Bookshop ban shows extraordinary level of involvement: author

The Queensland Independent, (University of Queenland newspaper) 9th March 1999

by Michelle Skog

The level of involvement of senior executives in the removal of a controversial new book from Dymocks shelves by several senior executives was extraordinary, the book's author said this month.

"Murder by Media - Death of Democracy in Australia" by Scott Balson was banned by Dymocks bookstores, who claimed passages in it may defame several prominent Australian media identities.

There had been involvement in the book's removal by Dymocks chairman, managing director, general manager and company secretary through direct orders, faxes and emails Balson said.

Mr Balson said Dymocks bookstores distributed the book after its launch in January but removed it from stores on February 9 on the orders of Dymocks' chairman John Forsyth.

Scott Balson's world-wide web page quotes "the lady in charge of book distributions" at Dymocks as "stunned" at what Balson called the "level of intervention".

She declined to comment further.

Mr Balson said an email sent to Dymocks stores on February 9 by general manager Paul Clark cited "legal reasons" for removing the book.

The next day the publisher, Interactive Presentations Pty Ltd, wrote to Dymocks requesting an explanation but Mr Balson said he was given no opportunity to respond.

Mr Balson said also that a fax sent to Dymocks on February 12 from secretary John Millard, said that following legal advice, and for the protection of Dymocks, stock was to be removed from the shelves and no further copies be sold.

Mr Balson said he received an explanation from the managing director of Dymocks, Keith Perkin, about the decision.

"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.

"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."

When contacted, a representative of Mr Perkin said neither he nor Dymocks had any further comment.

Mr Balson said he had received no threats or complaints, legal or otherwise, at the time.

Mr Balson said he widely publicised the book's launch and delivered nearly 30 copies to individuals in the press but the media did not attend the launch.

"When one considers what some see as the 'highly controversial' nature of the book's content... some level of interest was to be expected," Mr Balson said.

Mr Balson said he was distributing the book through the Internet and that it was working well.

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