Local radio station BayFM has lodged a complaint with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance [MEAA] over the treatment of its journalist Jim Beatson by the NSW premier’s security staff last week.
Mr Beatson was pushed backwards and then dragged away by two officers and a local lifeguard when he attempted to ask premier Gladys Berejiklian a question, about the destruction of koala habitat, during a media event at Brunswick Heads Surf Club on March 13.
The 73-year-old suffered cuts to his arms and bruising to his back during the incident, which was splashed across multiple national news websites within hours and then multiple nightly news bulletins.
BayFM’s station manager Philip Shine said the station had made a complaint to the MEAA over the incident.
‘We’re also planning to write to the surf club asking them why one of their people would be involved in manhandling a local journalist,’ he said.
Mr Beatson said he had fully recovered from the incident.
Mr Beatson said that the Nationals candidate for Ballina in the upcoming state election, Ben Franklin, had apologised to him over the incident, but that footage of the incident had shown Mr Franklin laughing with the premier as he was dragged away.
‘How can you claim to be interested in the welfare of locals when you stand by and allow a local journalist to be pushed around?’ he asked.
Mr Beatson said the incident also raised questions about the practice of senior politicians holding media events where journalists weren’t allowed to ask questions. ‘It’s a disgrace that photo opps are replacing media conferences,’ Mr Beatson said.
Complicit in govt propaganda
‘Journalists are essentially being asked to be complicit in this government propaganda by standing idly by and not asking any questions.’
The incident overshadowed the pledge by the premier and Mr Franklin to provide $3.8m to build a new surf clubhouse at Brunswick Heads should the government be re-elected on March 23.
The new clubhouse propsal includes a large function area, a kiosk area, and extensive storage space so that the club will no longer need to store the equipment it uses for nippers in shipping containers.
A Development Application (DA) for the clubhouse is currently before Byron Shire Council, with the club hopeful of getting approval in the next few months.
The president of the surf club, Craig Reid, said the club had outgrown its original clubhouse owing to a growth in the local population and changes to the nature of surf life saving.
‘These days, surf life saving has moved into jet skis, drones and a lot more large and expensive equipment that the current building can’t store,’ Mr Reid said.
Ms Berejiklian said the new clubhouse would be integral to the local community.
‘This will be a place for people to meet, to exercise and to help train our amazing volunteers and nippers,’ Ms Berejiklian said.