Fears visit by foreign reporters a whitewash

- October 9th, 2007
Author: Joel Gibson Indigenous Affairs Reporter

CRITICS of the Federal Government's indigenous policy have accused it of attempting to manipulate European media coverage of its controversial intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

Three European journalists will travel to Australia next week, at taxpayers' expense, to visit indigenous communities on a Government-guided tour.

The reporters will be from France's L'Express magazine, Italy's ANSA news agency and Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung, a newspaper with a correspondent already based in Australia who said he had covered the emergency response extensively.

"We obviously have a different perspective and more in-depth knowledge of the issue," said Urs Walterlin, vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents Association and local correspondent for the Suddeutsche Zeitung.

"Our colleagues, on the other hand, might take a different approach to the story, as they have limited previous knowledge and might look at it differently. However I am absolutely convinced that they would not fall for any spin-doctoring - if there is any."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is arranging the trip under its international media visits program, said the three organisations were nominated by Australian diplomatic missions in Europe "on the basis of their potential to generate coverage that increases international understanding and creates a more accurate or balanced viewpoint of Australia".

Details of who would get access to the group were still being completed, she said, but they would meet "a range of indigenous Australian community representatives and organisations".

Olga Havnen, of the Combined Aboriginal Organisations, said the tour was "a way of trying to control the negative international coverage that the intervention is getting". She it was being organised in conjunction with the Cape York leader Noel Pearson and interviews would be lined up with supporters of Government policy.

Mr Pearson was unavailable for comment.