Australian media group Fairfax Wednesday said editorial independence was at the core of its business, as mining mogul Gina Rinehart pushes for more influence at the respected newspaper publisher.
Journalists at Fairfax Media, in the throes of a sweeping restructure set to cost 1,900 jobs, have called on its biggest shareholder Rinehart to respect its charter of independence amid fears about editorial integrity.
Rinehart's private company Hancock Prospecting Wednesday said it supported journalistic independence but called for seats on the board of Fairfax, publisher of mastheads such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said board positions were a matter for the board, but members could not tell journalists what to write.
"If you're a board member editorial discussions are always held within board meetings," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"What doesn't happen is it doesn't translate into board members telling journalists what they should or shouldn't write, and that's our practice.
"There's been a lot of speculation around editorial independence in relation to Fairfax. That will always stay. That is the core of this company."
Rinehart, the world's richest woman, has said she hoped to be considered a "white knight" by Fairfax as it faces falling advertising revenues and newspaper circulation with readers switching to online platforms.
The Western Australia-based iron ore tycoon has hinted that she may sell her stake if she is not handed board seats at Fairfax, which owns newspaper, digital and radio assets.
Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting said Wednesday in a statement it supports journalistic "integrity and accuracy" but argued that Fairfax had overridden this principle in the past.
Hancock's chief development officer John Klepec also said two board seats were not enough to allow Rinehart, who owns close to 19 percent of the media group, to make Fairfax "sustainable", The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"We are certainly in support of journalist integrity and accuracy, these are important principles in journalism, and are keen to support an effective charter to endorse this in the interests of Fairfax Media, assuming one can be agreed," the statement said.
The Australian media sector is enduring a turbulent period, with Fairfax and Rupert Murdoch's News Limited both flagging large job cuts as they grapple with the challenges of the digital transition.