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Creative censorship by Australian government funded media: The Conversation

Text Box: Our Objectives:
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I decided to put these incidents on public record for the benefit of the Australian society and to uphold the original purpose of the tax payer funded Internet media – The CONVERSATION.

 

The CONVERSATION is funded by the Australian government for the following purposes:

 

Who We Are: “We aim to be a site you can trust.”

 

Our Chapter:  “… providing a trusted platform that values and promotes new thinking and evidence-based research”; “Unlock the knowledge; Create an open site for people around the world”; Provide a fact-based and editorially-independent forum, free of commercial or political bias”; “Ensure the site’s integrity by only obtaining non-partisan sponsorship”; “Ensure quality, diverse and intelligible content”; foster academic freedom to conduct research, teach, write and publish” and that the CONVERSATION is operating for the public good.

 

One of the 10 rules: “We welcome debate and dissent”.

 

However, with a simple search on the internet, I have already find an incident of censorship against Dr Gideon Polya, a lecturer in an University in Melbourne who has complained that he has “encountered many instances of censorship by The Conversation of comments posted”. One of his complaints is that he has been locked out from making comments on ANZAC Day. 

 

On 22 May, I noticed that my comment posted on the CONVERSATION no longer appeared instantly on the CONVERSATION website after I clicked on ‘reply’ or ‘post’ and then refreshed the site; I then posted a few more comments that day and the next morning before making an enquiry to the CONVERSATION asking “if my comments were being subjected to pre-screening.”

 

This is the reply by Megan Clement of the CONVERSATION: “Thanks for your email. As far as I know your comments have not been subjected to pre-screening, nor are we able to pre-screen comments. Can you tell me a bit more about your experience?”.

I then replied to Ms. Clement: “Many of my comments were censored by the mainstream media and that is the reason why I double check my comment each time I posted. Over the last few weeks, I am able to view my posting in the CONVERSATION after clicking on ‘post’ or ‘reply’, and then refresh or click on back button at the top of my browser and are still able to view my comment. But at the  beginning of this week, my posting no longer enjoyed such a feature.  And when I click on ‘back’, my comment did not appear underneath the article. They only appear later. It never happened like this  before. So I made a few more posts that day and the following day before I make an inquiry to the CONVERSATION on whether my comments were being subjected to pre-screening …”

 

Creative Censorship by the CONVERSATION

 

The  comments I posted since then are back to normal. Then came two strange incidents:

 

On 24 May, The CONVERSATION published an article: ‘Australian appeasement: the slow boat to China’ (http://theconversation.edu.au/australian-appeasement-the-slow-boat-to-china-7209); There are altogether 9 comments on this article including two made by myself, generally all the 9 comments are against America with a favourable view towards China. The strange thing happened as follows:

 

On 25 May, The CONVERSATION created another page for the same article ‘Australian appeasement: the slow boat to China’ (http://theconversation.edu.au/australian-appeasement-the-slow-boat-to-china-7224); This time, there are 5 comments, all pro-America and anti-China (Note: I have used the key board function ‘Ctrl + Prt Scrn’ to preserve the evidence of all the 5 comments on the 25th May and the 9 comments on the 24th May, that will be shown at the end of this article);

 

I then informed a couple of people who made comments on the 24th May about the strange activity by the CONVERSATION.

 

I also noticed that, on the CONVERSATION’s homepage, the link to that article is to the 25th May version, and on the author page, it is the same,  only the 25th May version has been featured there as well.

 

Then, another strange thing happened to this article published on the 29 May, ‘Syria, Media and the failure of our corrective memory’ (http://theconversation.edu.au/syria-social-media-and-the-failure-of-our-collective-memory-73000 ); within a few hours of it publication, the CONVERSATION closed the comment session.

