Balanced and fair reporting of the shooting sports and our chosen pastime of hunting seems lost in today’s negative media landscape, but one Channel Ten program crossed multiple ethical journalism lines during its coverage of the Senate Inquiry into ‘The ability of Australian law enforcement authorities to eliminate gun-related violence in the community’. The Project, an entertainment program parading as news and current affairs, put on a deplorable display of gutter journalism surrounding the veracity of illegal firearms in the community and source of theft.
Broadcast on October 31, the show read from the same song sheet as Greens Senator and Inquiry Chair Penny Wright, with the statistics and ‘facts’ as haunting as the date itself. Claims that “Australia is awash with stolen firearms”, as rolling images of evil-looking firearms were crushed, and new three-dimensional weapons easily manufactured painted the picture of the bias to come.
“Most illegal firearms are stolen from licenced owners,” host Carrie Bickmore read out, who had obviously been fed selective garbage from Senator Wright and Gun Control Australia’s Roland Browne, instead of the majority of submissions which overwhelmingly showed illegal imports and links to drugs as the more worrying trend.
“It’s absolutely vital we know where those (stolen) handguns are coming from and how we can stop them getting into criminal hands,” Ms Wright said, clearly ignoring the mountain of evidence showing handguns are the least likely to be stolen, accounting for only 7 per cent of thefts in 2005-2006 and 2008-2009, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).
“Most of the ground’s been lost,” Bickmore added, referencing Port Arthur, before rhetorically questioning to the delight of the predominately left-wing audience: “Is it time for another buyback?”
The interview panel, consisting of media ‘personalities’ Waleed Aly, Meshel Laurie, Lehmo and Bickmore, placed their hopes for an all-out attack on private firearm ownership in one Diana Blenkinsopp from the Homicide Victims’ Support Group in Perth. Ms Blenkinsopp is a victim of gun crime, with her late husband shot two years ago in an alleged murder case.
The panel proceeded to bombard the level-headed Ms Blenkinsopp with loaded and leading questions dripping with the desire to hear the words “ban all guns!” Laurie at one point almost desperately pleaded in a tone reminiscent of a teenager fishing for the latest gossip in the bathrooms at lunchtime: “But do you think tighter gun control laws could have saved you husband’s life?”
To her credit, Ms Blenkinsopp took the insulting question in her stride. “Perhaps it might have, but sadly, I don’t think so,” she replied. “If they don’t have a gun, they’re going to find another way to do it,” she furthered, with sheer rationality flying in the face of irresponsible journalism.
She described the suggestion by Aly for a total ban on private firearm ownership as “a bit of a knee-jerk reaction”, pointing to “better sentencing, more accountability and tougher penalties” as fundamental to stopping gun crime, adding “there’s other factors of drugs and bad people” involved in crime.
The SSAA has written to Channel Ten detailing our concerns about such inaccurate and biased reporting, with SSAA National Chief Executive Officer and former journalist Tim Bannister describing the reporting as disappointing.
“The SSAA believe that until the Senate Inquiry issues it final report, the use of inaccurate figures and statement amounts to irresponsible and biased journalism,” he said.
“The reporting by The Project has breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice surrounding accuracy and fairness, and we have since bought this to the attention of Channel Ten and the producers.
“In particular, the inaccurate statistics about stolen firearms from licenced owners is plainly wrong, with the AIC’s Firearm Theft in Australia report series showing only 1545 firearms out of approximately 780,000 legal firearms were stolen from 1100-odd robberies, meaning less than 0.2 per cent of licensed firearm owners are affected by theft each year.
“This is a far cry from The Project’s claims that most illegal firearms are stolen from licensed owners.”
The SSAA also points to Australia’s porous borders and the significant lack of funding for our Australian Customs and Border Protection agency to stem the flow of illegal firearms into the community as a key issue that should have been considered in the reporting. “The SSAA will continue to speak out against those who continuously sprout inaccurate information with the sinister aim of shutting our sport and chosen recreation down,” concluded Tim.
The Senate Inquiry is due to issue its report and recommendations on March 26. Update: The report has been granted another extension. It is now due to be released on Thursday April 9.