[NOTE: This was distributed by Dr Martin, the President of the Australian Whistleblowers Organisation, to a large number of people having an interest in matters such as intellectual supression]27 May 1996
I wish to inform you of an attempt by officials of the University of Western Australia to inhibit access to information that is of public interest.
The information in question concerns the denial of tenure to Dr David Rindos. Hugh Jarvis, a supporter of Dr Rindos, set up a web page which includes a large number of documents about the case.
Letters of mine giving the address of the web page were published in Campus Review (8-14 May, p. 8) and the Australian (8 May, p. 41). The former letter is appended for your information.
On 15 May, I received a letter from the legal firm Freehill Hollingdale and Page acting for UWA. Their letter states that the material on the web site "contains statements which are defamatory of members of our client's [UWA] academic and administrative staff, including the Vice-Chancellor and at least one Professor. By publishing the address of the web site, you have both drawn the attention of others to it and have provided the means by which the defamatory material posted on the site may be viewed. That constitutes a re-publication of the defamation." They stated further that unless I refrained from publishing anything containing the web site address, UWA "will be forced to consider recommending to its staff members that action be taken against you". I understand that similar letters have been sent to the Australian, Campus Review and the ABC.
If it is defamatory to refer people to a site that contains allegedly defamatory material, then we are all in trouble. Referring people to a large web site is similar to referring them to a section in the library. We couldn't even recommend that students read the newspaper, since it contains defamatory material.
If you are concerned about this attempt by UWA officials to inhibit open discussion, you can send a copy of this message to others who might be interested.
Department of Science and Technology Studies
University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
phone: +61-42-287860 (home), +61-42-213763 (work)
[Reproduced from Campus Review, 8-14 May 1996, p. 8, under the title "Threat to autonomy". It was changed in slight ways from the version submitted.]
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