 

I made an inquiry to the CONVERSATION (support-us@theconversation.edu.au) on the 29 May seeking an explanation on the above two strange activities. This is the exact content of my queries:

 

                 -------------------------------------------------------

 

“I have two queries:

 

Is there any reason the comment feature has been closed within the same day an article was posted:  http://theconversation.edu.au/syria-social-media-and-the-failure-of-our-collective-memory-7300. This is the very first time I encountered such problem with the CONVERSATION. I have double checked  a dozen of articles older and newer than the above, and the comment features are still open for comment. So why is this article so special?

Your article: Australia appeasement: The slow boat to China has two versions:

One dated 24 May: http://theconversation.edu.au/australian-appeasement-the-slow-boat-to-china-7209 (Originally with 9 comments which is quite negative toward America and more favouring China)

The other on 25 May: http://theconversation.edu.au/australian-appeasement-the-slow-boat-to-china-7224 (Originally 5 comments print screen on 27 May (am), which is the other way round, negative toward China and more favouring US).

I noticed such unusual posting on 26 May and informed a couple of people making comment on 24 May about the strange double versions. I then went to the home page, and checked on the article, it will bring us to the 25 May article, I then visited the author page, only the 25 May article was there as well.

Apparently, one of the people I notified has contacted the CONVERSATION for explanation, and then, there appear to be some changes to the author site. In fact, the author site was inaccessible for a number of hours on Monday.

Both the above incidents were quite strange. And they happened for the first time in the CONVERSATION. Is there a specific reason for such an unusual development?

 

The CONVERSATION is a tax payers’ funded media, it is a public good and are supposed to be a free forum to all who make “quality, diverse and intelligible comments”.

 

I am not trying to query your authority, but simply find the above two incidents strange as they are the first time as far as myself and other experience with the CONVERSATION are concerned.

 

Appreciate your enlightenment on the above two issues.”

 

                     ---------------------------------------------------

 

Before I received any reply, I decided to complaint directly to Megan Clement  the following day (30 May) as I experience pre-screening of my comment again. This is my e-mail:

 

                   ---------------------------------------------------

 

Dear Megan,

 

After your e-mail dated 15 May 2012 saying that the CONVERSATION did not pre-screen my comment, I notice that, the comment I posted thereon is back to normal. However, this morning, I notice that the same problem return to the comment I posted on the CONVERSATION, that is, I won’t be able to view my own comment immediately after posting.

 

This is the print screen of my posting before clicking on refresh or back button:

 

attached to email to Megan on 30 May - resize version.jpg

 

After I click on refresh button, it is gone. 

 

Have I violated any of the comment rules on the COVERSATION?

 

Yesterday I sent the following e-mail enquiry to the COVERSATION about some strange activities in  the COVERSATION  over the last week and have yet to receive a reply.

 

Perhaps, I should direct the inquiry directly to you. The following is the content of my two queries:

 

[Note: in order not to repeat the content, please see above “I have two queries” for detail]

 

The issue here is, there are a number of comments in the above sudden “closed comment” article that are directed to me, I was deprived the right to add my opinion, why?

 

Is the CONVERSATION in any way trying to censor political view?

 

I hope that the editorial team in the CONVERSATION are able to uphold the Chapter of the CONVERSATION: https://theconversation.edu.au/our_charter, and welcome debate and dissent as stated here: https://theconversation.edu.au/community_standards .

Have my numerous comments violated any of your 10 rules?

 

                    -------------------------------------------------------------

 

This is the exact content of Ms. Clement instant reply:

 

                     -----------------------------------------------------------

 

“Sorry for the confusion. None of your comments has been screened. 


I used editorial discretion to close the comment thread on the Syria and social media piece. This was not related to any comments you posted.

 

The other source of confusion appears to be that Remy Davidson's article was initially published as a column, but repackaged as an analysis and comment piece, there was a technical bug brought up by this process that has since been fixed.”

 

                   ----------------------------------------------------------------

 

I then replied instantly to Ms. Clement  as follows:

 

                      -------------------------------------------------------------

Is there a specific reason for you to decide to close the comment thread on the Syria and social media piece?

 

That article is only there for a few hours only, and it is the first time as a few others CONVERSATION members/readers and I have experience so far.  

