Don't dare call it "Censorship" in Australia

by Scott Balson

21st February 1999

We are told that Australians live in a country which is a model of democracy. My experience is that we live in a society where the truth is somewhat different.

One of the pillars of any true "democracy" is freedom of speech.

In the book "Murder by Media, Death of Democracy in Australia" the cracks that have opened in this facade are exposed. Meetings cancelled, shut down or threatened by violent mobs acting against a legitimately registered political party. Following these acts against democracy the silence of political leaders in Australia was deafening. No condemnation against the thugs as we were told by the mainstream media that they were simply exercising their right of freedom of speech.

The day after "Murder by Media" was launched by me in January 1999 I was invited by the George street branch of Dymocks to sign books in their store. I did.

The absence of the media at the launch spoke volumes. Despite the launch being widely publicised by fax the day before and the prior delivery of nearly 30 complimentary copies to carefully selected individuals in the press not one member of the custodians of free speech attended.

When one considers what some see as the "highly controversial" nature of the book's content (despite being based on extracts from articles and reports in the mainstream media) some level of interest was to be expected. Especially for the reasons that the book was written by a person close to the One Nation hierarchy, and, that the book was levelled at the corruption in Australia's political/media alliance and their collective role in attempting to destroy another party.

But worse was to follow.

On the 9th February at a time when the book was selling extremely well through Dymocks stores, the Chairman of the franchise chain, John Forsyth, took the unprecedented step of calling for all stores to remove the book from their bookshelves. I was not told before this decision was broadcast to stores and, when contacting the lady in charge of book distributions was told that Dymocks had had no complaints about the book. She added that she was "stunned" by the high level of intervention. I am the distributor, my company published the book has had no threats or complaints legal or otherwise - this position has not changed.

The email sent to stores by Paul Clark, General Manager of Dymocks, on the 9th Febrruary cited "legal reasons" for removing the book.

The next day the publishers, Interactive Presentations Pty Ltd wrote to Dymocks requesting an explanation - but was given no opportunity to respond before a final decision was taken by them.

On Friday morning the fax at this link was sent to all Dymocks stores. It states, in part, "...following legal advice now which we have now obtained, and for the protection of both Dymocks and all the franchisees, an instruction is now given that any stock be removed from the shelves, and no further copies of the book be sold."

The fax was signed by John Millard the company secretary.

Several hours later the I  received an official reply from the managing director of Dymocks, Keith E Perkin attempting to explain the decision.

The fax confirms that no complaints or threats had been received but the company had decided, unilaterally, to single "Murder by Media" out anyway. My understanding is that no other book has been singled out like this before. The intervention of the Chairman, Managing Director, General Manager and Company Secretary of Dymocks. reflects an extraordinary level of involvement. One feels that this is a relatively minor issue which should, if the decision was taken equitably, impact on a large number of books on the Dymocks book shelves right now - as the basis of its withdrawal is summed up thus,

"I note your comment that the book cannot be the subject of legal threats because "it is based on fact and what reporters have written over the last three years". Even if that is in fact the case, we have been advised that truth alone is not a defence to defamation actions in Australia."

But I dare not call it the "C" word and I will let the managing director of Dymocks explain to you why...:

"I put you on notice that any statement which you make which suggests that Dymocks' decision resulted in any way from an attempt to censor your book and the views expressed in it from being circulated, will result in the commencement of legal proceedings against you without notice".

Finally several Dymocks stores now tell clients that "Murder by Media" has been withdrawn because of pending legal action. This is blatantly untrue. The book is still being distributed by other book stores and by me.

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