Courier Mail’s article on Queensland prawn prices misleading, rules watchdog

The Press Watchdog has criticised The Courier Mail after it misled readers into thinking a Thai restaurant was profiting from a local prawn ban.

Brisbane restaurant, Thai Terrace Rosalie, lodged a complaint about an article from April 20 last year, entitled ‘Prawn prices in Queensland rise in restaurants despite fishermen cutting prices’.

The article said due to an outbreak of white spot disease, a ban on exporting locally caught prawns had been enforced and local fisherman had dropped their prices. But it also reported restaurants were profiting from this ban, telling customers the temporary ban had led to a price rise.

In an attempt to get the story, a journalist had visited the restaurant and had lodged a form on the website, without telling the restaurant she was a reporter. She did not make any inquiries on the night.

The piece also stated it had not received a response from Thai Terrace.

Thai Terrace said that was inaccurate, noting the only enquiry it received was through an online booking form completed by a journalist before publication, of which it had replied to. It said it would have provided more details had it had known the woman was a journalist.

The restaurant also said it sourced prawns from its usual supplier which had increased the price of prawns from $19 per kilogram to $27 per kilogram and, as a result, had increased dishes with prawns by $2. The restaurant also said it emailed The Courier-Mail to follow up on these amendments, with no response.

But the publisher said its journalist had attempted to contact the restaurant by telephone multiple times, with no answer. No messages were left on the voicemail system. It said the online booking form was the last resort.

The publication refuted the inaccuracies, saying it had almost included information available in the notice distributed by the complainant.

However the Australian Press Council (APC) disagreed with the publisher, deciding it had misled readers into thinking the complainant had received its prawns from the area affected by the ban, which was untrue. It also was found to unfairly compare prawn prices at a restaurant to those of local fisherman.

It said despite an attempt for remedial action, it did not consider the comments would adequately fix the overall unfair nature of the article. The Press Council added given the publisher failed to respond to two attempts to resolve the matter, it didn’t provide fair right of reply.

But the watchdog did rule the published material had not been gathered by deceptive or unfair means.


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