The Daily Telegraph falls foul of press watchdog for ‘misleading’ ‘inaccurate’ claims about Bob Brown Foundation speech

The Daily Telegraph has been censured by the press watchdog following a complaint by former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown accusing the publisher of running two misleading and inaccurate stories.

Brown’s complaints revolved around an article which ran on March 17 titled ‘Triggs’ Gig for Greens’ and the second headed ‘Trigg-hugger: Human Rights Chief A Greenie Disgrace’ in print and an online opinion column from Sharri Markson titled ‘Gillian Triggs has revealed her true colour … and it’s green’.

The stories were reporting Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs’ comments at a fundraiser for the ex-Greens leader.

Sharri Markson’s online article

It also reported Brown was arrested in an anti-logging protest in 2016 and the Bob Brown Foundation issued press releases its advocating pro-forestry and anti-mining stance. The second article, an opinion piece by Sharri Markson, featured a cartoon of Triggs hugging Brown who was depicted as a tree.

Brown said the articles were inaccurate on a number of accounts.

He argued the headline ‘Triggs’ Gig for Greens’ led the reader to believe the event was a fundraiser for the Australian Greens political party, and noted the ‘gig’ wasn’t a fundraiser, but an event to provide Tasmanians with annual orations. Any profits went to charity, Brown said.

The complainant also said the articles did not point out the charges against him were dropped and therefore suggested he had broken the law.

His final complaint was that he had not been approached for comment prior to publication despite his prominence in both stories and his position in a cartoon with Triggs. When he was approached for comment via email, Brown said he proposed a phone interview and did not get a response.

But The Daily Telegraph disputed all claims, arguing the headline did not state the gig was for the Australian Greens, nor did the article. It said the headline was accurate and the subsequent paragraphs made the purpose of the event clear.

It also said it did not mislead or unfairly describe the event as a ‘fundraiser’ and said the arrest was to demonstrate that fact Brown as a green activist. The publisher did not need to inform the readers the charges had been dropped, it said, as it had already been reported previously.

The Daily Telegraph also debated claims Brown had asked for a phone interview, arguing it had contacted him with detailed questions, which he refused to answer.

The Press Council deemed the headline was misleading and did imply the event was for the Greens and not for the Bob Brown Foundation. It also agreed references to the event as a fundraiser as opposed to an oration was incorrect.

According to the press watchdog, The Daily Telegraph failed to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and when approached, failed to publish a clarification or take remedial action.

It said the repeated reference of Brown’s arrest was “unfair by omission”.

“Although the Council accepts the publication previously reported that charges were dropped, this was many months before and did not outweigh the unfairness of the repeated reference and omission in this instance,” the ruling said.

The Press Council also said the publication should have contacted Brown for comment, and in not affording him the right of reply prior to publication, failed to present the article with fairness and balance.

In addition, it did not accept the complainant had refused to answer requests for comment.


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