Press Council declines to rule on Bill Leak cartoon complaints

The Australian Press Council has declined to rule on the controversial Bill Leak cartoon which appeared to suggest Indigenous fathers do not know the names of their own children, despite receiving more than 700 complaints about the illustration.

The illustration – which was published last month in News Corp’s national broadsheet The Australian – drew condemnation with audiences who described it as racist.

Bill Leak Cartoon

Cartoonist Bill Leak defended the cartoon, drawing a cartoon portraying himself as the victim of “tantrum throwing” and “sanctimonious Tweety Birds”.

A statement from the Australian Press Council chair Professor David Weisbrot issued today revealed the body received over 700 complaints about the cartoon “mainly from individuals but also from leading Indigenous groups and peak associations”.Bill Leak The Australian illustration cartoon

However the industry body declined to rule on the complaints, with the Press Council deciding “the best outcome in the public interest is to promote free speech and the contest of ideas through the publication of two major op-ed pieces in The Australian, providing Indigenous perspectives on the cartoon and shedding light on the underlying issues”.

“With the agreement by The Australian to publish these items prominently, we believe that the complaints have been effectively resolved through an appropriate remedy and no further action will be taken by the Press Council,” Weisbrot’s statement read.

Weisbrot asserts: “The Press Council understands and actively champions the notion that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are the essential underpinnings of a liberal democracy”; however, “longstanding tradition dictates that satire and cartooning should be afforded even greater latitude, which is why the ‘Je suis Charlie’ campaign, which started after a terrorist attack in Paris killed a number of journalists and cartoonists, resonated so powerfully around the world”.

The Press Council said that when it receives a complaint: “its processes are geared towards providing an appropriate remedy” which may involve “a correction or an apology; the publication of a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece or, in a small proportion of cases, a formal adjudication determining whether a publication has breached the Standards of Practice”.


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