Janet Albrechtsen: Marred by private vendettas

Janet Albrechtsen: Marred by private vendettas

(credit to The Australian)

Go to online feedback

In January I was interviewed as a potential candidate for what was then the proposed two-person Media Watch panel. I was intrigued. Was the ABC casting its net to include those on the other side of the political divide?

No. Simon West, the ABC television executive who interviewed me, was astounded to hear I was a self-proclaimed conservative. Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, West probed a little further. Surely I was just economically conservative. Surely I was not socially conservative. Across-the-board conservative, I said. The interview was not going well.

And it got worse. I suggested the new Media Watch should contribute to journalistic standards by uncovering how journalists present their opinions as news. I naively mentioned David Marr as a high-profile culprit. Interview over. Sure enough, Marr was appointed sole presenter and is now the Bob Ellis of the airwaves.

As gatekeeper of acceptable opinion, Media Watch resorts to reprehensible means to shut down debate and smear the reputations of those with opinions it dislikes. It is a parody of upholding journalistic standards.

But worst of all, Media Watch has become a publicly funded vehicle for Marr to pursue his well-known private vendettas. His enmity towards Radio 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones is legendary. Who can forget the Australian Book Industry Awards Dinner in 1996 where Marr, as master of ceremonies, spent more time sledging Jones than talking about books? Marr's private loathing was aired publicly in episode two when Media Watch pursued a non-story about a 2GB lottery.

Marr's ideological animosity towards Paul Sheehan is part of Sydney Morning Herald folklore. On September 5 last year, Sheehan wrote in his Herald column about the high incidence of crime among Sydney's Lebanese community. Marr sent Sheehan an email that said: "That is a disgraceful column that reflects poorly on us all at the Herald. David Marr."

In the Media Watch chair, Marr unleashed his loathing again in episode two. Media Watch attacked a Good Weekend article by Sheehan exploring the potential of a mineral-rich water to combat arthritis, fatigue and osteoporosis. Marr derided Sheehan's story as a "silly yarn", mocking Sheehan's evidence, qualifications and research, and lambasted an "uncritical media". Would Marr have done the same if Richard Neville had been the author?

Am I Marr's newest vendetta? That would explain why Media Watch's Marcus Priest was quietly digging for dirt at a law firm where I once worked and at The Australian soon after Media Watch sent me queries about my opinion on Muslim gang rape. How that sleazy exercise advances Media Watch's role of upholding journalistic ethics or is relevant to an opinion piece on gang rapes is far from clear.

Its standards were in free fall. In my case, as explained in detail on The Australian's website, Media Watch simply lifted allegations against me from the website of Amir Butler from the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee and repackaged them under the Media Watch banner. It claimed I invented evidence when it actually had the evidence before it (because I had provided it), cut passages from media releases that disproved its allegations and cropped news articles to suppress material. Its bias and distortion were transparent.

Where are the attacks on commentators on the other side of the political divide – Robert Manne, Hugh Mackay, Phillip Adams, Adele Horin, John Quiggin?

Compare the ever-so-gentle dig at Sydney Morning Herald's left-wing columnist Margo Kingston on July 1 with Media Watch's vitriolic but error-laden attack on Piers Akerman a month earlier.

Silence also reveals Media Watch's bias. It failed to question the media's crying crusade on behalf of acclaimed asylum-seeker Ali Bakhtiyari despite The Australian's expose on August 14 that discredited his refugee claims. More Media Watch silence on Kingston's scurrilous manipulation of the truth about the navy and the sinking of SIEV X. It took The Sydney Morning Herald's Mike Carlton to expose that.

MARR is on a different mission. And with sweet confluence it ties in with that basic ABC canon: commerce is evil. Marr's creed says Rupert Murdoch equals evil capitalist and US-passport-toting owner of News Limited, publisher of page three girls, 1975 and all that. For Marr, who is on leave from The Sydney Morning Herald, that paper is a purveyor of all that is good in the world. With that obvious ideological objection tucked under his arm, Marr has unleashed a steady stream of tawdry attacks on News Limited newspapers.

Marr's ingrained biases are legendary. His sorry news reporting reveals he is congenitally unable to distinguish fact from opinion. His antipathy to the political views of Peter Costello and Tony Abbott meant he was unable to report news of their defamation case against Random House without repeating ad nauseam his opinion that the "couple of born scrappers" were just after money.

