asked the Minister of Information on whose authority the Censor tampered with a Reuter's message from General Gordon Bennett, published on nth March, on the treatment of Australian forces in Malaya; and whether he is aware that such action will undermine public confidence in the truthfulness of official news bulletins?
This message was not an official bulletin in any sense. It was a report circulated by Reuters without any submission to censorship. Subsequently, however, the Censorship was approached by a home news agency which felt doubtful about the desirability of circulating part of the report. The Censor then under- took to raise this matter with Reuters. When it was raised with them they voluntarily agreed to cancel part of the original report and sent a confidential message to editors accordingly. I agree with the action taken.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at 12 noon on the day in question Reuters sent out a message over the tape machine, and that at 12.58 there was a message from Reuters saying that they had been requested to eliminate the first two paragraphs of the report which related to statements reported to have been made by General Bennett, saying that the Australian troops would receive fair treatment from the Japanese? Does my right hon. Friend agree that Reuters were quite right in not withdrawing it or cancelling it?
Not a bit. There is not the slightest objection to Reuters doing it; they are not a Government Department but a private concern. The other news agency said that these sentences were wrested from their context and did not give an accurate account of what the General said.