Quadrant is neither advocate nor financial supporter of the Australian Press Council, which means we are spared its meddlesome chairman, Professor Julian Disney, whose former job was fronting the Caring-Industrial Complex as head of the Australian Council of Social Services. Distributing government money while lobbying for the employment of more social workers is a peculiar business, as there is no pressure to declare a profit and success tends to be calibrated on the scale of practitioners’ appraisals of their own worth and achievements. Peculiar, too, in that the number of “urgent” social problems in need of funding and remediation seems to grow in lockstep with the latest drafts of graduates looking for work.
Lately, as Peter Fray notes in The Australian, the Press Council has adopted a broader view of its duties and responsibilities, frequently upbraiding journalists and news organisations for covering stories in ways other than a social worker might approach them. If, for example, a newspaper were to note in passing that Adolf Hitler was a nature-loving vegetarian and anti-tobacco zealot, recent rulings suggest the writer and editor would be rebuked for not granting space in which The Greens, fellow nature-loving vegetarians and anti-tobacco zealots, could assert that they have no plans to invade Poland and must not therefore be tarred with the same brush.
One of the Press Council’s latest endeavours sees it probing Fray’s paper for publishing on its front page a tactfully blurred picture of Khaled Sharrouf’s young son, shown holding the severed head of Muslim formerly belonging to a branch of the faith for which the Sydney-bred fanatic has little time and less patience. According to a companion article
“THE Australian has been asked to respond to a Press Council complaint lodged over the publication this week of a photograph of a seven-year-old boy, the son of Islamic State terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, holding the severed head of an Iraqi.
The Press Council suggested publication of the photograph might have been a breach of APC principles relating to ‘discretion and causing offence’.”
Well, because Quadrant can, here is the same photo once more. If someone was offended by its initial publication, let that person be offended a second time. It is called free speech, and Quadrant can indulge that endangered concept because we have not made ourselves captives of the Press Council’s edicts, ideology and regulatory caprice.
There are rumblings that News Corp, The Australian‘s publisher, is poised to abandon its support for the Press Council, as The West Australian has already done. If so, good. Let the next severed head, metaphorically speaking, be that of Professor Disney.