Prime Minister Scott Morrison is distancing himself from a Liberal Party fundraiser hosted at Nine’s Sydney studios.
The media group’s print journalists have strongly objected to Nine hosting the $10,000 a head fundraiser, amid concerns about the impact it could have on editorial independence.
Mr Morrison said he didn’t know who came up with the idea for Monday night’s fundraiser, arguing it wasn’t for him to comment on whether there was a problem with the event.
“They (Nine) were happy to host an event, and I attended the event,” he told 3AW Radio on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison remembers Nine chief executive Hugh Marks as being the company’s sole representative at the event.
Former federal Liberal treasurer Peter Costello is chairman of Nine.
Nine took over Fairfax Media in a $3 billion deal last year, encompassing The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.
The newspaper journalists have written to Nine management, saying Monday’s fundraiser could only serve to make their jobs more difficult.
“We strongly object to our reputation for independent journalism being compromised by the hosting of party political fundraisers,” the letter to Mr Marks and managing director of publishing Chris Janz said.
Letter sent to Nine CEO today Hugh Marks over staff concerns about Nine hosting a Liberal fundraiser. We strongly object to our reputation for independent journalism being compromised. Endorsed by house committees of Age, SMH and AFR. pic.twitter.com/hseQSjkSIs
— Ben Schneiders (@benschneiders) September 3, 2019
Nine said in a statement its management and board had been “clear and strong in the support of the charter of editorial independence”.
“Editorial impartiality is also integral to the operations of our regulated television business,” it said.
“We participate actively in our democracy and speak to all parties to press our case around regulation and other political issues that concern our business and the ability of our people to perform their role.”
Nine executives also this week attended a federal Labor Party event.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison has rejected assertions his government is encroaching on freedom of the press, after ABC’s Sydney headquarters and a News Corp journalist’s Canberra home were raided over information leaked to them.
The reporters involved are under police investigation after publishing separate stories based on the leaked government information.
“Why would journalists not be subject to the law?” Mr Morrison said.
“If people break the law in this country they should be subjected to the same laws as everybody else.
“People can search my home if they want, if they suspect me of a crime.”