AFP: national broadcaster only gave us two hours to respond

By The Mandarin

Friday February 2, 2018

It’s a scenario that nearly every public affairs officer and senior executive has faced — probably many times over.

“The AFP is committed to being transparent and accountable, but expects the courtesy of more than two hours given by the ABC to investigate and conduct searches of its holdings on a historic matter, and thus provide an accurate response.”

The matter in question was the “lost” 400 national security files over five years. More than 90% of these documents were subsequently located or confirmed to have been destroyed. An audit of cabinet-related documents found that while officers correctly destroyed the documents were destroyed, they “were not aware of the requirement to mark this destruction on a specific electronic database.”

The remaining 33 documents “have been destroyed”, the AFP asserts, but admits there is no official record to indicate that this destruction occurred.

Yes, it happens, but what’s also happening with much greater frequency is agencies hitting back at media reporting that doesn’t treat their subjects with fairness.

John Lloyd hits ‘disingenuous’ reporting, Martin Parkinson returns fire, and the Defence chiefs in ADF brass fightback. Boss of the former Immigration department Michael Pezzullo has also been known to author a rebuttal to unfavourable or inaccurate reporting.

In some cases it’s an individual reporter who will happily cut corners for a ‘front-pager’, or an entire media empire with a mogul’s axe to grind.

The ABC is not often among the worst offenders — albeit, Defence has blacklisted 7.30 and Four Corners after negative stories in the past. The AFP however, says this latest ABC effort was disappointing, yet puts its case politely and with appreciation for the other side:

“The AFP is disappointed the ABC based its story on incomplete and outdated documentation and knew they were doing so…

“The AFP accepts journalists work on tight deadlines, but it is clear this story has been developed by a team of journalists over a period of time. The AFP would have appreciated being extended the courtesy of more time to ensure an accurate response.”

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