Monday, February 16, 2009


The name of Australian journalism is dragged through the gutter and the profession of journalism is justifiably castigated all too often. But why? Generally, because some people who call themselves journalists throw ethics and integrity out of the window without even a passing thought for the implications: sometimes even when those implications include a significant contribution to human suffering.

This is particularly moot with respect to the Schapelle Corby case. Worse still, in this case it has happened over a prolonged period of years.

Equally, influence on public opinion via the media within a society is sometimes so unsophisticated and unremitting that it becomes visible outside that society. This to some degree has also transpired here.

As a result Australian journalism has been accused, and its international reputation has been tarnished. This should surely be of concern to every journalist.

The process to address this situation is clearly to identify, to correct, and ultimately to learn from the abuses which have occurred. This project is intended to be a tiny step to this end in a generic sense, but via focus upon this particular case.

Our Schapelle Corby project was on the cards long before this film emerged. The unethical journalism and the unsubstantiated smears have been obvious to most thinking journalists for years. The film though, which can be viewed below, crystallized some of the issues fairly well:

The 'six step process' it describes will be familiar in many ways to most journalists and media watchers:

1. Shift focus from the facts... from what people have seen. Stop reporting it. Move the agenda away from it.
EFFECT: Reporting bogus irrelevant stories creates distance between now, and then, in the public mind.

2. Routinely refer to her as "Convicted drug smuggler, Schapelle Corby"... as though the wholly discredited show trial had some sort of credibility.
EFFECT: This connotation invokes powerful negative imagery in the public mind, re-enfoced consistently by repetition.

3. Invent stories and present doubt, using good old fashioned unattributed innuendo: "a source claimed that", "it is believed that", "some people allege"...
EFFECT: The "no smoke with fire" card usually works. Fill the column inches with smoke and much of the public will believe it.

4. Smear her family: present constant unsubstantiated allegation against Schapelle's loved ones and her deceased father, who are ill-equipped to fight back.
EFFECT: The reliable "guilt by association" approach is surprisingly effective in clouding public vision.

5. Publish outright fabrication. Even pay enormous sums for ridiculous 'stories' that are torn to shreds via litigation.
EFFECT: Mission accomplished - more smoke and more shift of focus from the show trial.

6. Marginize and bury real news, such as loss of remission, Schapelle's illnesses and lesser sentences for terrorists/muderers/etc
EFFECT: Blinding the public from her REAL life prevents widespread sympathy developing.

These are extremely serious allegations. However, I would challenge anyone to obtain the archive of Schapelle Corby related stories and view each story one after the other, as I have done. Weigh each against proper attributable facts, and then against the above list. The objective researcher will find exactly what I did: that the allegations made by the film are broadly true. The overwhelming majority of stories over recent years fit into one or more steps in the process described.

The film also cites damning verdicts on Australian journalism by the CLA and FPSS:

    Published by Civil Liberties Australia (CLA): "
The real story is how a young powerless woman is being imprisoned for a crime that she probably had nothing to do with." "But the Australian media have become her persecutor"

The Foreign Prisoner Support Service (FPSS):"Schapelle Corby is being victimised by the Australian media. These constant attacks leave us with very little room to plead her case to anyone; and all the breaches of Indonesian and international law go unnoticed because they are overshadowed by hearsay and innuendo."
Ethical journalists should think about this very carefully, and consider the impact of this not just upon Schapelle Corby, but upon journalism in Australia. Having undertaken this exercise, I rather suspect that most will be as disturbed as I am about what has occurred.

But how has this happened? How has it been allowed to continue for so long? How orchestrated has it been? How much has the hand of government been involved? How much of the fabrication and opinion management has been down to lack of editorial control, and how much a result of editorial policy? How much has been driven by crude fiscal consideration, and how much by politics? What is the story of those who have been particularly proactive in this business? Who has been pulling the strings, where do they lead, and through whom?

After spending months researching this, I do have some answers: but only some. I have some pieces of a very large jigsaw, but not all. I am still investigating, but now, some of the investigation will be in the public domain, via this project.

The project will explore all of the questions above, and more. It will investigate editorial control, specific journalists, particular stories, government role, and financial benefits. It will seek to expose truth.

As the project develops it will continually seek feedback and information from the wider community of journalists. I know already that there are many working ethical journalists who are extremely concerned about this case: please come forward and provide information. This can be provided anonymously if you feel that it may expose you. My email address is in the right hand panel.

This project clearly isn't going to clean up Australian journalism, but it might enhance understanding of what has gone so wrong in this specific case, and thus potentially contribute to a reduction the number of future abuses. Although it is indeed a tiny step on this path, it is a long overdue step.

Posted via email from Schapelle