The Press Council has warned newspaper editors of their obligations during the federal election campaign, as debate over media coverage heats up nationwide.
On Friday, Australian Press Council chair Professor Julian Disney wrote to the editors of metropolitan daily newspapers warning them to ensure facts and opinion are kept separate.
The warning, made public today, follows Monday’s episode of ABC TV’s Media Watch program, which singled out News Corp Australia’s treatment of Kevin Rudd on its tabloids’ front pages.
Prime Minister Rudd has complained about the treatment he has received from the Murdoch press in this campaign.
But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott responded that if you want better coverage, ‘‘be a better government’’.
He said he was drawing attention to the Press Council’s 2009 guideline on election reporting, which includes the following:
‘‘The council upholds the right of a newspaper to have its own political position; to accept certain beliefs and policies and to reject others; and to favour the election of one party and to oppose the election of another.
‘‘However, the council has emphasised strongly that newspapers that profess to inform the community about its political and social affairs are under an obligation to present to the public a reasonably comprehensive and accurate account of public issues.
‘‘As a result, the council believes that it is essential that a clear distinction be drawn between reporting the facts and stating opinion.
A paper’s editorial viewpoints and its advocacy of them must be kept separate from its news columns.”
It is not the first time the Press Council has circulated such a notice, but the body yesterday told the Mercury it had not been done recently, until Friday.
Professor Disney said he was responding to concerns raised by members of the public and people within the media industry.
Monday’s Media Watch detailed a series of anti-Rudd headlines on the front pages of News Corp dailies, including the Daily Telegraph’s ‘‘Kick this mob out’’, the Sunday Mail’s ‘‘Kevin deadly sins’’, the Herald Sun’s ‘‘it’s a Ruddy mess’’, and the Courier Mail’s ‘‘Does this guy ever shut up’’ and ‘‘Kev’s $733m bank heist’’.