Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Melbourne newspaper readers left in the dark about alleged Aussie Hezbollah terrorist

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The revelation that an Australian passport holder was allegedly involved in last year's bus bombing coordinated by Hezbollah that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria understandably garnered much local media coverage. In addition to numerous radio and TV reports, news briefs in yesterday's newspapers were followed up with more extensive reports today.

Except, bizarrely, there was no mention of the allegation by Bulgarian authorities in the hard copy editions of the national Australian Financial Review (AFR) or in either of Melbourne's two daily newspapers - the Age and Herald Sun.

Even small regional papers like the Gold Coast Bulletin, Cairns Post, and the Northern Territory News ran something on it - but not Melbourne's two dailies, or the AFR.

In fact, people living in Geelong - which is only one hour's drive south of Melbourne - were better served than Melbournians, with the Geelong Advertiser running a quite sizeable story on its world news page.

Oh wait... both the Age and the Herald Sun did run prominent cover stories on bombers in their last two editions.

But that related to alleged illegal performance enhancing drug use by the Essendon Football Club, aka "The Bombers" - a wholly different kettle of fish.

The Age's decision not to print even a news brief on a story that has both a local and international angle is even more puzzling considering the paper's Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard produced an 800 word article that featured on its own website.

The Age also decided to forego the article from David Wroe discussing the involvement of Australian law enforcement agencies in pursing the alleged terrorist which was published by the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age's sister paper.

Likewise, the Herald Sun would apparently have had access to the stories published in numerous other News Ltd. papers in Australia, but also decided to only report it on its website.

More seriously, only last Friday, the Age ran a page two story by its legal affairs writer Harriet Alexander highlighting a new report published in the Melbourne Law Review calling for the repeal of anti-terrorism legislation passed in the wake of 9/11.

The AFR website yesterday also a comprehensive piece on the Bulgaria bombing story from one of its Sydney journalists, Joanna Heath. The paper edition did not - but it did note that new federal Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has signalled he is receptive to reviewing and perhaps diluting anti-terrorism legislation.

In this light, given the obvious news interest of both papers in the questions related to Australian terrorism and counter-terrorism, the lack of reference in both papers to the hunt for an Australian terrorist is highly perplexing.

Or is the omission another sign that "news" and "papers" are parting company as the internet's dominance looms ever larger?

Allon Lee