The media madness that comes with Schapelle
In the hours leading up to Schapelle Corby's parole announcement, the media outside Kerobokan prison went into overdrive. Tessa van der Riet reports from Bali.PT2M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3280j 620 349 February 8, 2014
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I wrote a book that concluded Schapelle Corby was guilty.
This small, cult-like group launches daily attacks against me.
Life has never been the same since. Two years ago, I stood before the national media and outlined evidence that showed the drugs had belonged to her father, Mick Corby. My publisher, Richard Walsh, stood beside me that day and said Allen & Unwin agreed. The book, Sins of the Father, reveals how Mick Corby regularly bought marijuana from a South Australian drug syndicate headed by convicted drug trafficker Malcolm McCauley. It discloses how and why McCauley visited Schapelle in jail two weeks before her verdict.
Attention: Kerobokan Prison governor Farid Junaidi addresses media gathered outside. Photo: AFP
It confirms that, barely a fortnight before Schapelle's arrest, Queensland police received a signed informant's statement naming Mick Corby as a man who was delivering drugs on commercial flights to Bali. It reminds everyone that the 4.2-kilogram bag of marijuana was painstakingly moulded to fit the curves of Schapelle's boogie board bag - as opposed to being stuffed in there by baggage handlers.
But these facts aside, it is hard not to feel compassion for Schapelle. Only recently, Bali bomber Umar Patek received a 20-year sentence for constructing two bombs that killed more than 200 people in 2002. Schapelle, meanwhile, got the same term for smuggling dope.
The reaction to the book was greater than I anticipated. It won the 2012 true crime award at the Melbourne Writers Festival. It became a best seller and was picked up internationally. But there has been a downside. Within an hour of that launch, a website emerged that denounced the book and my integrity. It was my first taste of what was to follow. In the time since, I have been harassed, threatened and intimidated by a group of people, connected to the site, who believe Schapelle is innocent and the victim of a government conspiracy.
Caught: A scene from the Schapelle telemovie, depicting Corby's arrest in Bali. Photo: Supplied
Hiding behind a multitude of pseudonyms, this small, cult-like group launches daily attacks against me and other journalists who write or broadcast news about Schapelle. They troll my colleagues, my bosses, my family and friends. At one point, they hacked my personal security and found out I was about to be sent on an international work assignment. By far the most bizarre allegation is that I am somehow complicit in the death of David McHugh - an Adelaide drug figure who, alongside McCauley, played a key role in the Corby story. McHugh, who twice visited Schapelle in jail, came on board for the book and then later attempted to blackmail me when it became a success.
One night, he left a voicemail on my phone telling me he had been made ''an offer, a good offer'' and that unless I called him back within 20 minutes, I was ''going down''.
I didn't respond and, within days, the same group of internet trolls had uploaded an interview of McHugh talking about the book and describing it as fiction. When he died last year, they airbrushed McHugh's drug history out of the picture and hailed him a ''brave whistleblower'', ''violently assaulted'' after trying to expose corruption. The reality is he was a heavy drinking marijuana grower whose death certificate shows that he died from cardiomegaly after failing to control his diabetes. His son confirms this. But, as recently as last week, an anonymous troll used Twitter to accuse me of having a hand in McHugh's ''murder''.
During this madness, I contacted police about the harassment and - in particular - one individual who I knew was driving it.
A detective telephoned them and warned them to stop. Their response? To compile a blog post that goaded NSW police about colleagues killed in the line of duty.
Separate to this has been legal action launched by the Corby family against Allen & Unwin for defamation and copyright infringement over the use of five photographs. The publisher lost the copyright case but a Supreme Court judge has struck out a substantial part of the defamation action. An appeal against that judge's defamation decision is under way and will be heard in the NSW Court of Appeal later this month.
Due to the continuing legal action, I cannot give media interviews at this time and the publisher has taken the decision to not republish the book. But it is evident that demand from readers is still there. Second-hand copies are selling on eBay for more than double the retail price.
This interest should serve as a warning to the TV network who eventually lands the ''big'' interview with Schapelle. When she was jailed nine years ago, most Australians believed she was innocent. I believe the mood has changed. So many new facts have since come to light. I hope all that cash forked out for the exclusive interview does not stop the journalist from asking the questions Australians want answered.