You may remember a few months ago I wrote a news article (not online anymore) about the group of Indigenous Australians who were taking Melbourne journalist, Andrew Bolt to court about an article he had written accusing them of using their Aboriginality for personal advancement.
At the time I suggested that it is an interesting current issue which could be discussed and researched in media law classes. So here is an update on the outcome of the case with some more links to articles about the case.
Just reminding you of a few facts about the case:
The law which was used to challenge Bolt was the Racial Discrimination Act. This act outlaws racial vilification and forms the basis of the stereotyping and vilification references in the Community Broadcasting Codes of Practice (Code 3). Of course, community radio stations, like Bolt and the Herald Sun, are also bound to abide by the Act as well.
The group of indigenous people who took legal action had other avenues open to them including defamation (this could still feasibly happen) but, in my opinion, the Racial Discrimination Act allowed for a class action and probably reflected their desire to act on behalf of many black and migrant people Bolt has written about.
From the outset much of the debate has been about freedom of speech- or as some have put it the right to express opinions and to engage in debate.
Bolt himself said in court, “It is particularly a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves,” Bolt said.
The plaintiffs disagreed. “It is not saying journalists cannot take up these issues, it’s simply saying that you must be professional, you must do your research, you cannot be led along by blind prejudice and racism,” said community television pioneer, Pat Eatock.
The debate continues with the leader of the opposition Tony Abbott backing Bolt and the so- called “freedom of speech” camp.
Of course there are holes in the freedom of speech argu,emt that you could drive a truck through- the main one being that Bolt got a hell of a lot of facts wrong and that the whole tone of the article was to put it plainly offensive.
Following is a list of media stories about the issues.
For CMTO trainers and others who are trying to get community broadcasters to understand the complexity of media law this issue would be a great research topic for students.
Miranda Devine’s Article supporting Bolt