Have a civilised discussion

September 16, 2017

The same-sex marriage vote is generating heat from both sides of the debate.

The same-sex marriage vote is generating heat from both sides of the debate with entrenched views being aired across all media platforms.

Some media outlets have chosen to make their editorial opinion plain such as The Age, which made its position clear with a poster front page declaring its support for the Yes vote.

The News has not done this out of respect for both sides of the argument.

While our individual staff members have their own personal views — the newspaper’s view is that everyone must be allowed to have their say in a fair and balanced manner.

Which is why we have chosen not to support one side or the other.

We believe this newspaper should provide an unbiased forum for public discussion as long as the views expressed are not defamatory, racist, obscene or an incitement to violence.

These are the benchmarks of all civilised discussion.

We have published the views of some with strong opinions and we have been criticised on social media for that, but we do not apologise for our decision.

Unlike America’s Bill of Rights, we acknowledge there is no clear law Australians can point to regarding a right to free speech.

However, The News adheres to an implied definition of free speech — the right to express opinions without censorship or restraint.

We are, of course, subject to a variety of laws restricting free speech, including defamation laws, hate speech laws, sexual harassment laws and laws against threatening others.

Readers’ opinions are welcome from all sides as long as they adhere to the rules above.

We emphasise that a reader’s letter advocating a ‘‘no’’ vote in the same-sex marriage plebiscite does not mean this newspaper endorses that view.

We would encourage anyone advocating a ‘‘yes’’ vote to contribute to our Letters to the Editor section — again adhering to the rules of civilised debate.

Similarly, a paid advertisement encouraging a ‘‘yes’’ vote in the plebiscite does not imply this newspaper supports the same view.

Anyone with an opposing view is equally entitled to spend their money to publicise their message.

We realise there is much heat in this debate because it pits the beliefs held sacred by some against the demand for equality by others.

Our role is to foster an environment in which everyone, the empowered and the marginalised, feel free and safe to speak up.

We will not censor anyone’s opinion as long as that opinion is expressed without hurt or hate.

And who decides that?

Well, as gatekeepers, we do.

There are no hard and fast regulations in this business — which is why journalism is an art and not a science.

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