Facebook statement by Jacinta Price and our reply

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Statements by Jacinta Nampijinpa Price on her Facebook page on April 26, 2019 are misleading and hysterical. My responses are in Italic type.

 

This week Erwin Chlanda of the Alice Springs News Online site wrote a number of articles about me that clearly demonstrate his dislike for me.

 

My work is not guided by likes or dislikes but by the public interest of a story and the imperatives of the Journalistic Code of Conduct. I have treated Ms Price at all times with professional courtesy. What’s more, I gave her 24 hours notice of the article which started this exchange, providing her the full text minus some minor subbing changes. I followed up with a second email five hours ahead of the decline. She did not reply.

 

He has admitted that his article, as he said to NT News ‘consists almost entirely of facts’. Well ‘almost entirely’ is not entirely and this is evidence he has an agenda and part of that agenda was to mislead his readers.

 

I have had no contact with the NT News. I replied in the Alice Springs News to the assertion by Ms Price that my “editorial lacks fact and is highly defamatory.” I wrote: “The report, in reality, consists almost entirely of facts: they speak for themselves on Ms Price’s record.” In addition to these facts (which are not disputed by Ms Price) the article contained background, comment and questions. Ms Price has no “evidence” of my intention to mislead readers.

 

The fact is myself and my mother demanded an apology from Mr Chlanda in 2017 for his ruthless attempt at trying to follow up on a vicious lie told about my mother when she was a Minister in the previous CLP government. The lie was so obscene, vulgar and racially vilifying that I will not repeat it here.

 

However what I will say is that if my mother had been a white woman Minister you could guarantee that Chlanda would have rejected it out right as another respected journalist from The Australian did when he was told the lie. In fact this journalist contacted us as he was so disgusted in the lie he wanted to inform us of it and the source of the lie. Since Mr Chlanda failed to apologise I explained to him that I would never respond to anything he tried to communicate to me again which is what I have done.

 

This is a hysterical distortion of the facts. I was told a rumour about Bess Price. I made enquiries with one person other than her to check whether the story was true. The race of Bess Price had no relevance to my enquiries. The fact that she was a Minister of the Crown made the enquiry relevant. I was told the rumour wasn’t true. I passed this on to the source of the rumour and of course did not publish anything about this. Any further comment about this issue, including her reference here, is the work of Jacinta Price, and possibly others in her circle.

 

I will not apologise for doing my job as a journalist. I routinely check out rumours about public figures however unlikely they might seem. Second-guessing is a less reliable process than actually checking. For example, who would ever have thought that the former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser would be found in a hotel lobby without his trousers on; this was widely reported by mainstream media when it was revealed. 

 

The last time I engaged with the Alice Springs News Online was with Mr Chlanda’s wife Kieren Finnane just after being elected for a second term on Alice Springs Town Council. During my interview with Kieren she put it to me that she thought it strange that an Aboriginal woman (being me) would get on so well with ‘grumpy old white men’, referring to my colleagues on council.

 

I found this comment insulting as it suggested that because of my race and gender I should think and feel a particular way toward another on the basis of their race and gender. My private text message that she published unlawfully on her site was in context with these comments and her article that followed (the excerpt I have provided below).

 

Kieran Finnane published a profile of Ms Price before her election to her second term on council, not after. In that profile she asked Ms Price why she consistently voted with the “old white fellas”.  She did not describe them as grumpy. There was a subsequent exchange with readers, including David Price, about her use of the term. 

 

This was not Kieran Finnane’s last contact with Ms Price. She attended interviewed her again after a rally she conducted in early 2018. 

 

In relation to the publication of Ms Price’s text message to Kieran Finnane, our news judgment was that the public had a right to know about the impertinent and offensive statement made by Ms Price, a candidate seeking high public office. As the text was a communication directly to Ms Finnane, was prompted by a report in the Alice Springs News of which Ms Price had been given generous advance notice, and was not marked in any way as ‘private’ or ‘not for publication’, it was proper and in the public interest to publish it.  

 

Again it is clear both Erwin and Kieren have an outdated view about Aboriginal people that relies on racial stereotyping hence why I will not communicate with them or their online blog. As a result Chlanda became frustrated because I ignored two of his emails this week and so chose to go on the attack in order to get my attention.

 

I did not mention the race of Ms Price in the report. She mentioned mine, in a pejorative manner. My report was accurate and it was in the public interest, scrutinising her record as councillor as reflected in council minutes and drawing on our reporters’ first-hand experience of attending meetings.

 

The purpose of its publication was not to attract the attention of Ms Price but rather that of many of our 24,547 individual readers (Google Analytics, last 30 days as of today’s date).

 

I have provided here screenshots from the minutes of all the Council Ordinary Meetings I have attended whether by phone or in person of my list of community commitments. As a Councillor it is not well understood that this position is not a full time position of employment.

 

It is a commitment one takes while having full time employment. My employment circumstances for more than a decade have involved regular interstate travel and as a result I could not attend every single local meeting but neither has every other elected member including the Mayor hence why we have a Deputy Mayor. But my commitment to this community has never faltered and many who know me know this is true.

 

What Mr Chlanda failed to provide his readers was all the facts and anything he does not know he has made up which is a lie.

 

I accurately reported facts responsibly chosen, coupled with a more than adequate opportunity for right of reply, to enable readers interested in assessing Ms Price’s performance in local government. This is especially considering her undertaking to serve a full term. Her malevolent claim that I have made up lies is entirely rejected.

 

He has picked that which he wants readers to know including his claim I had been part of three code of conduct complaints against Councillors. The fact remains I made just one Code of Conduct Complaint against one Councillor because this Councillor had made public claims that they were threatened by my family. No member of my family threatened this Councillor. Police did not investigate this claim because it could not be corroborated, not by any member of public present when it was supposed to have taken place and nor by CCTV footage which I along with Alice Springs Police viewed. This matter is ongoing.

 

Ms Price is misleading the public. At last night’s council meeting it was revealed that she, her mother Bess Price and her father David Price were the sole complainants against two councillors in three separate processes. She is expecting the public to believe that she had no “part” in the two complaints brought by her parents.

 

While carrying out my Council commitments over the last 18 months I have also had to attend court in order to secure a Personal Violence Order against an individual who threatened me publicly. Aside from this I regularly receive death threats online, vulgar and sexually violent online messages all because I choose to stand up for what I believe in.

 

Despite much of these challenges and many more the public are not privy to I have continued to commit to not only my community but to the wider Australian community. I would like to know as well as many in Lingiari when Alice Springs News Online are going to report on the performance on the current member for Lingiari who has been an MP in Canberra for nearly 30 years and is supposed to have represented Territorians in all this time.

 

I am not the first person to have been defamed by Alice Springs News Online and it is publicly known that they have been taken to court, sued and lost because of their unprofessionalism in the past. I will continue to stand firm in my beliefs and in my work and I stand up to people like Chlanda and Finnane. If the general public is interested everyone can access Council minutes … and meeting records and make up your own minds. This issue I will now lay to rest because I have more important things to do which is to continue to fight for the people of Lingiari.

 

We have not defamed Ms Price; again she is distorting the facts and misleading the public.  

 

In more than half a century of full-time journalism, I have been sued for defamation only once and the order against me  was a travesty of justice.

 

The suit was brought by David Forrest, promoter of Framptons New Homes, about which we reported extensively and often exclusively. He has since left town.

 

In the meantime, the readership of the Alice Springs News has approximately doubled. 

 

Ms Finnane has never been sued by anyone.

 

 

 

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