David vs Goliath - Round 1 -
Sunday 27th June 1999 - Brisbane

During the course of the morning I sent the following media alert out to all the television stations, The Courier-Mail and the Queensland Times.

Not one media outlet came to cover the event - even though The Courier-Mail, in particular, did not have to do too much to report on our concerns.

But, hey, they are ruled by big, bad Murdoch so why should we be surprised?

Here is that media alert:

A small number of protesters made up of Australian families will protests outside the Courier-Mail in Campbell street, Bowen Hills at 12 noon today.

What is the protest about?

The Productivity Commission is currently reviewing the media ownership laws in Australia. Packer has his eyes set on Fairfax and Murdoch on Channel 7 TV. If the laws are changed the media will become so concentrated that our democracy will be a clear casualty. We cannot allow this to happen.

The protesters will hand out a document calling on journalists to take a stand to save what is left of their profession - by way of ethics and balance in reporting.

What are the objectives of the protest?

The protesters are not a rent-a-crowd mob, there are no buses driving in hordes of students. This is a voluntary group of people who share a common concern about the power that Murdoch and Packer wield over the Australian political system.

The objectives of this protest are:
· to alert Australians about the unreported moves to further concentrate media ownership.
· to draw attention to the resulting effect that this will have in damaging freedom of speech and democracy.
· to call on reporters to consider their uncertain future now - before they get the infamous pink tickets.

Media enquiries:

Scott Balson: Phone: 07 3201 1353

Image left the Courier-Mail - right the questionable privileges of Murdoch's men who manufacture the news to suit their master - the infamous Chiefs-of-Staff.

I arrived at The Courier-Mail at about 11.30am and was soon met by others who had come to support the protest. As we stood talking on the footpath outside the Courier-Mail we were approached by a female security guard who warned us that if we put a foot on The Courier-Mail's property we would be in trouble.

She took offence that one of those protesting had placed a placard against the wall six inches on Murdoch's property and we were asked to remove it. We complied without argument. Welcome to free speech in Australia.

By 12 noon about twenty protesters had arrived and lined up on the road bearing banners. They had come despite the rain and inclement weather.

The reception to our message by passing traffic especially the placard stating "The media tells lies" was encouraging with many cars parping their hooters, people shouting support through their car windows, thumbs-up gestures of support and nodding heads revealed how low the media had fallen in the estimation of the Australian people.

At 12.30pm a journalist sauntered up to us as he went in to work at the Courier-Mail. He asked us what we were protesting about. Note book out he took notes. Within minutes a young man who had been wondering around the parking area outside the front of the Courier-Mail was despatched from within. He spoke briefly to the journalist who excused himself and then went inside the paper's main doors. Censorship in action!

Then at 12.45pm it happened.

A police car pulled up alongside the protest and a policeman approached me and advised me that a complaint had been received from someone within The Courier-Mail about our protest restricting admission to the premises.

Image left: the policeman leaves after talking to me about the complaint. Image right: the policeman warns one of the protesters to get off the road. (He was handing out leaflets).

The complaint by The Courier-Mail was, of course, laughable and totally intimidatory. I spoke to the policeman and agreed to comply totally and without question to his ruling. His comment was that we were obviously not restricting access and that our protest was totally legitimate.

Now let me remind you that we were protesting outside Queensland's major daily newspaper about a major issue of public interest - namely media ownership and their journalists inside had been warned to leave us alone. Their pathetic response was to call the police on a trumped up complaint - the hypocrisy of the charge led by their reporter Christine Jackman into a private One Nation meeting in October 1998 just days before the Federal Election could not be more of an inditement on the Australian "free" press.

The television stations did not come to see what was up.

Censorship was complete.

Image right the protesters gather under the Courier-Mail sign for a final debriefing before leaving.

However, what we had discovered through our initial foray into protesting was the power of the roadside protest and The Courier-Mail can now expect a daily vigil of a growing number of protesters outside their premises during morning rush hour traffic.

If you would like to become involved in next week's protests take this link.

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