PO Locked Bag No. 2
West Perth WA 6872
June 7, 2012
Dear Mrs Rinehart,
The journalists employed at Fairfax metropolitan media – The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, The Age, The Sunday Age and The Australian Financial Review – have asked us, as their representatives, to write to you about recent reports concerning your attempts to join the board of Fairfax Media.
Articles in The Australian newspaper in the past month have stated that a reason you were not successful in joining the board was because you declined to give undertakings you would not seek to influence the editorial content of Fairfax publications.
Whether there is any truth to these reports we do not know. That said, we would like you to know the journalists at Fairfax strongly support the long-standing practice here that we report the affairs of the country free from influence of the board and its members.
When the ownership of the company changed hands two decades ago, the Fairfax board and representatives of the journalists employed here negotiated a Charter of Editorial Independence setting out the fundamental principles upon which journalism is practised.
Underpinning the charter was the idea that the independence of Fairfax journalism under new owners would be safeguarded by setting down simple rules to ensure the newspapers report whatever issues they and their editors regard as important, free of commercial or other considerations of the board and the investors they represent.
It was a simple idea that has proved highly successful. The reputation for independence enjoyed by Fairfax publications remains unparalleled in this country thanks largely to the charter which was negotiated and signed by the company’s then chairman, a former governor-general of Australia, the late Sir Zelman Cowen.
Given that history, you will understand the reports suggesting you might not support the Charter of Editorial Independence have caused considerable disquiet among staff.
We would like you to give us an assurance you do support the principles set out in the Charter of Editorial Independence and, in the event you join the Fairfax board, you will agree to uphold them.
Such an assurance would go a long way to reassuring the staff who produce the publications in which you have such a substantial investment.
We would of course be happy to discuss this or any other Fairfax issue with you should you so wish.
Combined Herald House Committee, Sydney
Age House Committee, Melbourne
Age Independence Committee
AFR House Committee