Press watchdog clears terror threat story, despite Classification Board censorship’s coverage of a potential terror threat has been cleared by the Australian Press Council, but the story has already been pulled, thanks to a ruling by the Classification Board last year.

The piece, entitled ‘Islamic State (IS) terror guide encourages luring victims via Gumtree, eBay’, was published on May 31 2017, and included extracts from the terror group’s publication, Rumiyah.’s article published today, in light of the Press Council decision

Extracts in the article contained details on how prospective terrorists could advertise items for sale on websites to lure and potentially kill victims.

Most of the material used was published verbatim from the terrorists’ materials, with minimal accompanying analysis from experts or the websites in question, the Press Council Noted.

Despite large chunks of terrorist material being republished, the watchdog ruled there had been no intention to encourage or support terrorism, and argued the article was in the public interest, given it alerted readers to potential risks to their safety.

It decided the instructions detailed in the terrorist propaganda were a greater risk than the risks associated with republishing the instructions.

However, the APC warned greater care needed to be taken by publications when reporting on terrorist propaganda, particularly when instructions are involved.

But while the press watchdog said the story was in the public interest, it had already been pulled last year, after was contacted by the Attorney General’s office. told the Press Council that shortly after the article was published, a government department notified the publisher the story had been refused classification by the Classification Board, for “directly or indirectly” advocating terrorist acts.

The Classification Board decided the detailed instructions and quotations from the propaganda magazine and lack of author input meant the article indirectly provided instructions. said it immediately removed the article and alerted staff to the decision and the relevant legislative section they had breached.

The section in question – 9A – allows the Classification Board to refuse classification for publications, films and computer games which advocate terrorist acts.

But said the Board’s decision did not afford the publisher the opportunity to defend the article on public interest grounds. It said it was facing penalties from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), if it did not oblige.

In a piece on today, a spokesperson for the eSafety Commissioner conceded it “may have been the first time a news article had been censored using this section” since it was added in 2007. 

The publisher also said in today’s article it had tried to obtain a further explanation from the Attorney-General’s department about the operations of the Classification Board’s powers, to no avail.

“Recent inquiries to the department about how it became involved, whether the application of section 9A is reasonable or could be considered censorship, have also not been addressed,” today’s article said.’s editor in chief Kate de Brito said censorship conducted by a government department raised concerns about press freedom.

“This is a deeply concerning development of media censorship. The Classification Board has silenced the reporting of a legitimate threat to the Australian public,” De Brito said.

“Australians have a right to know if their safety or lives are being placed at risk — there can be few more important matters of public interest.

“The secretive way the Classifications Board acted in this way is a direct attack on freedom of the press and journalists should condemn it.”

The full conclusion from The Press Council:

The Press Council considers that the article did publish much of the source material from IS verbatim, with limited author input and accompanying analysis or context, such as comments from experts and websites such as Gumtree. The Council accepts there was no intention to encourage or support terrorism, but considers that republishing content from terrorist entities in this manner can perpetuate the purpose of such propaganda and give publicity to its ideas and practices.

However, the Council accepts the public interest in alerting readers to potential risks to their safety. The Council considers that on balance, the public interest in alerting readers to the dangerous content of the terrorist propaganda and its instructional detail was greater than the risk to their safety posed by the publication’s effective republication of terrorist propaganda content. Given this, the Council concludes that the public interest justified publication of the article. Accordingly, the publication did not breach General Principle 6.

The Council notes that great care needs to be exercised by publications when reporting on terrorist propaganda to ensure that public safety is not compromised. In particular, effectively republishing source material comprising instructional detail in how to carry out particular terrorist acts could pose a risk to public safety, and reasonable steps should be taken to prevent such an outcome.


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