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Daily Telegraph’s suggestions ‘PC vandals’ wanted to ‘tear down’ Sydney statues untrue, Press Council rules

An article by The Daily Telegraph which suggested “politically correct (PC) vandals” wanted to tear down historical statues contained no factual evidence, The Australian Press Council has ruled.

The Sydney based masthead was lambasted for an article headlined ‘Aussie Taliban: PC vandals’ bid to tear down our history’ on the front page, ‘The stupidity is monumental: Aboriginal leaders backs stay for status’ on pages 8 and 9, and ‘Statues of Limitations: Warren Mundine speaks out on push to remove Captain Cook statue’ online, for being inaccurate and misleading.

On August 24 2017 when the article was published, it featured a large image of what appeared to be two Taliban members attempting to pull down a statue of Captain Cook.

It went on to say ‘PC activists’ were threatening to tear down and alter monuments and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had not ruled out the removal of the statue of Captain Cook in Hyde Park.

The Press Council asked whether reasonable steps had been taken to ensure the allegations and unattributed threats were accurate and presented with fairness and balance.

In response, The Daily Telegraph said it had reason to use the words ‘PC vandals’ and ‘PC activists’ as the debate within the community was focused on having changes made to historical monuments and inscriptions so as not to offend or upset people.

It said the debate had been sparked by a column from Stan Grant which looked at how America was tearing down its ‘racist history’ and monuments but noted Australia had remained silent on its past treatment of the Indigenous community.

Grant’s column also said there were Indigenous people who would prefer the status was removed, according to the publisher. It went on to explain that following the community debate, Moore had referred the issue to the Sydney Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory panel, failing to rule out the potential removal of the statues.

But the press watchdog did not agree.

It said aside from Grant’s column – which made no comments around the removal of Australian monuments – and the reference to Moore, there was no evidence to substantiate the claims.

“There is nothing in the article that could reasonably justify the statements in question, especially the reference to a ‘groundswell of PC activists’,” the council ruled.

“While the article contained neither comments from nor identification of anyone advocating the removal or alteration of the monuments, the publication included comments from several people critical of a supposed ‘push’, ‘bid’ or ‘groundswell’ of threats to tear down or alter Sydney monuments. The Council concludes that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that the article was accurate and not misleading.”

The Press Council’s ruling appeared in The Daily Telegraph today.

It comes four days after The Sunday Telegraph was found in breach of Press Council guidelines, for implying a woman’s death was caused by her son.

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