Those who follow the media will have seen that I am the subject of an attack in The Media section of The Australian today.

I have just returned from a long weekend away out of email and telephone contact (which can certainly help put things in perspective after a torrid week), so did not receive calls from the author of the piece, Geoff Elliott, in which he sought my comment. That’s a shame, because what he writes is wrong in key respects. His email to me with my reply, sent moments ago, is below.

The background to this attack is my reporting, first on the so-called Ozleaks case (see here and here) and more recently my long piece for the Crikey email on Thursday about The Australian’s reporting concerning Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland. Since I wrote that piece, The Age and Sunday Age have chimed in. 

In the meantime, I arrived back to my email and mobile phone to find the following correspondence from the author of the piece in The Media section of The Australian. Here it is, with my reply. The episode of The World Today that is referred can be found here.

Margaret, I’m writing an article for tomorrow’s newspaper in which the following is stated: 

From Simons’ reporting it is clear there has been selective and often inaccurate leaks from the OPI and Victoria Police designed to discredit Cameron Stewart and the newspaper. Not that this was done with any discretion. On one remarkable occasion on April 15, in the course of the federal court hearing, the OPI media officer Paul Conroy approached Misha Ketchell of Media Watch and Margaret Simons, greeted them warmly, joined them at the rear of the court immediately behind the legal team for The Australian and some distance from his director, and whispered intently throughout the proceedings. 

Would you like to comment on that? Do you dispute its accuracy? 

Also, you made some comments to the ABC’s World at Noon last week (transcript below) which appears to contain information not on the public record (see bold). Did that information come from the OPI or its proxies? 

Best

Geoff Elliott

 

Dear Geoff, I have just returned from a long weekend away, during which I was out of phone and email range. I have now caught up with your messages and with what you wrote for this morning’s newspaper. 

I appreciate that you tried to get hold of me. However what you wrote is inaccurate. 

  1. I have never been the recipient of leaks from the OPI or Victoria Police. I wish. 
  1. Regarding the court hearing on 15 April, I arrived early. Ketchell arrived shortly afterwards, and we sat and talked. Conroy arrived with the OPI Director just before the hearing got underway. He certainly greeted us. We were not sitting at the rear of the court, but in the middle. I barely spoke to him during the hearing, largely because I was live-Tweeting, as the Twitter record will attest. It is true I spoke to him after the hearing. But so what? Of course I have spoken to Conroy during my reporting of these events. I have also spoken or been in touch with Whittaker and half a dozen others in The Australian news room. 
  1. Your piece today alleges that I have been “on the drip” from the OPI, and offers as evidence the World Today interview, in which you say I “cited certain characteristics of the investigation that were not public”. The bit you have bolded from the transcript  indicates that these items are that Stewart’s alleged source had been named by him before in an article, and that action has resulted, that the key piece of evidence against the alleged source would be a record of interview between Stewart and the OPI, and that there was also an email trail involved. 

The information that the transcript of interview with Stewart was a key piece of evidence was not the product a leak, and it IS public. It was said by the OPI lawyers in open court at the same hearing you refer to elsewhere in your report. I Tweeted this live at the time, and reported it more fully for Crikey later. 

The other two pieces of information have not been made public before. I can assure you that my sources for this information do not include the OPI, any of its “proxies” or the Victorian Police. 

I will publish this correspondence on my blog this afternoon, and of course will write more for Crikey. 

Yours Margaret Simons

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