Green Left statement: Senator's bid to intimidate media & Muslim community is outrageous

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Independent newspaper Green Left Weekly today slammed attempts by Liberal Senator Brett Mason in the Senate to inflame anti-Islam sentiment and intimidate a media outlet that opposes this.

Liberal Senator Brett Mason moved a motion in the Australian Senate on September 18 to condemn Green Left Weekly for publishing articles that criticised the NSW police in the September 15 protest by Muslims in Sydney. Justifying the motion, he said: “Is there anything more toxic in the politics of this country than the self-loathing of the Green Left Weekly and the moral vanity of the Australian Left, both beholden as they are, as they always have been, to outmoded notions of political correctness?”

Mason’s motion also sought to place the entire blame for the clashes on “the violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists” — helping fuel an already hysterical campaign against Muslims in the media.

The motion read: “ Senator Mason: To move—That the Senate—
(a) supports the rights of Australians to peacefully protest and condemns
violent protests;
(b) deplores the violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists during protests on
15 September 2012 in Sydney that led to the injury of police officers; and
(c) condemns Green Left Weekly for its publication of articles blaming police
for the confrontation that was instigated by violent protestors. ”

The motion was defeated 35 votes to 30.

Green Left Weekly co-editor Simon Butler said: “This is an attempt to intimidate a media outlet for expressing its views. We ran an eyewitness account of the events on September 15 that challenges the view Senator Mason wishes to put, so he uses his position in the Senate to try to intimidate us.

“The Green Left reporter Rachel Evans was on the scene and wrote what she saw. To the best of our knowledge, Senator Mason was not there. Rather than try and inflame tensions, perhaps Mason should read the many eyewitness accounts that challenge the official story.

“The motion's call to condemn the violence of the protesters was hypocritical when eyewitness accounts indicate the violence was provoked and instigated by police, who used pepper-spray and other forms of force on what had been an overwhelmingly peaceful crowd."

Green Left's Mel Barnes said: “Mason's motion is an outrage, as it seeks to use the events to demonise Muslims and inflame tensions. Mason did not condemn the anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up by sections of the media.

“These include Herald Sun commentator Andrew Bolt writing an inflammatory blog post on September 15 headlined, 'We let them in. Now they threaten'. It includes the lynch mob hysteria the Daily Telegraph sought to whip up on September 18, with front page mugshots of alleged rally participants.

“These cynical, deliberately inflammatory pieces come at the time as the NSW Police, far from apologising or seeking to launch an inquiry into the actions of its members, is launching a crackdown on the Muslim community.

“We do not shy away from criticism of the NSW police for their actions, nor from opposing the crackdown. This is a serious attack on civil liberties. Anyone who reads Green Left knows we do not share all the views expressed at that rally. We support the right to protest. And we absolutely defend our right to report on the events freely. We congratulate the majority of the Senate who rightly rejected Mason's motion.”

[For comment call: Simon Butler 0421 231 011, Mel Barnes, 0423 978 518.]