group and have been keenly trying to build the various blended learning strategies into the Blackboard interface for both the on-campus and Open Universities Australia versions of my Media Law course.

The Media Law course’s pedagogy and assessment tasks are built around both problem-based learning and instructional scaffolding.

It is module-based, with each module’s integrated learning tools and materials contained in the Course Content area (see screen capture).

The Course Content part of the Learning@Griffith site for the Media Law course

The Course Content part of the Learning@Griffith site for the Media Law course

The modules are designed so that students progressively learn the material and work towards their assessment as the semester unfolds, whether they are studying on-campus or online, or via a combination of the two (‘blended learning’).

They are aware that their learning tasks each week feed directly into their end of semester examination, which is essentially requires them to demonstrate summatively their skills and understandings they have already been workshopping in a formative sense throughout the semester.

Each week’s problem is centred upon the module’s readings (including a textbook chapter) and other learning activities, including lectures, short video introductions to each module, tutorials, video interviews of 10-15 mins with an expert ‘guest of the week’, and  discussion board and social media engagement. [Some of these techniques I have also refined through my recent  enrolment in ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ offered by Coursera and Canvas.]

The instructional scaffolding approach to assessment links attendance and online participation with assessment items that relate directly to those activities.

For example, students complete Weekly Learning Reflections about the media law problem of the week (submitted and assessed twice in the semester as collated portfolios). These then form the basis of questions in students’ end of semester examination and their written preparation for their weekly learning problem rubrics become their actual study notes for their open-book final exam. This leads to a purposive approach to student weekly readings and other learning tasks, aimed to enrich their learning through its focus on a problem and an ultimate assessment reward.

Similarly, students complete a short multiple choice online quiz at the end of each learning module – which is at that stage non-assessable (formative) and is only available for a two week period after that module has ended. They know their final end of semester summative multiple choice quiz will later be drawn from the pool of these very questions, rewarding students who have completed their reading and undertaken the formative assessment along the way.

Do you have other techniques you have been using effectively in teaching media law? Please let me know via the Comments section here or via Twitter at @journlaw.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Now that’s how you review a book! Thanks Prof

By MARK PEARSON

BloggingTweetingNewCover

The top media law academic in the US, Professor Kyu Ho Youm, has just reviewed my recent book Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued in the leading journal Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.

Prof Youm is Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and immediate past president of the 3700 member Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

His review was a lesson in academic book reviewing. He did considerably more than just criticise or praise the book (though he did both at various points!). Prof Youm manage to inject new gems of knowledge and insight about the field in the process, including the suggestion of additional reading and cases that have been since decided.

He concludes by recommending it as a text:-).

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 5.23.20 PM

Read the full review at http://jmc.sagepub.com/content/69/1/90.citation.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Republished: We all must learn from the #CharlotteDawson saga

With the sad news of the death of television personality Charlotte Dawson over the weekend,  I repost this commentary I wrote for The Australian in September, 2012 after she had attempted to take her own life.

———-

By MARK PEARSON

[Note: First published in The Australian on September 3, 2012.]

THERE are important lessons for us all in the near tragic saga of TV personality Charlotte Dawson and Twitter. [2014 note: clearly, it is now tragic]

And those lessons must be learnt not just by the media, but also by policymakers and the broader community.

The story of Dawson’s hospitalisation [in 2012] after receiving a torrent of life-threatening and demeaning tweets contained all the contradictions of our Web 2.0 world: risk versus reward, connection versus alienation, celebrity versus anonymity and freedom versus censorship.

When Dawson revealed a Monash University staffer was the source of some earlier postings and the employee was suspended, that “outing” triggered the final spate of insults and threats, and Dawson’s own sad messages from her @MsCharlotteD handle before her hospitalisation. The tweets raised the contentious legal issues of defamation, cyber-bullying, confidentiality, privacy, racial discrimination, jurisdiction and even unfair dismissal.

Dawson is [was] a former fashion model who has traded on her own harsh comments to contestants in a reality-TV program and in newspaper interviews where she has pilloried her home country of New Zealand.

Like many celebrities she has established a strong Twitter following of 21,450 [in 2012]- now seen as a crucial dimension to any wannabe A-lister’s public profile. In May, she tweeted a call for someone to “please kill” a fashion blogger, @BryanBoy, which she defended as a joke.

Of course, none of this justifies anonymous trolls threatening her life or urging her to kill herself, but it provides some context to the vitriol. It also defies the simplistic media story line of “evil social media causes real-life tragedy”. Dawson has previously spoken of life events that have rendered her emotionally vulnerable.

The issue of the media’s interaction with the vulnerable in our society recently gained traction with changes to journalism ethical codes in the wake of the federal government’s Mindframe media training initiative and associated research projects.

Some of that research demonstrated the flow-on effect of celebrity suicides and threats upon their vulnerable fans, making this example even more concerning.

Mindframe has been extended to schools, public relations courses and the courts, but social media proves the sensitivities of the vulnerable have not yet pierced the consciousness of many ordinary citizens.

It’s just one example of the rift between traditional and digital media in the Dawson event and its reportage. Journalists and executives in the old media are frustrated by the two-speed regulatory system. News organisations face legal and ethical brakes on their coverage while rumour, gossip and vitriol run wild on social media in defiance of legal prohibitions. Despite the predictable opportunism of some politicians, the case does not call for tougher laws to “control” social media. They already exist.

Earlier this year [2012], the Federal Court ordered News Limited to pay $12,000 to the mother of indigenous boys killed in a car accident over anonymous comments it hosted on its website Perthnow.

