Daily Telegraph criticised by Press Council for inaccuracies in ‘Green Moaners’ article

News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph has been condemned by The Press Council after it accused conservation organisation, BirdLife Australia, of using taxpayers’ money to disrupt “major projects and government policies and lawsuits.”

The article ran on December 6 2016, and was entitled ‘Enviro-mental state funds for green moaners’ in print, and ‘Environmental protesters receiving state and federal grants even as they disrupt major projects‘ online.

BirdLife Australia was accused of using taxpayers money to campaign against the Baird government

It said BirdLife Australia, as well as other “tax-funded payer groups”, had tapped into a $1.2m grant offered by The Environmental Trust and were paid between $30,000 to $141,000 over two years to “engage” the community.

The first page was headed: ‘EXCLUSIVE: Taxpayers’ funding for Gang Green’.

It reported the Nature Conversation Council had launched five protests against the Baird government, and had formed an umbrella activist group called Stand Up for Nature, of which BirdLife Australia was a part.

The article stated BirdLife had received two grants – one for $132,000 and another for $963,276.

Birdlife Australia said the article was factually incorrect, pointing out all funds from the NSW Environmental Trust grants, the Saving Our Species Partnership Grants Program, and the Lead Environmental Community Groups Program, were used under contract.

It added Stand Up For Nature has no formal relationship and does not receive any resources or funding from the government.

The organisation said the facts could have been checked prior to publication, however the only attempt to do so was via an email on the evening prior to publication, with no deadline, which did not allow sufficient time for a response.

After reading the article, BirdLife Australia submitted a letter to the editor, denying it had used government funds for advocacy, which was published on December 8.

The Daily Telegraph argued the point of the story was to highlight whether taxpayer funds were being used appropriately, and did not state BirdLife Australia had misused money from grants.

It said the article was about groups campaigning against the government, which received government funds to carry out their work and projects.

News Corp’s publication also said the journalist had reached out via phone.

The Press Council accepted the publication had asked for information prior to publication, but the allegations were serious and required greater steps to seek information.

It said inaccuracy and unfairness was emphasised in terms including “Green Moaners” and “Cash and Carry On.”

The Press Council said while the publication did take steps to provide remedial action, it had not taken steps to ensure accuracy, fairness or balanced reporting in the first place.

It upheld the complaint.


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