Is that news or opinion?

Marr's ideological affiliation with Ellis, author of the offending book Goodbye Jerusalem, meant Ellis became "everyone's punching bag" and days in court became "get-Ellis days". Again, news or opinion? This might be acceptable on an opinion page but to present it as news simply illustrated Marr's conviction that his opinions are news.

But the problem with bias goes beyond Marr. A survey of Media Watch reveals a constant diet of left-wing opinion. The federal Government behaved reprehensibly on Tampa and "children overboard" (MW, April 22) and resembles North Korea in its conduct at Woomera (MW, July 8). And neither heroin injecting rooms (MW, June 3) nor Muslim gang rapists are to be criticised (MW September 9). And don't mention the ABC's anti-Israel bias (MW, May 6). You won't hear the other side of these issues on Media Watch.

The evidence is in. And the ABC board has failed in its duty under section 8(1)(c) of the ABC Act to "ensure that the gathering and presentation . . . of news and information is accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism".

Is it time for an inquiry into that board failure? It's certainly time to get serious about free speech. This public asset has been hijacked.

Janet Albrechtsen responds to Media Watch


The fact remains Ms Albrechtsen: you misquoted people, I being one of them. And you trivialised the plight of Australian youth by misquoting me. What gives you the right to misquote others? What gives you the right to criticise those who point out to you the injustices that your pen has wreaked? I do not care what ideology drives you; I care for truth, fairness and accuracy. The misquotes you wrote have hurt too many people.
Keysar Trad
Sydney, NSW

While Media Watch's approach to free speech in this case can again be questioned, Janet has successfully played the scapegoat "lame game” that goes on in the debate about whether “race” was an issue in this horrific rape case.

In her litany of protestations and defences, my question to Janet is this: Why haven't you and other commentators taken the opportunity to educate young men of any ethnic group that rape is a cowardly act of control and domination perpetrated by any members of society - whether women were of one race or another.

As a “social conservative,” is Janet taking seriously the potential for the individual (these criminals) not to take ultimate responsibility for his own behaviour, because "my social and ethnic background led me to it"?

These young men are individuals who behaved as a pack. The pack mentality displayed by these young men are behaviours young men in packs display when baying for control and domination of women. These behaviours seem to be displayed by male members of all cultures, not just young Australian Muslims.

Surely the provision of an environment of safety for all women must be the goal, not racial and religious vilification of the many from the criminal behaviour of the few?
Mark Hyde
Armidale, NSW

It surprises me to see Jane Albrechtsen address the allegations made against her by Media Watch by personally attacking David Marr, rather than refuting the evidence that was presented.

The charge was simple - deliberate distortion and misquoting of primary sources. This has since been backed up by the primary source itself (Professor Rassial).

What is surprising is that now the facts are known, a reputable paper such as The Australian continues to run her work.
Lloyd McDonald
Surry Hills, NSW

Janet has created a wonderful snowstorm in her column in an attempt to hide the key issue of the Media Watch argument. That is, that she doctored somebody else's work to try justify her attack on muslims.

People should go to the Media Watch website to see what the author of the "doctored" work thinks of her actions.
Alan Kennedy
Sydney, NSW

Janet Albrechtsen responds to Media Watch


Janet Albrechtsen responds to Media Watch

(credit to The Australian)

September 18, 2002

Go to online feedback

Media Watch was a great idea. Some of its early work advanced standards of Australian journalism. Sadly, like many things at the ABC, it has been hijacked by sectional interests.

Far from upholding journalistic standards in order to stimulate high-quality free speech, the current Media Watch is devoted to suppressing speech with which it disagrees, and uses highly dubious techniques to do so.

My own recent experiences prove the point.

On Wednesday 4 September Media Watch executive producer Peter McEvoy sent facsimiles to a number of commentators, including Piers Akerman, Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan, Michael Duffy, Alan Jones and myself seeking our views on recent gang rapes by Muslim youth.

That facsimile exposed Media Watch's bias early. It was not concerned with journalistic standards. It was concerned with opinions. That ours did not conform to the left-wing ABC ideology on these matters meant we were targets.

