The Australian Herald Sun claimed last year that a new local council was “auditing libraries, schools and kindergartens” to remove gender-specific items — books or toys that specifically targeted boys or girls. For example, the article claimed books and characters like Thomas the Tank Engine and Winnie the Pooh “could be banned.”
However, that claim was wrong.
The Australian Press Council ruled against the Herald Sun for its May 2018 front-page article, “BAN THE BOOKS Councils’ gender war to hit kinders, libraries”, calling it “inaccurate and unbalanced.”
While the Herald Sun defended its story, arguing it reported on Australian National University’s research which suggested “avoid classifying kids by gender, and boys and girls-only activities,” the press council said the local municipal group — the Municipal Association of Victoria — said the day of the article that “there will be no book or toy bans.” Further, the council flagged that the Herald Sun had no evidence of any actual book bans.
“The Press Council considers that the headline ‘BAN THE BOOKS Councils’ gender war to hit kinders, libraries’ on the front page, the headline on page two ‘Favourite children’s tales face gender ban’, and the article itself went beyond implying that a ban of books was possible and implied the councils were proceeding to ban books,” the press council ruled earlier this year.
“The Council considers the information available to the publication was not sufficiently clear to justify the implication that banning of books was proceeding. The publication informed the Press Council that it contacted three local councils prior to publication of the article and the Press Council notes that two local councils were quoted in the article. It may be that the communications with these three local councils could have been a basis for the implication that banning of books was proceeding. However, as the publication declined to release the content of such communications, the Press Council was not able to consider it.”
iMediaEthics wrote to the Herald Sun for its response to the ruling.