Editors coy over response to media council

An Australian magazine editor has declared he will break the law if recommended media reforms are introduced – but most leading editors around the country are unwilling to say whether they will take the same action.

Editor of Quadrant magazine Keith Windschuttle said he would not cooperate with the statutory News Media Council recommended by the Finkelstein Inquiry.

The government-funded council would replace the voluntary Australian Press Council and would require newspapers to publish adjudications about them following consideration of complaints from the public.

Mr Windschuttle is the first editor to announce he would not recognise the News Media Council’s authority nor observe its restrictions “whatever the price”.

“If his oppressive scheme is ever implemented, we would feel compelled to defend the long tradition of press freedom by engaging in civil disobedience,” Mr Windschuttle wrote in a Quadrant editorial.

“Whilever I am editor, Quadrant would not recognise the News Media Council’s authority, we would not observe its restrictions, and we would not obey its instructions, whatever the price.

“We hope other publishers will take a similar stand.”

Newsbytes approached editors and editors-in-chief throughout Australia to ask if they would follow Mr Windschuttle’s lead, but most did not return calls on the issue.

Those unprepared to comment were Chris Mitchell of the Australian, Peter Fray of the Sydney Morning Herald, Simon Pristel of the Herald Sun, Paul Ramadge of the Age and Bob Cronin of the West Australian.

The only newspaper executive prepared to comment was News Queensland editor-in-chief David Fagan, editorial head of the Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail.

Mr Fagan said he agreed with the sentiments expressed by Keith Windschuttle and he believed lawyers and academics ultimately wanted to overregulate the free media.

But even though he thought the Finkelstein recommendation was unwarranted and unrealistic he would not act unlawfully.

“In Australia the media operates within the law,” he said.

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