Climate Crisis, Features

Newscorp vilifies teen activist and scientists

By Eve Sinton

Newscorp’s anti-scientific climate-denying bias was highlighted this week with a vicious attack on 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, and a slap on the wrist from the Press Council over an article vilifying scientists working on species extinction.

Columnist Andrew Bolt spewed out an extraordinary tirade in the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun on July 31.

“No teenager is more freakishly influential than Greta Thunberg, the deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement,” Bolt chundered.

“I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru …

“Far more interesting is why so many adults – including elected politicians, top business leaders, the Pope and journalists – treat a young and strange girl with such awe and even rapture.

“That’s in part because they are self-admiring frauds, of course: adults who simply reward a clever child for saying exactly what they want to hear and what they taught her to say,” Bolt wrote, as he castigated Thunberg for travelling to a US conference by boat rather than flying.

Attack on scientists breached standards

Meanwhile Murdoch’s Courier-Mail was obliged to publish a Press Council finding that it had breached standards with a one-sided attack on scientists alleged to have condemned Adani’s black-throated finch management plan – which might better be described as an extinction plan.

The Press Council considered a complaint from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub (“Hub”) about an article published by the Courier-Mail headed “Mega-mine’s future in hands of greenies”; in print on page 2 leading to an article on page 4 headed “Birds of a feather in review of mega-mine” and “QLD POLITICS: Anti-coal group could have final say on Adani” online on January 21, 2019.

The print article reported that “the fate of Queensland’s Carmichael mine is in the hands of an environmental group whose members champion radical action on climate change, oppose coal and have appeared as expert witnesses against Adani” given the fact that “the Threatened Species Recovery Hub has been hand-picked by the Palaszczuk Government to review one of the [Adani] mine’s environmental management plans.”

It said, “the Hub appears certain to condemn Adani’s finch management plan, given its experts have for years vocally condemned Adani, coal mining and the use of biodiversity offsets to cater for habitat loss …” and the “Hub’s leaders have also used social media to advocate for radical action to tackle climate change, oppose coal-fired power and condemn mining.”

The article included comments from an Adani spokesperson criticising the Hub’s appointment by the State Government, and who described it as “compromised” and “incapable of providing an independent review.” Above the article were the names of the Chair of the panel and six other panel members and brief examples of each those members’ environmental activities.

Article was inaccurate and misleading

The Hub said the article’s statement that the Hub “has been hand-picked by the Palaszczuk Government to review one of the [Carmichael] mine’s environmental management plans” is inaccurate because the Hub is not conducting this review. Of the seven Hub members named in the article as part of the review panel, only one was actually involved in carrying out the review.

The Hub said the article’s references to the Hub as an “anti-coal group”, “greenies” and an “environmental group” were inaccurate, misleading and damaging to the Hub’s reputation. The complainant said the article suggested the Hub is a group of environmental activists, when in fact it is a collaboration of more than 150 world-class research scientists from the CSIRO, Australian Universities and various non-government organisations working on the challenge of how to recover Australia’s threatened species. The complainant said that the article’s reference to it as “compromised” and “incapable of providing an independent review” were inaccurate and misleading as it was not carrying out the review and undermines its legitimacy and could adversely affect its funding.

The complainant also said that the Hub was not contacted by the publication prior to the publication of the article and was not able to have its response included in the article.

Adani’s view unbalanced

The Council notes that the terms “compromised” and “incapable of carrying out a review” are not presented as fact or comment by the publication but as direct quotations from the Adani spokesperson. However, the publication did not contact the Hub for comment prior to publication and the Council considers that it was not reasonably fair and balanced to only present Adani’s perspective. In these circumstances the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that Adani’s views of the Hub were presented with reasonable fairness and balance and breached General Principle 3.

• The full adjudication can be seen here:

https://www.presscouncil.org.au/document-search/adj-1766/

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