A Queensland “troll” was jailed last year [2011] for defacing the Facebook tribute pages of two slain children. In 2010, an anonymous poison penner in Victoria was hit with a $30,000 defamation judgment over comments about a Perth businessman.

[Former] Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has lobbied US-based social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to provide speedier action over breaches of their terms of use.

But legal proceedings are unlikely to have any effect given the First Amendment and legislative protection for internet hosts in the US.

Instead of introducing more gags on free expression and policing them, politicians should invest those resources in funding education and training initiatives for responsible social media use in schools, tertiary institutions and the broader community.

For information about cyberbullying go to cybersmart.gov.au or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

© Mark Pearson 2012 and 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Abbott’s attack on ABC proves politicians are free press chameleons

By MARK PEARSON

Politicians are free expression chameleons. Regardless of their political colours, they are inevitably staunch advocates of a free media and the free flow of information while in opposition.

When they win government they tend to shut down criticism and negative press by implementing policies and passing laws to limit scrutiny.

Tony_Abbott

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott … called the ABC ‘unpatriotic’. [Image: Google free usage]

We saw this happen in Australia this week Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s criticisms of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the eve of his government’s announcement of an ‘efficiency study’ on the independent national broadcaster.

Less than a year ago, the former Gillard Labor government’s proposed media regulations which risked journalists and media organisations being shackled by a new privacy bureaucracy.

Less than two years ago the Finkelstein Report had journalists potentially being jailed or fined for disobedience of its proposed regulatory regime.

At the time I blogged about the potential implications of the Finkelstein recommendations (The Drum: ‘Media Inquiry: Be Careful What You Wish For’) and then communications minister Stephen Conroy’s poorly named News Media (Self-Regulation) Bill. [Also see my commentary in The Conversation putting all this in an international media freedom context.]

Those proposals arose in a highly politicised context where the then government believed some media outlets were biased against them.

The new Abbott conservative government – despite having opposed those reforms under the banner of press freedom – now seems to have adopted the public soap box and budgetary strategies with the ABC directly in its sights.

Prime Minister Abbott used a populist radio program to label the ABC ‘unpatriotic’ following the broadcaster’s publication of claims by asylum seekers that they had suffered burns during an Australian navy operation. [Well detailed by former ABC Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes here in The Age.]

In the same radio interview Mr Abbott criticised the ABC’s reportage of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks, including the revelation that Australia’s spy agency had secretly tapped the phones of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudohoyono and his wife in 2009. He questioned the funding of the ABC’s FactCheck Unit which a few days earlier disproved his claim asylum seekers who alleged mistreatment by the Navy were breaking the law.

His criticisms came only hours prior to the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull announcing an “efficiency review” of the ABC and its sister national broadcaster SBS (Special Broadcasting Service). The review will be looking for cost-saving measures in the lead-up to the May budget.

Reporters Without Borders has a long history of dealing with governments that demand national broadcasters be more patriotic in their coverage under threats to withdraw funding. But these cases rarely occur in Western democracies with a relatively high media freedom ranking. (Australia’s was 26/179 in 2013).

A free news media and a truly independent national broadcaster should be neither patriotic nor unpatriotic – such calls to nationalism are anathema to genuine truth-seeking and truth-telling in society.

An independent national broadcaster is not the equivalent of the marketing arm of a large corporation.

The ABC’s reportage of both the asylum seeker allegations and the spying scandal is understandable given the Australian Government’s policy of withholding information about the fate of asylum seekers who have attempted to reach Australian shores by boat.

The Australian Government’s policy of refusing to provide the media with details of such operations and in limiting media access to detention centres deprives Australian citizens and the international community of important information on a key human rights issue.

When journalists are deprived of basic information they are within their rights to publish serious allegations like those of the asylum seekers who claimed to have been injured at the hands of Australian defence forces, particularly if government sources are refusing to offer information about the circumstances.

They are simply reporting the truth that the allegations have been made. Authorities and other media or citizen journalists can set the record straight with evidence if the allegations are unfounded.

It is quite different from false allegations about an individual citizen – where that person could sue for defamation.

There is a policy reason large corporates and government entities like the Navy cannot sue for defamation over such allegations: in a democratic society such assertions deserve circulation so citizens can weigh their credibility.

Even if ultimately proven false, the allegations of mistreatment of asylum seekers had an element of plausibility when made because the Australian authorities – including the Navy, national security agencies and the border protection regime – had ‘form’.

It may be unpatriotic to say this, but documented incidents suggest it would be naïve to give Australian governments (of whatever persuasion) and agencies the benefit of the doubt in such situations.

They include (at the very least):

  • The ‘Children Overboard’ Affair in 2001 where Howard Government and defence claims about events concerning the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa proved to be politicised and misleading.
  • The recent revelations that Australian agents eavesdropped on the Indonesian President and spied on East Timor during oil and gas negotiations.
  • The Howard Government’s dogged determination to pursue Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef, damage his reputation and cancel his visa as its terrorism allegations against him evaporated in 2007.
  • A litany of examples of unpublicized incidents at immigration detention centres, evident only months after the event through Freedom of Information requests and appeals by determined citizen journalists.
  • Recent allegations of ritual sexual abuse by Australian Navy personnel on board ships used for border protection duties.

The free flow of information is crucial to the democratic standing of a country like Australia. Such attacks by political leaders and calls for patriotism are what we expect from nations ranking much lower on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

The Australian Government should direct its energies to improving the free flow of information in society and granting better access and information to journalists and other citizens instead of name-calling, threats of fund cuts, and bizarre calls for media patriotism.

Hear my ABC 91.7 local radio interview on the issue:

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.24.20 PM

 

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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