UTS:ACRI WEBINAR: ‘According to sources...’: Unpacking national security reporting in Australia’s discussion of the PRC
March 24 2021
National security has become a more prominent angle for Australian media reporting on relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Such reporting regularly cites anonymous sources.
On the one hand, the public interest is overwhelmingly served by journalism that uncovers facts previously hidden from view. On the other hand, when views are presented without attribution or documentary evidence, scepticism can be stoked about the qualifications and motivations of those behind such stories. This can lead to diminished trust in the Fourth Estate, a vital institution in well-functioning liberal democracies. It can also feed division in Australian society, which the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Frances Adamson, has warned that Beijing might seek to exploit to further its interests.
What ethical challenges do journalists face when they receive information from sources insisting on anonymity? Is there a consensus around what ‘best-practice’ looks like in handling these challenges and how does Australia stack up compared with standards overseas? What markers can readers look for to help determine which reporting they can have confidence in? Are background briefings from government sources common on PRC-related developments and policy announcements: who hosts these and what purpose do they aim to serve? Is access ever selective or conditional? Does recent legislation make it harder for journalists to serve the public interest in national security reporting, whether it deals with the PRC or elsewhere? When it comes to challenges that the PRC presents, what are some of the best examples of where the public interest has been served by national security reporting that drew on anonymous sources?
The Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS:ACRI) hosted an online webinar with Professor Monica Attard, Head of Journalism, UTS and former reporter and foreign correspondent for the ABC; and Anthony Galloway, foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on a panel moderated by UTS:ACRI Director Professor James Laurenceson to discuss these issues.
Time: 12.30pm - 1.30pm
About the speakers
Professor Monica Attard OAM spent 28 years at the ABC, working across radio and television. Professor Attard holds a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Law, Order of Australia for services to journalism and is the winner of 5 Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism (including gold). She is best-known for hosting some of the ABC's flagship programs, including PM, The World Today and Media Watch, and being a reporter and foreign correspondent for AM. A journalist for 35 years, she has also been a TV and radio reporter, including for Four Corners and Lateline, a foreign correspondent and was the foundation editor of the website, The Global Mail. She was the ABC’s Russia correspondent at possibly the best time in modern history to be a Russia correspondent. She reported on the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, the collapse of Soviet communism, the rise of Boris Yeltsin and his peculiar brand of capitalism and democracy, the first Chechen war and she covered civil wars across the old Soviet Union. Four years of covering the revolution left her with just enough energy to pump out a book about the events – Russia, Which Way Paradise? Professor Attard was recently the head of journalism at Macleay College in Sydney and Melbourne.
Mr Galloway is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in the press gallery in Parliament House, Canberra. He previously covered federal politics and state politics for the Herald Sun.