News

Press Council calls off inquiry into Daily Telegraph’s ‘Death Cult’ Sydney siege special

The Australian Press Council (APC) has called off its inquiry into a controversial Daily Telegraph “Death cult CBD attack” front page on its special edition released on the afternoon of the Sydney siege, Mumbrella understands.

Sydney siege

News Corp Australia was told today that the press watchdog would not proceed with its investigation into the Telegraph’s coverage, despite receiving what are thought to be hundreds of complaints about the edition, which was published just hours after a siege began in the Lindt cafe at Martin Place on the morning of December 15.

Complaints are believed to have centred around a number of assertions in the report, including the prominent assertion hostage taker Man Monis was associated with the Islamic State terror group, with claims that added to the distress of readers and was not in the public interest.

Paul Nangle, director of complaints for the APC, advised the paper that after looking at the numerous complaints and newspaper’s response to the Council’s initial inquiries it would not proceed further saying: “We have taken into account that the article was reporting on an event in which circumstances were uncertain and fast moving.

“Your advice that the report had relied on information from ‘multiple, senior sources before publication’ appears to be consistent with police information from subsequent enquiries, which revealed some of the common difficulties in characterising the incident at the time, and even into the present.”

Central to many of the complaints was the allegations that gunman Man Haron Monis, whose name was not publicly known at the time of publication but was known to the media, was a “terrorist” associated with Islamic State, and given events inside the cafe were ongoing publishing that detail contributed to the distress of readers and was not in the public interest.

The APC this afternoon confirmed it would not proceed with its investigation of the complaints but declined to comment further on its reasons.

The move is a big win for the Daily Telegraph which has often found itself in the cross hairs of the APC in recent years under editor Paul Whittaker. Comment is being sought from the Daily Telegraph.

On the day of the siege, it is understood that Telegraph deputy editor Ben English was leading the paper and was responsible for both the afternoon and daily edition.

“We welcome the decision by the Australian Press Council not to proceed with this matter after careful consideration of all the issues”, Whittaker, told Mumbrella.

“The APC has rightfully acknowledged that our report relied on information from ‘multiple, senior sources’  that was confirmed by police information from subsequent enquiries.

“We covered this fast-moving and dramatic news event in a responsible fashion.”

In its correspondence with News it is understood that Nagle advised The Daily Telegraph that “the executive director (John Pender) considers that it is highly unlikely that the publication failed to take reasonable steps in the circumstances to provide an accurate report, and thus considers it is highly unlikely that a breach of the Council’s Standards of Practice has occurred.”

Nic Christensen 

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