Barrister accuses The Age of behaviour ‘close to corruption’ over database access

A barrister whose personal information was accessed by The Age’s journalists has accused them of behaviour that is “very close to corruption and criminal conduct”.

The comments from criminal barrister and media commentator Peter Faris were in a column for News Limited’s The Australian.

News Limited’s sister company News International is at the centre of the furore over phone hacking by the News of the World tabloid in the UK. The tabloid has now been closed.  

Faris’ complaints relate to an investigation carried out by The Age into a database held by the ALP which led to a story in the paper last November. The story reported that the ALP was keeping “a secret database of voters”. The paper made no secret of the fact that it had accessed the database as part of its investigation.

The Australian has previously reported on the investigation and with parent company News Corp under fire, returned to the topic today, suggesting The Age was guilty of “hacking hypocrisy” over its coverage of the British scandal.

The Age declined Mumbrella’s invitation to comment.

In the column Faris wrote:

“The gossip and scandal-mongering that feeds the press in Britain has had no appeal in Australia.

“The one exception to the general rule was the hacking last year by the Fairfax paper, The Age, of an ALP computer. Recently, when reading the Herald Sun, I discovered that I was one of the “victims” of this hacking.

“The hacking involved the reporters (and possibly management) searching the database for names, mine included. Obviously they were seeking dirt files or other confidential information.

“What dirt or information (if any) they downloaded we will never know. We have to trust them. What were they thinking? Why should I trust anybody who behaves like this?

“On a personal level, The Age can investigate me as much as they like. I am not complaining about their conduct towards me. But I am very concerned by their conduct. It is very close to corruption and criminal conduct.”

Meanwhile, Henry Tajer, president of media agency trade body the Media Federation, has predicted that the scandal in the UK will have little effect on his members’ trading relationships with News Limited in Australia.

Speaking on this week’s Mumbrellacast, Tajer said: “I think the relationship that the various agencies have with News here in Australia is pretty solid. News Limited are reputable and have titles and have a practice in the market that if there were any issues that any agencies had, they would have probably already been raised. I think it would be wrong of us to take a view on the Australian operation on something that is happening within the broader company in another part of the world. We don’t act that way for other companies. The marketplace didn’t change their views on Google when Google was having issues in China. The same sort of principles apply here.”


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