Leading international scientists have condemned News Corp Australia for “inaccurate” and “misleading” reports about the environment, following an Australian Press Council ruling against the media giant.
In a ruling published on Wednesday, the council found Weekly Times reports misrepresented the fire and forestry research of ANU professor David Lindenmayer with articles that were “unfair and misleading” and that “did not accurately report” his findings or position.
Professor Lindenmayer’s research along with senior scientists concluded logging in critical regions made native forests more prone to bushfire.
The council found Weekly Times references to Professor Lindenmayer as “anti-logging” were unfair and misleading, and did not give him a fair opportunity to respond.
Professor Lindenmayer said he and his research “had been under sustained attack by industry lobbyists and sections of News Corp media outlets”.
An open letter sent to News Corp publications, signed by 21 Australian and international scientists called for the company to prioritise peer-reviewed published science over logging industry spin.
The letter was signed by high-profile scientists including US ecologist Gene Likens, who is best known for helping to discover acid rain in America.
Support also came from Chris Dickman, whose research estimated as many as three billion animals died or were misplaced in Australia’s mega fires of 2019/2020 as well as a former Chief of Australia’s CSIRO ecology section Brian Walker.
In the letter, the scientists say such misinformation is “dangerous” by “misinforming communities and policymakers, and in turn may put Australian forests at greater risk of bushfires”.
“By targeting eminent scientists such as Professor Lindenmayer, News Corp is also targeting the peer-reviewed research of hundreds of other senior scientists, whose findings could help save communities from catastrophic forest fires,” the letter says.
“It is dangerous to attack published research and globally respected scientists, without sound scientific evidence.”
Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Brian Martin, said Professor Lindenmayer and other leading ecologists had been under sustained attack by the Murdoch media in an “established pattern of ritual attacks against scientists when their evidence challenges industry practices”.
“The same sort of unbalanced reporting is common whenever powerful groups seek to discredit challenges to their activities,” Professor Martin said.
News Corp has been contacted for comment.