The latest in Herr Doktor’s tussles with the Australian Press Council (Adjudication No. 1464, adjudicated July 2010).
Good Weekend and Dr James Saleam
The Sydney Morning Herald
August 3, 2010
THE Australian Press Council has considered a complaint by Dr James Saleam about an article, ”The audacity of hate”, in The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Good Weekend magazine on September 26, 2009. The article focused on the life of Dr Saleam, who is a member of the Australia First party that seeks to be registered as a political party for the next federal election. [NB. The party has subsequently been registered and is contesting a handful of seats in NSW, QLD and VIC.]
Dr Saleam said that the article was unbalanced, unfair and suppressed relevant facts. He rejected a large number of claims made in it and the reliability of a number of its sources, some of whom were not named in the article. He said that, although the journalist had interviewed him twice at length, he was not given the opportunity to respond to these claims and the article bore little relationship to the interviews.
Dr Saleam denied the assertions that he had had an association with Nazism and that the National Action organisation was associated with racism and criminality at the time he was a leading member of it. He disputed instances of that type of behaviour that were alleged in the article and also the impression that was conveyed about his childhood in Maryborough. Dr Saleam complained that the article focused excessively and inaccurately on his racial background and included offensive and inaccurate claims about his mother and the end of his parents’ marriage.
The magazine said that the story was a serious and careful portrayal of a person who was well-known for his views but had not previously been the subject of a detailed profile of this kind. The journalist, Greg Bearup, had researched the story at great length and spoken to about 50 people, some named and some anonymous. It stood by the assertion that Dr Saleam had been associated with the Nazi Party and had led National Action when it was a violent and racist organisation that harassed and bullied people who disagreed with him.
The magazine said that the article included these matters because they were true and pertinent. It pointed out that, as stated in the article, Dr Saleam has several criminal convictions for offences related to behaviour of this kind although he alleges that they are part of a conspiracy against him. It said that the material on his ethnic background was accurate and highly relevant in light of his vigorous support for a White Australia policy. It disputed Dr Saleam’s view that the remarks by a named source about his mother were offensive to her and irrelevant to the article.
The Council has considered Dr Saleam’s complaints but, with one exception, dismisses them as not establishing a breach of its principles. The article concerned matters of legitimate public interest to which the assertions in it were relevant and supported by a reasonable degree of evidence, including photographs and judicial decisions. The use of anonymous sources was limited and acceptable in the circumstances.
The exception to this conclusion concerns the final sentence of a source’s quoted assertion about Dr Saleam’s mother. The Council considers that this sentence, which is reasonably capable of being interpreted in a highly offensive manner, was not of such substantial importance to the purpose of the article as to justify its publication, especially as it had not been put explicitly to Dr Saleam or his mother for comment.
A related adjudication concerning Dr Saleam’s former wife, Jane Mengler, will be published soon.
In September, Saleam will be speaking alongside Canadian Holocaust denialist Paul Fromm at the Sydney Forum — an event usually held at one of Sydney’s many RSL clubs (last year’s hosts being Petersham RSL) or ethnic clubs.
See also : God Hears Pleas of the Innocent (May 21, 2008).