Media Watch also played the man, not the ball, early when they started digging for dirt. Researcher, Marcus Priest rang a partner at the Sydney law firm where I once worked to check my employment history.

How these tactics advanced Media Watch's role in upholding journalistic ethics is yet to be explained.

Media Watch then forwarded me a series of questions taken virtually verbatim from a website of Amir Butler whom Media Watch describe as from the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC).

Butler's website included descriptions of me as "that disgraceful Janet Albrechtsen" and "that shrieking Janet Albrechtsen". Butler announced on 18 July that "It [sic] time to take off the gloves and deal with Janet Albrechtsen". Untroubled by the partisan position of AMPAC and Butler, no doubt because they shared it, Media Watch soon stepped into the ring using Butler's shoddy ammunition.

I sent Media Watch detailed rebuttals of their first set of allegations but on their program Media Watch refused to air those rebuttals. Instead their program adopted completely the views put by Butler, added a few dirty tricks of their own and relegated my response to their website.

I was unable to respond to their second set of allegations in time for Media Watch's deadline as I was leaving for a previously arranged conference in Melbourne. So Media Watch went ahead and republished the second set of Butler allegations without hearing the other side of the story, using techniques they would pillory in others.

How accurate was their story?

Their first allegation, which Media Watch plagiarised from Butler's website was, ironically enough, that I had "lifted" the idea that some young Muslim boys were torn between Islamic and Western values from a piece by Adam Sage in The Times.

I gave Media Watch a number of sources for this problem facing some Muslim boys but Media Watch chose not to tell viewers that. Reporting it would not advance their agenda of shutting down debate on the issue of gang rapes.

If Media Watch needed further evidence that the view I expressed is widely held, they would only need to consult the views of Sheik Hilali reported by Greg Callaghan in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.

According to Callaghan, the spiritual leader of Australia's Muslims told him "these mostly first-generation Australian citizens find themselves shipwrecked between the strict Arab culture of their parents and a laissez-faire Australian society that does not fully accept them".

Media Watch next accused me of inventing the findings of French and Danish experts that pack rape of white girls by young Muslim men was an emerging phenomenon.

Media Watch knew their accusation was false.

This is what Media Watch did not tell viewers: I had already referred them to comments of Connie Bjornholm, a spokeswoman for the immigrant information service in the Danish city of Aarhus who described the growing problems.

I referred them to an AFP news story about La Squale, the confronting French movie about "tournante" (take your turn), which French magistrate Sylvie Lotteau described as where one member of the gang would "pick up a young girl – a white girl – and once she had become the girlfriend of one of the members, he would allow his mates to make use of her".

On Monday night they repeated that lie by claiming I misrepresented psychotherapist Jean Jacques Rassial's comments about the problem of gang rape in France.

Again, they failed to tell viewers the facts: Rassial's comments appeared in a Times piece by Sage which dealt with that same movie and that same issue of tournante. And Sage discussed the clash between Islamic values and French social values.

If, as Media Watch claims, Rassial feels he has been misrepresented, then he should take that up with The Times. If Rassial has retracted his views, then he has some explaining to do.
Media Watch simply ignored Lotteau's comments about "white girls" and that context of Rassial's remarks in Sage's piece.

I pointed Media Watch to even more evidence: comments by a police commander in Northern Paris and Rachel Paul from Norway's Centre for Gender Equality to the same effect. These were more inconvenient facts so Media Watch ignored them describing my response simply as "a long and unhappy exchange".

Nothing long and unhappy about it. It was a presentation of fact. And that they chose to ignore it reveals their bias and dishonesty.

Media Watch's political agenda was to say I had taken evidence and comments about immigrant youth generally in Denmark and France and invented the "white girl" and "Muslim boy" bits. No evidence I gave them prevented them from pursuing that agenda.
Media Watch also said I misrepresented comments by Dr Flemming Balvig. I had already pointed out the original source from the Copenhagen Post (which confirmed precisely what I said) and two further articles in Berlingske Tidende quoting Balvig where he acknowledged that ethnicity is part of the pattern of gang rape. More inconvenient facts.

