NOTE: A complaint to the Australian Press Council
about this article was upheld.
Read the full adjudication here.
A Liberal Party candidate in Tasmania has threatened to contact the employers of Facebook users who "liked" a satirical article posted about him online.
Andrew Nikolic, the Liberal candidate for Bass, has since reneged on the threats after initially denying to Fairfax Media that he had even made them.
The New Examiner is an online satirical blog operating on Facebook and Twitter.
The story, posted by the New Examiner on Thursday afternoon, creates a satirical scenario in which Mr Nikolic is caught out claiming to have been "heroically killed in action during services in Afghanistan". It then goes on to state that he claims to have suffered "a slow, painful death by torture at the hands of Tamil militants in 2002".
Mr Nikolic informed the New Examiner last week that if the offending article was not taken down he would write to the employers of all the individuals who had "liked" the story.
"I hope the employers and influencers of your satirical group will be amused by the formal letters of complaint I will now send them on this issue," wrote Mr Nikolic in a Facebook comment that has since been deleted.
The New Examiner refused to back down and retract the article.
"Threatening to contact employers is simply confirmation that Nikolic's first response to pressure is to go on the attack, rather than consider the political implications of his actions," the editor-in-chief, known only under the pseudonym Martin Gaylord, told Fairfax Media.
Mr Nikolic also named and shamed Facebook users who had reposted the article, in a message on his own Facebook page, which was later deleted.
"He doesn't appear to understand that individuals [who] use social media do so for a variety of reasons, but certainly not to [expose] themselves to vindictive behaviour of this nature," the editor-in-chief said.
Mr Nikolic said that he, his family and families with loved ones serving overseas found the article offensive.
"The fact that I was alerted to the post on the same day that three of our soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan (two seriously), heightened my sensitivity to the contents," Mr Nikolic told this website.
He went on to deny ever having threatened to contact the employers of those who liked and reposted the story, an argument that is contradicted by screenshots obtained by this website.
When shown the screenshots of the posts, made by his personal Facebook account, Mr Nikolic said: "I have no personal copy of this comment thread and therefore can't confirm whether it is a complete or totally accurate representation.
"I have no intention of contacting employers – my request has always been that the offending (and plagiarised) post be taken down," he said.
The New Examiner has since admitted that the concept was not original, having been used in another satirical magazine, The Onion, some years ago. It also apologised to readers who did not realise the post was satirical and not factual.
"The New Examiner, editor, publisher and staff unreservedly apologise to those who were under the misapprehension our story was genuine local news," a post on its Facebook page said.
"Everyone on the planet can be categorised as those who enjoy satire, and those who don't understand it. Andrew Nikolic falls into the latter category, as do the majority of his followers," the editor-in-chief said.
After he identified users who had reposted the article, Mr Nikolic, who did indeed serve as an officer in the Australian Army, took to Facebook to defend himself.
"Some of my fellow Australians obviously liked the post very much, so I thought I would acknowledge their sense of humour," he said in a post that was later removed.
"A number of people involved in the post subsequently contacted me to apologise for their involvement and I removed my response from my Facebook page," Mr Nikolic said.
This is not the first time Mr Nikolic has caused controversy on social media. There is a Facebook page dedicated for the users who have been blocked by him. The site, which makes its own T-shirts, aims to "get more members on this page than he will get votes come election time".
Despite the apology issued by the New Examiner, the article had not been removed at the time of publication.
"The fact that the offending post hasn't been removed, says much about the small number of people who hide behind their anonymity on social networking sites like these," said Mr Nikolic.