Wednesday 18 June 2008

Blog arrests

My Kiwi mate David Farrar in his blog highlights a story in the Guardian about a record number of bloggers are being arrested.

This subject is close to my heart, after the legal threat from former Cairns Mayor Byrne's intolerance for free speech in our town last year. This was all about the defamation action bought against this Blog.

Since the wonderful Barfly had gone, I felt like a lone voice. It's no secret that Barfly had it's Council advertising withdrawn, following many open critical articles about the then Council. This probably contributed to it's demise. This was pre-blogging days.

Then along came CairnsBlog! Unlike a newspaper, it doesn't costs $100K to publish. I was willing to openly debate and question Byrne's politics and the expenditure of our rates, especially his annual trips to China.

Where are the direct flights from China now that we need them!? You would have thought after all those diplomatic trips over many years, we would have had some ROI.

If only the Cairns Post would have held him to account during his tenure, especially the later part, as he was about to seek his third term. More importantly, the Post should have more openly examined Byrne's last 8+ years under the microscope in the run up to the last election. That's what a written media has the ability and duty, to do.

I, along with John Babet of the Cairns Ratepayers Action Group, had to drag the editor kicking a screaming in the dying days of the council election to even mention our investigation about the former Mayor's official declaration of his personal company history.

"I've showed this to our legal folk in the past and was advised we can't mention it," Editor Mark Alexander told me. "What do you want me to do?" he said.

It is true that the Post was aware of this information, or degrees of it, some time prior to the last election. However, they wanted to leave the full details under the carpet. I don't doubt the Ed's advice that they not go near the story, but that says more about News Ltd and the perceived cosy relationship between then paper and Byrne, that was built up over a long period.

I know many, including myself, accused the Cairns Post of covertly supporting Byrne over the last few years. This wasn't always the case. There were moments of hope. Prior to the 2004 election, there was some real journalism coming out of the Post in political reporter Kerri-Ann Stout. Those that have been around for a number of years, will remember those times with great fondness.

In the same telephone call, Mark got a bit grumpy that I seemed to make a mockery of his campaign for a new hospital with this piss take of his Hospital coupon. It was a bit of humour. That's all. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I advocate that it's the job of mainstream media, our forth estate no less, is hold to account publicly elected officials and the decisions they make. I reminded the Post editor about his statement on their website...

  • "The Cairns Post Pty Ltd has evolved as a company to reflect the growing, cosmopolitan city of Cairns with circulation and readership growing significantly over the years.

    The Cairns Post is an integral and trusted part of the daily lives of residents.

    Throughout its history, the paper has endeavoured to reflect the community it serves – keeping authorities accountable, being the guardian of standards and celebrating the best of our region.
Actually, that's what they say on their website today. What was displayed on the Cairns Post website before the election, was sometime a bit different. You can read this and play Spot the Difference...

I simply questioned Mark that, I believed, they were not upholding this laudable vision.

Back to the story about the missing records in the Councillor's official register of companies. I claimed that the story needed to be told, and not just by a mere blogger. It was something that would show was willing to be independent of the Council leadership.

Back to the vacant register on the third floor of Council. Byrne replied to Babet, following his continual questions about releasing his full company history. "Looks like you've not taken your pills John," Byrne said. Nice to see that he had a sense of humour, albeit about something very important. Anyway, he's history.

Anyway, in this latest report about arrests of bloggers, Egypt, Iran and China are the most dangerous places to blog about political life.

"These countries account for more than half of all arrests since blogging became big,” report author Phil Howard says, a professor of communication.

Howard believes that the figure of 36 may be a dramatic underestimate, because many arrests are never made public. The full report reveals the average jail term is 15 months for bloggers.
It also looks at online political content by ideology of the arrested bloggers, with some interesting results...
  • Socialist 21%
  • Conservative 16%
  • Liberal 15%
  • Communist 4%
  • Islamic Fundamentalist 3%
  • Islamic Secular 3%

I should note that Mark, overall, has mostly been a gentlemen towards me. We've had our verbal clashes, and he even questioned my take following the Freebody defamation verdict. But that's what a blog is all about. It's not that I'm much of a threat to his newspaper. I've blogged before that Mark even bought me a Mocha at Perotta's one day, extending an Olive branch. He even offered a special Ed's tour of the Post, which I've still not taken up.

However, there is a place for additional media of many forums to question and critique mainstream media, even on an informal basis. Unlike a diet of McDonalds, it's healthy and fair.


Anonymous said...

Cairnsblog can at times be exasperating .... at times I have been disgusted and on the brink of giving up .... but then individuals are merely human and the alternative is the Cairns Post where that or any excuse is simply not a viable explanation for the serial absence of professionalism.

Back now in town also Mike, and looking again at the Cairns business community with a mix of interest and disgust. Sad to see CEC seemingly sliding away, at least as indicated by share price, as it's widely acknowledged in this town that Roy Lavis is a gentleman regardless of anything else.

The same cannot be said of Tom Hedley who seems to be making a point of associating himself with some of the shonkiest dodgy elements of the Austrailian business community. Is Tom Hedley the 'Alan Bond' of Cairns?

More on this to come mate and my links in national media may be publishing again on Tom soon in which case i will forward to Cairnsblog first. How embarrassing that News Ltd stories on Hedley may be reported first on Cairnsblog and ignored by the Post. What a joke.

How pathetic that it's the same failure as the Compost had with Herr Byrne to represent its community and accurately and properly report with journalistic integrity.

Anonymous said...

US Govt monitors ALL media and blogs and blog comment as part of its Global War on Terror! It is an instant thing thanks to software! This comment, eg, instantly goes to this dude in an location disclosed for now. Don't believe, it's ,u fkking job!
Ps. Most YouTube videos are "infected" with US Govt messages.

Anonymous said...

In some European countries it is a criminal offence to criticise Islam.

A blogger was arrested in Finland (I believe) for 15 months sor 'hate speech'.

Please carry on blogging and speaking your mind even if you are right or wrong. It is called an opinion and should always be allowed in a free country.