Many of us will have heard of Fleet Street, the name given to the trashy English tabloid papers responsible for destroying many a reputation and flinging mud at the rich and famous. These unusual journalistic entities are not exactly known to practise integrity or to bind themselves by a code of ethics.
In Australia, most people get their news from tabloid. In Sydney, thankfully, we have only one tabloid newspaper. In Brisbane, they only have one major paper, and that is a tabloid!
The Daily Telegraph is not your typical tabloid. It has serious news and opinion sections. It is perhaps the best source of sporting news. It even has a business and finance section. It is, without question, the biggest selling paper in Sydney.
The Telegraph has been accused in the past of being a trashy paper and of deliberately misrepresenting individuals and communities. I personally have been defamed in the Telegraph by its senior columnist Piers Akerman. On that occasion, he could not even get the spelling of my name right as he proceeded to argue why I was unfit to be the Liberal candidate for the seat of Auburn in the by-election that took place in 2001.
I was then shocked when I read a Telegraph reporter defame one of my former clients. This poor fellow had not seem his children for over 3 years. He had been to hell and back, and was struggling to improve himself. The young man was arrested for having pipe bombs in his house.
The Tele reported the story on 20 December 2002, a few months after the Bali bombings. The Tele reporter joined what appeared to be a chorus of tabloid journalists seeking a “muslim terrorist” story. A summary of the story is reproduced:
"Sydney Bomb Factory" (The Daily Telegraph, 2002/12/21)"Police were interrogating a South African-born Muslim man last night after 14 bombs and Islamic literature were found in a dramatic raid on his western Sydney home. Police revealed the devices were packed with ammonium nitrate, nails and metal and had enormous lethal power. Ammonium nitrate is the same chemical used in the Oklahoma city bombing. The terror scare, which centred on the house of Gill Daniels – described by neighbours as a committed Muslim – occurred only by chance. Daniels, 36, now an Australian citizen, had not paid rent on his apartment in Nagle St, Liverpool, for two months and sheriffs arrived yesterday morning to evict him. Daniels was absent and, when sheriffs forced their way into the apartment, they found the bombs, Islamic literature and a blackboard covered in Arab characters."
The Tele attempted to show that my former client was a terrorist because he had Qur’ans in his house and was taking Arabic lessons. He also had other items of Arabic language in his house. The paper also tried to find a link between the Oklahoma bombing and the pipe bombs in Liverpool. It reported that the materials used for the pipe bombs were allegedly the same as those used in the Oklahoma Federal Government building bombing that killed hundreds of innocent Americans.
Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf