‘Rumourtrage’ accusation hits business journalism

PRESSURE on press freedoms has emerged in the first weeks of 2009 with a complaint issued by Consolidated Media to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) about an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, claiming it was an example of so-called rumourtrage.

Journalist Elizabeth Knight had speculated on the reasons for a financial move by James Packer – a common enough practice in markets reporting.

This style of journalism is now under a cloud.

ASIC is investigating several other, non-media examples of rumourtrage. It is concerned about the practice being exploited by short-sellers to favourably manipulate prices. In a speech last year, not related to the complaint against the Herald, ASIC chairman Tony D’Alosio described this new term as “potential insider trading” or “market manipulation”.

He said rumourtrage was the second greatest challenge to the market after the loss of confidence from the global financial crisis. ASIC had “deterence teams” that would be dedicated to rumourtrage for the “next 12 to 18 months”. There was no suggestion at the time that such an initiative was taken to curb journalists, but the complaint now makes that a possibility.

Concerns of press freedoms continue to be voiced in other areas of society. Six of the leading newspaper associations, including PANPA, have written to the Australian Government, expressing concern about rules being imposed for media accreditation by Cricket Australia.

PANPA is also concerned the Australian Football League will, for a second season, refuse access to AAP photographers because of an arrangement with another company. This has served to prevent pictures being provided to regional and rural newspapers because of the additional costs it entails.

The Australian Government is to shortly release exposure draft legislation addressing FOI reform. Special Minister of State John Faulkner said the Bill would strengthen the right to obtain documents under the FOI Act and the Archives Act, promoting transparency and accountability of government.

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