 

As far as our memory is concerned, this is the first time. That is why we think that it is very strange. 

 

Please forgive me, I have experienced a lot of censorship by the Australian media and therefore am very sensitive with any incident that is not normal.  

 

I only hope that the tax payer funded CONVERSATION will be able to uphold its founding chapters and core values.

 

                  -----------------------------------------------------------------

 

Ms. Clement then replied as follows:

 

                    -----------------------------------------------------------------

 

Editors at The Conversation are also passionate about our core values.

 

As I mentioned, the Syria piece's comment thread was closed based on editorial discretion, but not to do with any comments you made.

 

You can discuss the situation in Syria either here: https://theconversation.edu.au/why-houla-what-makes-a-massacre-marketable-7322 or here: https://theconversation.edu.au/syria-truth-lies-and-realpolitik-7328

 

We look forward to your continued contribution

 

                        ----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Interestingly, I later received a reply from the CONVERSATION from the earlier enquiry I posted on 29 May via (support-us@theconversation.edu.au) by Misha Ketchell. This is the exact content:

                        ----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Thanks for getting in touch. The answer to your queries is:

 

1) Comments on the Syria article were closed by an editor because the comments had started to degenerate into personal attacks on the author. We reserve the right to close comments where they're in breach of our community standards and that includes personal abuse.

 

2) Re the story on China, two versions were posted because it started off as a blog post but we decided it was a strong article that should also run as a separate piece in our analysis and comment copy stream. You raise a good point though. We need to find a better way to do this so we don't create two stories.

 

I hope that helps. Please let me know if you've any more questions

 

                        -------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I then replied to Mr. Ketchell as follows:

 

                        -----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Thank you for the explanation.

 

I notice that 1 out of the 70 comments on that Syria article have been deleted by admin. It appear that the rest of the 69 comments were alright. Therefore, the rationale behind the closing of the entire comment section after the article was put online for just a few hours on the same day is rather strange. As I and a few other CONVERSATION readers and members may observe, it is the first time such an incident took place on the CONVERSATION; apparently, the comment section has been reopened today.

 

In regards to the story on China (Australia Appeasement), I see no rationale to create another version on the 25 May. If the article is that important, that editor can always highlight the article on the homepage for a few more days. It can also be reintroduced to the readers through e-mailing  1 to 2 more times. Therefore, by creating another version of the same article with the first 5 comments totally opposite the views of the 9 comments on the 24 May is again very strange.

 

I am not questioning the authority of the respective editor, what does concern me is the possibility that that editor may have the intention to impose her political view upon the readers.

 

The CONVERSATION is a tax payer funded media, its Chapter clearly spells out the purpose of the government investment. It is supposed to be different from the mainstream media. It is supposed to “Unlock the knowledge”, “fact-based”, with “quality, diverse and intelligible content”, “foster academic freedom”, and it is a “public good” and will allow “debate and dissent  However, my research indicates that, the CONVERSATION do censor political views: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by

 

I personally also experienced two incidents of pre-screening of my comments posting. I made enquiries to the CONVERSATION  in both instants and were told that, I have not been pre-screened, and things were back to normal after each inquiry. I have in both occasions print screened a copy of my experience.

 

In fact, all the above incidents took place under the discretion of the same editor. She has rejected both my articles under the same excuse, “someone already submitted the respective topic.”

 

Again, I am not questioning the authority of the editor, but I do believe that, my articles are better researched and documented than most articles published on the CONVERSATION.

 

In fact, if you read my rejected ANZAC article: http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/australian-identity/anzac-day-and-colonialism/ ; you may notice that the number of acknowledgements by Facebook readers and the comments on that article indicate that many Australians actually supported my view. The important thing is, it is well researched and documented and it is fact-based. I thought this was what the CONVERSATION was for - to allow a variety of views on a variety of issues and let the highly educated readers to have their say and make up  their own mind.

