POST newspapers do not answer questions about their complaints procedure

A local newspaper that does not belong to any press council has refused to explain how it handles complaints.

POST newspapers have published a letter in each of their last two editions criticizing the Independent Media Council, which investigates complaints against The West Australian, PerthNow and Seven West regional newspapers.

However, POST editor Bret Christian declined to answer questions about his paper’s handling of complaints because it is not part of an independent complaints system.

Your local newspaper whenever you want.

“Given your misrepresentation of POST’s position on previous occasions, I have no confidence that anything I say on behalf of the newspaper will be fairly reported by you,” Mr Christian responded to questions.

The first letter on this subject that POST published was from Nedland’s Cr Andrew Mangano in the 6th August issue.

Cr Mangano complained about an article publishing his claims that a proposed children’s hospice could “suffer damage” because it is near an army barracks.

The IMC did not uphold his complaint, saying our description of his remarks as “bizarre” was fair.

The next letter, on August 12, was from 2019 failed independent Curtin nominee Louise Stewart.

Ms Stewart wrote to “support” Cr Mangano. The IMC previously upheld a complaint made by Ms Stewart against The West, but she wrote that the penalty of an apology was insufficient.

Despite attacks from POST’s Letters Division, the IMC’s board actually consists of a retired Supreme Court Justice and two former Washington Attorneys General, one from the Labor Party and one from the Liberals.

Panel member Jim McGinty withdrew from deciding Cr Mangano’s complaint because of his ties to Lotterywest, which helps fund the hospice.

IMC Panel Chair Peter Blaxell said the council does not operate as part of Seven West Media and only communicates through the Reader’s Editor when escalating complaints for arbitration.

Mr Blaxell said the majority of the complaints were resolved through mediation and when they could not be resolved the IMC asked for detailed input from both parties.

He said the submissions would then be shared with the newspaper and the complainants.

“In order to come to a decision, we must uphold the principle of freedom of expression and freedom of the media to report facts and publish opinions,” Mr Blaxell said.

“We have fully followed our code of conduct.”

Mr Blaxell said it would be desirable for all publications to be part of a complaints system, as this offers complainants a “convenient” and “less expensive” process than court proceedings.

“Any media organization is open to come under our roof,” he said.

The vast majority of findings are made within a month or two of receiving a complaint.

The IMC’s judgments are available at POST newspapers do not answer questions about their complaints procedure

Nate Jones

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