This bro’s determined to learn more about Islam


THE headline screamed out at me yesterday morning as I walked into my Brisbane office.

As a Kiwi, I recoiled at the wording. What snide attack on New Zealanders was Brisbane's daily paper making this time? As it turned out, the call to punt New Zealanders, or Polynesians, involved in the Christmas Island riots is not something I overly object to.

But my reaction to the heading was powerful - it was Kiwi bashing. I was an upset member of a minority.

And that was thought-provoking as I join an advisory panel for the first time today called Reporting Islam, which aims to set international best practice guidelines for journalists in this country.

As a company, Australian Regional Media takes its ethical responsibilities seriously. We will not incite racial hatred, and we've invited those who run Reporting Islam to a conference where more than 20 of our editors and editorial leaders will be next month.

We want to hear how the Islamic community feels about our coverage, so we know first-hand the impacts we have on people who live in our community.

Just last week, the reporting of a complaint to council on the Fraser Coast, where someone got upset at a commercial outlet being used as a prayer centre by Muslims, came in for criticism.

At least one community group with strong human rights credentials criticised the paper for covering the issue, saying it risked inflaming tensions.

But someone had made a complaint to council. For us to ignore that would mean readers could lose faith in us making consistent decisions on what is news.

Another issue I've noticed is this - so keen are editors in some of our towns not to inflame tension, that I've wondered at times whether we've closed down too quickly those upset at other races moving in, or daring to open a mosque.

Why shouldn't their concerns be heard, if they are not being hateful?

That 'Bros' headline was designed to sell papers. It was too close to the bone for me. But the issue deserved to be talked about.

Bryce Johns is the editorial director of Australian Regional Media

Topics:  australian regional media editors picks hate speech hatred islam media racial abuse tolerance

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