Media Watch then said Balvig had confirmed my misrepresentation direct to them. However, the words they put in Balvig's mouth ("The citation is completely wrong. What I have said is, that the main explanation of gang rape probably is social, and not cultural or religious.") were taken verbatim from Butler's website where nearly all of Media Watch's "research" was derived. No doubt another happy coincidence.

Claiming that I play "fast and loose with my sources" Media Watch next claimed that I misrepresented the Canadian Islamic Congress. I had said the CIC's complaint about Canada's National Post (that the newspaper was a "benchmark of what a newspaper should not be") concerned the National Post's use of "anti-Islam language".

Quoting a section of the CIC's media release, Media Watch claimed the CIC's complaint was that the National Post did not belong to a recognised press council and was not about anti-Islam language.

What Media Watch did not tell viewers was that they omitted all the passages immediately preceding the "benchmark" comment. These passages made it clear that the CIC's main concern was the National Post's anti-Islam language.

Media Watch concealed from viewers that the CIC media release was headed "Islamic Congress's Anti-Islam Media Research Again Finds National Post Worst Offender".

And they suppressed the press release's lead comments which showed the priority of CIC's concerns: "by excessively and persistently using anti-Islam language, the National Post is stirring up hatred against an identifiable group of Canadians. And by refusing to join a Press Council, it sends the message that it chooses not to be publicly accountable for its policies."

Maybe Media Watch were misled because Butler's website, on which Media Watch relied for its "research," was grossly misleading. That was the risk Media Watch ran in acting as mouthpiece for Butler's website.

Finally, Media Watch complained I misrepresented the views of Keysar Trad, a Sydney Muslim spokesman expressed in the Sydney Morning Herald on 1-2 September 2001 when I quoted him as saying "these boys were screaming for help".

They said the SMH's piece and Trad's views concerned crime generally (as if rape was not a crime). To prove their point, Media Watch flashed the SMH piece on the screen under the heading "Young Guns Hooked on Coke and Fear".

The quality of that report, and of Media Watch's work generally, was revealed however not in what they flashed on the screen but what they suppressed from view. You see, Media Watch had very carefully and very deliberately cropped from that SMH piece the sidebar headed "Ethnic time bomb with a slow-burning fuse". That piece dealt with gang rape by Muslim youth.

Trad was excusing Muslims who commit crime just as he recently excused Osama bin Laden's from those atrocities on September 11. Last Saturday The Weekend Australian Magazine's Greg Callaghan reported Trad as saying: "Osama bin Laden would have trouble teaching someone to drive a car. How could a man living in a backward country mastermind the hijacking of several planes . . . I just don't want to believe Muslims were behind it."

It seems Trad and Media Watch do not want to believe many things.

With Media Watch then remember, what they do not tell you is likely to be more important than what they do tell you.

For publicly shaming Media Watch, I will, no doubt, become the newest Media Watch vendetta. Never mind.

It's time to get serious about the bigger issue – free speech. As a public broadcaster, the ABC ought to be about promoting free speech. To date, this public asset has been hijacked by sectional interests acting as gatekeeper on acceptable opinion.

Janet Albrechtsen: Marred by private vendettas


Janet, why don't you take this further and expose the purse-lipped little David Marr (who has sychophantic posterings with the tribe of left wing urban “elites”) in court for simply misrepresenting the truth. Sue him, and the ABC, for as much as you can.
John Callander
Sydney, NSW

Janet - well done. This is a first-rate expose on the ABC's cozy left-wing elite that diverts public money to private agendas. The ABC's ongoing violation of its own charter is a national disgrace.
Meyer Rafael
Melbourne, Vic

Janet Albrechtsen reveals the entrenched and blind bias in the ABC very well indeed. It's a very sad story, especially about a program that claims the high journalistic ethics ground without fear or favour.

Often defenders of the ABC claim that it compensates for right wing commentators such as Alan Jones, thereby admitting the endemic bias of “everyone's ABC”.

But yesterday I almost fell over when I heard a US conservative commentator on The World at Noon on Iraq. The ABC must have been desperate - though the anchor did point out that this commentator's views on Iraq needed to be understood in the context that he was a conservative. I don't hear such caveats when left wing commentators are introduced.

Keep it up, Janet!
Dr Douglas Kirsner
Melbourne, Vic

Websites of relevance:

Media Watch