Fairfax journalist Heath Aston should be stood down, along with his editor, for wrongly accusing a Game Council officer of illegal hunting, says the council’s chairman, John Mumford.
In a very strongly worded statement that left no doubt about the anger felt by the Game Council’s board, Mr Mumford has condemned Fairfax Media for supporting an “unfounded smear campaign” by anti-hunting interests against the Game Council and its employees.
Game Council officer Andy Mallen was today reinstated to his job after being cleared by police of accusations that he had been involved in illegal hunting, accusation aired by the Sydney Morning Herald and many other Fairfax outlets.
“We demand a formal apology be made to Andy and his family by the Sydney Morning Herald and the journalist responsible,” Mr Mumford said.
“In fact, I ask: Will the Sydney Morning Herald stand down the editor and journalist responsible for this defamatory story, pending an investigation into how a man who was in Sydney at the time of the alleged offence was accused of something that occurred in the far west of the state?
“And will they publish the results of that investigation on the front page of their newspaper? If not, why not?
“An honourable, loyal and ethical man has been vilified with no just cause; his life has been turned upside down and his professional reputation ruined all to further the agenda of those opposed to hunting.
“This is a shocking example of an unfounded smear campaign that has been publicised without a second thought about the possible motivations of those making the accusations.
“Those that have used this allegation to promote their own biased agendas need to be called to account for this horrible miscarriage of the basic principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.”
Mr Mum ford said Mallen’s vindication put the allegations against Game Council acting boss Greg McFarland in doubt.
“Game Council has total confidence in the two staff members: we have one clear with one to go,” Mr Mumford said.
The Game Council statement said Mallen was “still reeling” and concerned that “his good name has been tarnished irreparably”.
“The paper has a lot to answer for, as does the [whoever] leaked this to the media, either intentionally or accidentally,” Mr Mallen said
“This story has taken its toll on these men and their families in a way that cannot be described,” Mumford said.
“For such highly regarded, dedicated men to be thrust in the spotlight for the sake of an anti-hunting agenda is just despicable.”