Media and Communications senior lecturer Fiona Martin has responded to an article in The Daily Telegraph, saying the piece was “full of inaccuracies”.
The News Corp tabloid reported that Martin advised a class of first year students to use search engines that do not record your browsing history, if planning a murder or suicide.
“If you’re planning to commit suicide or murder one of your lecturers, I really recommend looking (at them),” Martin said, tongue in cheek, according to the Telegraph.
“The Daily Telegraph’s article was full of inaccuracies,” Martin told Honi. “My comments were taken out of context.”
She did not specify what aspects of the article were inaccurate.
The University did not explicitly offer Martin support but a spokesperson told The Australian, “We are strongly committed to academic freedom and free speech.”
Martin was also criticised for comments she made about the late Australian cartoonist Bill Leak, where she reportedly called his cartoons “vile”, before saying “may he rest not in peace”. Leak was widely regarded to be racist, especially for his degrading depictions of Indigenous Australians.
Three USyd academics, Nicholas Riemer, Justine Humphrey and David Brophy, have created an online petition for “solidarity with Fiona Martin and other academics attacked by the Daily Telegraph.”
The petition, sent out this afternoon, has 109 signatures from academics across the state, at time of writing.
Riemer, a senior English lecturer and member of USyd’s branch of the NTEU, said that the Telegraph’s piece is “a disgraceful attempt to exert ideological influence on the way that academics teach.”
“The Daily Tele isn’t happy with the content of classes that are taught at the University, and so it’s published a hit piece in order to intimidate academics and students into adopting a political line that is more conducive to them,” Riemer said.
“The message is that if you say stuff that is politically out of line with the Tele’s extremist worldview you can never guarantee that there won’t be a Tele journalist sitting in your classroom.”
Riemer also criticised the University’s “extremely weak” response to News Corp.
“The University should be strongly defending any of its staff members who have been slurred by the media for the ordinary exercise of their jobs.”