 

China is now Australia’s largest trading partner, it is in Australia’s national interest to understand China as it is. However, this well researched article has again been declined by the same editor who had involved herself in the above named series of strange actions under the same excuse “someone already submitted the respective topic.”: http://outcastjournalist.com/index_files/understand_south_china_sea_standoff_via_filipino_media.htm;

 

I believe that my articles are able to sustain scrutiny. My analytical skills are above the ability of average people. You should find that this is not an easy article to write, but the evidence I produced is beyond reasonable doubt: http://outcastjournalist.com/index_files/boxilai_rumour_journalism_western_prejudice_and_china.htm

 

I believe that I am a highly qualified independent researcher of media disinformation in my own right.  This is my research: website. I am half way through a book: The Art of Media Disinformation is Hurting the West and Humanity.

Of course, I will double proofread my articles before submitting to the CONVERSATION.

 

Please consider to accept me as an author of the CONVERSATION based on the principle of diversity, debate and dissent, fact based, unlock the knowledge, quality and intelligible content, academic freedom, and the fact that it is a public good.

 

This is my personal info:

 

                                 ------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I received no reply from Misha Ketchell.

 

However, I noticed that, the Syrian article (http://theconversation.edu.au/syria-social-media-and-the-failure-of-our-collective-memory-73000 )with 70 comments with 1 deleted by Admin was totally removed from the CONVERSATION.

 

This is the evidence using ‘Ctrl + Prt Scrn’:

 

Syria article 29 May page not found.jpg

 

In fact, when I notice that the comment session for the Syria’s article has been closed within a few hours of its publication, I informed the Author, Nasya Bahfen, asking her to find out why. This is her reply 3 days later:

 

“I'm sorry to hear that. I do know they are trialling a new comment system where after a certain amount of time comments are closed to everyone and that may be the case here.”

 

Defending the last bastion of free speech in our media industry

 

I decided to write this article because I believe that the tax payer funded media “The CONVERSATION” is the last bastion of free speech in our media industry. No editor working in the CONVERSATION should abuse their power to project their personal political bias like the editors in the mainstream media. 

 

We hope that, the editorial team in the CONVERSATION will investigate into these strange incidents and give the public a transparent explanation on why censorship occurred in the publicly funded CONVERSATION so that the core values of the CONVERSATION will be uphold to ensure public trust.

 

We believe that, the work of the editors in the CONVERSATION is to verify the facts of each article and not to impose their personal political bias on the respective issues.

 

We hope that the editorial team will explain to the public what actions they will take to ensure the neutrality and objectivity of the editors working for the CONVERSATION  to prevent future censorship and politically bias incidents.

 

We hope that the founding core values of the CONVERSATION to be uphold by the editorial team so as to build trust with the public  and allow “evidence-based research” to Unlock the knowledge; and be “free of commercial or political bias”, so as to “Ensure quality, diverse and intelligible content”.

 

Many people that comment on the CONVERSATION are academics and professionals, they are well educated and are able to judge by themselves if a comment is accurate. Why editorial interference within the CONVERSATION through creative censorship?

 

For the interest of the public, people may compare the quality of both my articles declined by the CONVERSATION with the one that published:

 

ANZAC article: declined article  vs. accepted article;

South China Sea Disputes: declined article vs. accepted article

Again, I would like to emphasis here that I have no intention to challenge the authority of the editors, I decided to expose all these to defend the interest of the Australian public’s the democratic right to learn about issues from a variety of angles. The right to be informed is what democracy is all about.

 

To read the “CTRL + Prt Scrn” images of the 9 comments in favour of China and the 5 comments ...

 

To read the “CTRL + Prt Scrn” images of the 9 comments on the 24th of May in favour of China and the 5 images of the 5 comments on the 25th of May that that work the other way round, please click on Independent Media Australia, click on the attached images at the end of the article.

 

 

Posted on Independent Media Australia on 14 June 2012

Posted in Outcast Journalist website on 14 July 2012

 

Written by:

 

Wei Ling Chua

Accredited INS and ANFS Freelance Journalist

Independent Researcher of MediaDisinformation

Blog: www.outcastjournalist.com

Alert me with more story: wchua62@gmail.com

 

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