Herald Sun censured by Press Council for inaccurate report on raid on CFMEU offices

Australian Press Council logoThe Australian Press Council has censured News Corp’s Herald Sun for failing to ensure accuracy in a report claiming the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) offices had been raided.

The article, which was published online on August 27, 2015, was headed “Taskforce Heracles police raid CFMEU offices” and went on to report that the “CFMEU offices in Swanston Street have been raided…before 9am” by police from Taskforce Heracles, established to examine allegations referred to it by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

The complainant, Clancy Dobbyn, told the Press Council the report was inaccurate, misleading and unfair as no such raid had taken place.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 10.08.35 amHe said upon being contacted by the Herald Sun at 10:20am on August 27 he stated he had no knowledge of any raid.

Shortly afterward, the complainant said John Setka, Secretary of the CFMEU’s Victorian branch, tweeted that “Herald Sun’s Steven Drill has tipped us Vic office about to be raided by #turc police!”.

Dobbyn argued that based on his response and Setka’s tweet, the Herald Sun should have been aware the CFMEU had denied any raid had taken place.

He said when the article was published that afternoon, including a homepage item headed “CFMEU offices raided”, he emailed the publication stating “there was no raid of the CFMEU offices this morning”. He said it was only after this email that the publication took steps to correct the report, at approximately 5:00pm, with an article headed “Police confirm no raid on CFMEU headquarters”.

The Herald Sun defended the article, saying it was based on information from three well-placed and credible sources; however, it did not know whether the sources were at the premises. The paper said the tweet by Mr Setka was also unclear.

It said a check was made with the union and police prior to publication, but that no information was provided to contradict information supplied by those sources.

The publication asserted that when a journalist spoke to Dobbyn, the complainant, he did not deny a raid had occurred and that when it was alerted to the fact that it had not happened it immediately took steps to remove the article.

However, the Press Council concluded that the Herald Sun’s information it based its initial report on “may have been hearsay” and Setka’s tweet should not have been regarded as ambiguous. It was the Council’s view that the raid had not occurred and the newspaper should have taken further steps before publishing the article.

The complaint was upheld.


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