Debate rages over council CCTV footage

Paint splatted throughout the CBD after the graffiti attack last month.
Paint splatted throughout the CBD after the graffiti attack last month.

In the early hours of Wednesday, January 16, a vandal roamed the streets of Wollongong's CBD for almost an hour, wantonly splattering several tins of paint over public and private property.

The resulting damage took two bricklayers and two painters five days to clean up, at a cost to ratepayers of about $4600.

The Mercury covered the attack on January 17. The next day we ran a "We Say" editorial opinion piece declaring our formal application for the council's CCTV footage of the attack, under freedom of information laws.

On Tuesday, January 22, we ran a letter to the editor from Dr Robert Carr, criticising the Mercury's stance on this issue. Dr Carr is not merely an academic with an opinion: he was an independent advisor to the council on the formulation of its policy covering CCTV cameras, and is also the editor of an organisation called Illawarra News.

At the time, we did not respond to Dr Carr's letter. We decided to wait for the outcome of our application to council. That was finally resolved this week when the council allowed our reporter to watch the CCTV footage - but denied us the right to publish images from that footage that would identify the vandal.

That story was published in yesterday's Mercury.

Yesterday morning, Dr Carr's own organisation, Illawarra News, responded to the story by tweeting that "Mercury sensationalism could be at an all time low."

We have republished Dr Carr's letter from January 22, along with our response.


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