UPDATE Fri Aug 31, 2pm: The Centralian Advocate today has printed only part of the story – a clear attempt to make me and this publication look bad.
Citing public interest as its motive, the Murdoch paper invited me to respond to questions and to comment. I did – but the Advocate left out the most salient detail. My statement to reporter Brooks was: “I have no debts other than to Forrest …”
Just in case she didn’t get it: I don’t owe a cent to anyone except David Forrest. – ERWIN CHLANDA
The Murdoch-owned Centralian Advocate is making enquiries about the Alice Springs News Online and its editor, Erwin Chlanda.
We received the following email on Tuesday, signed “Sally Brooks, Journalist, Centralian Advocate” saying: “I have been following the Randal Carey case and came across information that you were declared bankrupt in June.
“I also saw a new business, Alice Springs News Online, was registered on May 16, 2012, the same day the court case in which David Forrest applied to bankrupt you, started.
“I am writing a story about this for the paper, and wondered if you would like to respond?”
Mr Chlanda replied: “It was I who applied for bankruptcy and my application was granted. David Forrest’s application did not proceed.
“I have no debts other than to Forrest, formerly a principal of Framptons First National Real Estate, pursuant to a defamation judgment.
“In what context is the Alice Springs News Online registration being raised? It is not a business but a business name, and the registration is not in my name.
“Are there specific questions you wish to put? I would certainly like to respond.”
On Wednesday Ms Brooks sent further questions, saying they related to the public interest of the story:-
Q: Does your bankruptcy jeopardise the trading of Alice Springs News?
A: The Alice Springs News Online is continuing with a new management structure.
Q: Is it ‘business as usual’ for you?
A: I used to be the Managing Editor, now I am the Editor.
Q: What is the relationship of the business name Alice Springs News Online to alicespringsnews.com.au?
A: Alice Springs News Online more accurately reflects our current activity.
Q: If there is a relationship, why was the business name registered on the same day the Forrest bankruptcy application started?
A: You have your facts wrong.
The defamation action arose from one report in a long series of stories, most of them exclusive, about the Frampton New Homes scheme which collapsed in 2010, with a dozen home buyers losing a lot of money, not to mention peace of mind. (Reports can be googled on this site.)
The critical content of the report sued on was changed at the earliest possible opportunity (the following edition), without Mr Forrest even having contacted us.
The court this year delivered an entirely one-sided judgement and awarded the maximum payment of $100,000 plus interest to Mr Forrest who has since left town. I had a credible defence, based on carefully articulated legal principles drafted by barristers, but I did not have the resources to employ a legal team. I had to represent myself to the best of my ability.
As I have said before, the way our society deals with defamation must be reformed. The present procedures are a major impediment to our freedom of speech, with whoever has the deeper pockets being a critical factor in the outcome.
I am Alice Springs’ longest serving journalist, arriving in 1974, and ever since have provided news about Central Australia for print and television media here, interstate and overseas.
During the half century in my profession, having never before had a defamation judgment against me, I risked my life covering armed conflicts in Nigeria and Biafra (before emigrating from my native Austria), in Afghanistan (embedded with a Mujahideen group behind Soviet lines), and Cambodia during the UN sponsored elections.
My colleague and wife Kieran Finnane and I founded the weekly Alice Springs News in 1994 as the first ever sustained, locally owned and controlled newspaper. In March last year the News went exclusively online. Our online edition (as an adjunct to the print edition) had started in 1997 – among the nation’s first internet newspapers.
And now, in the public interest, we have a question for the Centralian Advocate: Where was it when a dozen local families formed the Framptons New Homes Broken Promises group in response to dealings by Frampton New Homes between late 2008 and mid-2010?
– ERWIN CHLANDA