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Wednesday, 2 October 1974
Page: 1584

Senator GUILFOYLE (VICTORIA) - My question, which I direct to the Minister for the Media, refers in particular to reports in today's newspapers of the alleged harassment of Mrs Petrov by an Australian Broadcasting Commission 'Four Corners' film crew after Mrs Petrov had made it clear that she would not be interviewed under any circumstances. I ask: What safeguards does a private citizen who does not want to become involved with the media possess against this type of harassment? Is this action contrary to Australian Journalists Association ethics? What is the Minister's attitude to this incident? Has he any knowledge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's attitude to its employees who employ these tactics?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I tried to obtain some information on this matter this morning and during question time a note has been sent in to me. I have been informed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that it is true that a number of people from the 'Four Corners ' program yesterday called at a house in Melbourne at which it had been alleged that Mrs Petrov was living. As I understand it, the people concerned say that they had intended to research the possibility of some form of story to do with the Petrov case, but it is not clear at this stage what kind of story the 'Four Corners' team was seeking. The account of the events yesterday that has been conveyed to me as being the account of the people involved is that they went to a house in Melbourne, knocked on the door and received no reply. The 'Four Corners' people say that they then saw a woman leave the house in a car and they followed that car to a nearby police station. Shortly afterwards police officers interviewed them and asked them their business. The Australian Broadcasting Commission people say that they had no intention of harassing the woman concerned and apologised for causing anxiety to anyone involved. This is the extent of the information currently available to me but I have asked the Acting General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide me with any further details of the event when this is possible.

The honourable senator has asked me what my personal attitude is to this matter. I do not attempt or set out to prejudge the issue, but if there was harassment on the part of journalists towards any citizen I think it was wrong, and particularly on the part of journalists employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Journalists employed by private commercial interests might engage in harassment for the sake of obtaining a sensational story. In my opinion there is no reason why journalists employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should do so. I intend informing the Chairman of the Commission accordingly and will ask him to take the matter up with the Federal Secretary of the Australian Journalists Association.

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