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Posted Saturday, November 28, 1998

A Pleasing Victory for Free Speech in Australia (and we are not referring to John Howard's decision to allow Irish gang-leader Gerry Adams to have a visa after all).

The Daily Telegraph,
Saturday, November 14, 1998

Attempt by the ABC to censor Your Rights

Michael Duffy.

TWO WEEKS ago I described how the bullies at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had stopped distribution of John Bennett's consumer guidebook Your Rights, because it dared to criticise them. Following my column, the corporation has retreated and the book will now go back on the shelves. The ABC has not apologised to Bennett or offered him any compensation. []

November 13, 1998

ABC drops threat

THE ABC has dropped a threat of legal action against Melbourne civil rights activist John Bennett that forced the withdrawal of his booklet, Your Rights, from shops. The ABC's initial action was sparked by Bennett's charges' that the corporation was biased against Pauline Hanson. []

Sunday Herald Sun,
November 15, 1998

'Bully' ABC drops case


A BID by the ABC to shut down civil liberties publication Your Rights ended in disarray this week with the national broadcaster calling off legal action to stop the booklet's distribution.

But the cave-in on suppressing the booklet Your Rights only came after its Melbourne publisher and free-speech campaigner John Bennett wrote to every MP in Federal Parliament complaining about the broadcaster's bullying tactics.

The president of the Australian Civil Liberties Union, Mr Bennett, yesterday described the ABC's legal action as "an appalling threat to freedom of speech in Australia".

The ABC took issue with a critical article in the 1998 edition of Your Rights, which is promoted as a "citizens' guide to the law", but also contains articles on current affairs.

The offending article, It's your ABC -- a hoax? dealt with the ABC's response to criticisms of an interview between ABC Lateline host Maxine McKew and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson last year. The article claimed the ABC interviewer had been "discourteous" with Mrs Hanson.

It also claimed another ABC compere, Kerry O'Brien, during another interview, had not corrected a guest's inaccurate use of statistics on immigration.

Early in September the ABC took the unprecedented action of writing to Your Rights distributor Gordon & Gotch threatening legal action unless it ceased distribution of the booklet, which would have stopped sales around Australia.

Mr Bennett wrote to every federal MP this week about the ABC's tactics and, within two hours of the letters being received, he said the ABC called off its threat to close down the magazine.

The ABC has given no explanation why it decided to embark on an attempt to suppress the magazine, and corporate affairs chief Roger Grant was yesterday unavailable for comment. []

Our opinion
  AS SAID, a pleasing victory. We know and admire John Bennett (although we hasten to add that that does not mean that we endorse all or even most of his views). In the topsy-turvy world down-under, he has rescued the concept of Civil Liberties as meaning just that: the natural rights of the citizen, confronted to an ever uglier degree by the vested interests of the minority. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation thought they could squash him and his mass-circulation perennial booklet Your Rights like a noxious bug. He told the ABC in effect to b*gger off. And once again the Australian press has belatedly found its voice, and applauded.
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