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Panpa Bulletin : April 2006
april 2006 PaNPa bUlletiN | 17 NeWS While welcoming the de- bate on the introduction of new powers for the AFP to use control orders and preventa- tive detention, Keelty said some description of the new laws had been sensationalised. Reports on what media labelled 'shoot to kill' provisions were highly inflammatory. It was a very emotive term. The emphasis of police training had always been not on shooting, but on de- escalation, and providing the police with the skills to ensure firearm discharge was the ab- solute last option. The bottom line was that inclusion of the le- thal force provisions in the new legislation merely repeated the power that already existed in every police organisation throughout the country. Public Interest. "What we witnessed with the introduction of the new laws is what I will call 'public interest hypocrisy'. Some journalists, needless to say the same ones who denounce police corrup- tion, managed to acquire op- erational details through leaks. They claimed they wanted to publish the operational detail because it was in the 'public interest'. Why is it in the 'public interest'? Surely the public in- terest in a terrorism investiga- tion is to prevent the act from occurring and provide the best available evidence to the court to convict any alleged partici- pants. The loss of evidence, the fear induced in the minds of the public and the unfair treatment of the accused can never been 'in the public interest.'" Bali Nine. Sections of the media re- peatedly reported that Scott Rush's father had tipped off the AFP and that the AFP had promised to prevent Scott from leaving the country. This was simply not the case. "The AFP was never directly contacted by the Rush family. The AFP made no promises to the Rush family and the AFP investigation into the alleged drug importation was not sparked by a 'tip-off' from the family. One journal- ist contacted by thre AFP had insisted that affidavits filed in court stated the police officer contacted by the Rush fam- ily was from the AFP. The jour- nalist later admitted that he'd misread the documents, which clearly indicated that the police officer was from the Queens- land police. But by that time the story had already gone to print, and it was 'too late'. There were many other mis-reports on the Bali Nine case despite our con- tinued efforts to correct the record. Some journalists when contacted by the AFP have told us that errors in their copy had appeared when it was rewrit- ten by a sub-editor or the edi- tor, who didn't check that their amendments were accurate." Corby Case. "Another recent trend has been for the defence counsel to run their defence in the media rather than before the courts. The media offers a convenient stage to enlist public support and inveigle persons in author- ity to declare their position. The comments should be seen for what they are -- an attempt to garner public support. The Corby case was a classic exam- ple of defence running their case in the media." Keelty said examples of mis-reporting were occurring with concerning fre- quency. "Where are the edi- tors, where are the managers of media organisations check- ing the record? I'm the first one to accept that journalists, like police, can become very pas- sionate about their brief. In some cases too passionate, to a point where they have lost objectivity. Police managers and courts will often quickly reign in such enthusiasm. Editors need to do the same." The Commissioner ended his address by logging a number of positive examples where the media had co-operated and assisted police in their role to safeguard the community, in- cluding the issue of sexual servi- tude -- the subject of a sustained campaign by The Australian. The PANPA Bulletin under- stands that the chairman of the Press Council is writing a 'con- sidered' response to the com- missioner's concerns and his views on the effectiveness of the council. In the meantime, the coun- cil is still adjudicating on Peter Cosgrove's complaint, which has been made against The Australian. australian federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty Photo fairfaxphotos