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Cancelling the Journalist: The ABC’s Coverage of the Israel-Gaza War

What a cowardly act it was. A national broadcaster, dedicated to what should be fearless reporting, cowed by the intemperate bellyaching of a lobby concerned about coverage of the Israel-Gaza war. The investigation by The Age newspaper was revealing in showing that the dismissal of broadcaster Antoinette Lattouf last December 20 was the nasty fruit of a campaign waged against the corporation’s management. This included its chair, Ita Buttrose, and managing director David Anderson.

The official reason for that dismissal was disturbingly ordinary. Lattouf had not, for instance, decided to become a flag-swathed bomb thrower for the Palestinian cause. She had engaged in no hostage taking campaign, nor intimidated any Israeli figure. The sacking had purportedly been made over sharing a post by Human Rights Watch about Israel that mentioned “using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war in Gaza”, calling it “a war crime”. It also noted the express intention by Israeli officials to pursue this strategy. Actions are also documented: the deliberate blocking of the delivery of food, water and fuel “while wilfully obstructing the entry of aid.” The sharing by Lattouf took place following a direction not to post on “matters of controversy”.

Human Rights Watch might be accused of many things: the dolled up corporate face of human rights activism; the activist transformed into fundraising agent and boardroom gaming strategist. But to share material from the organisation on alleged abuses is hardly a daredevil act of dangerous hair-raising radicalism.

Prior to the revelations in The Age, much had been made of Lattouf’s fill-in role as a radio presenter, a stint that was to last for five shows. The Australian, true to form, had its own issue with Lattouf’s statements made on various online platforms. In December, the paper found it strange that she was appointed “despite her very public anti-Israel stance” (paywalled). She was also accused of denying the lurid interpretations put upon footage from protests outside Sydney Opera House, some of which called for gassing Jews. And she dared accused the Israeli forces of committing rape.

It was also considered odd that she discuss such matters as food and water shortages in Gaza and “an advertising campaign showing corpses reminiscent of being wrapped in Muslim burial cloths.” That “left ‘a lot of people really upset’.” If war is hell, then Lattouf was evidently not allowed to go into quite so much detail about it – at least when concerning the fate of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli war machine.

What also transpires is that the ABC managers were not merely targeting Lattouf on their own, sadistic initiative. Pressure of some measure had been exercised from outside the organisation. According to The Age, WhatsApp messages had been sent to the ABC as part of a coordinated campaign by a group called Lawyers for Israel.

The day Lattouf was sacked, Sydney property lawyer Nicky Stein buzzingly began proceedings by telling members of the group to contact the federal minister for communication asking “how Antoinette is hosting the morning ABC Sydney show.” Employing Lattouff apparently breached Clause 4 of the ABC code of practice on impartiality.

Stein cockily went on to insist that, “It’s important ABC hears from not just individuals in the community but specifically from lawyers so they feel there is an actual legal threat.” She goes on to read that a “proper” rather than “generic” response was expected “by COB [close of business] today or I would look to engage senior counsel.”

Did such windy threats have any basis? No, according to Stein. “I know there is probably no actionable offence against the ABC but I didn’t say I would be taking one – just investigating one. I have said that they should be terminating her employment immediately.” Utterly charming, and sufficiently so to attract attention from the ABC chairperson herself, who asked for further venting of concerns.

Indeed, another member of the haranguing clique, Robert Goot, also deputy president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, could boast of information he had received that Lattouf would be “gone from morning radio from Friday” because of her anti-Israeli stance.

There has been something of a journalistic exodus from the ABC of late. Nour Haydar, an Australian journalist also of Lebanese descent, resigned expressing her concerns about the coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict at the broadcaster. There had been, for instance, the creation of a “Gaza advisory panel” at the behest of ABC News director Justin Stevens, ostensibly to improve the coverage of the conflict. “Accuracy and impartiality are core to the service we offer audiences,” Stevens explained to staff. “We must stay independent and not ‘take sides’.”

This pointless assertion can only ever be a threat because it acts as an injunction on staff and a judgment against sources that do not favour the accepted line, however credible they might be. What proves acceptable, a condition that seems to have paralysed the ABC, is to never say that Israel massacres, commits war crimes, and brings about conditions approximating to genocide. Little wonder that coverage on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice does not get top billing on in the ABC news headlines.

Palestinians and Palestinian militias, on the other hand, can always be written about as brute savages, rapists and baby slayers. Throw in fanaticism and Islam, and you have the complete package ready for transmission. Coverage in the mainstays of most Western liberal democracies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as the late Robert Fisk pointed out with pungency, repeatedly asserts these divisions.

After her signation Haydar told the Sydney Morning Herald that, “Commitment to diversity in the media cannot be skin deep. Culturally diverse staff should be respected and supported even when they challenge the status quo.” But Haydar’s argument about cultural diversity should not obscure the broader problem facing the ABC: policing the way opinions and material on war and any other divisive topic is shared. The issue goes less to cultural diversity than permitted intellectual breadth, which is distinctly narrowing at the national broadcaster.

Lattouf, for her part, is pursuing remedies through the Fair Work Commission, and seeking funding through a GoFundMe page, steered by Lauren Dubois. “We stand with Antoinette and support the rights of workers to be able to share news that expresses an opinion or reinforces a fact, without fear of retribution.”

Kenneth Roth, former head of Human Rights Watch, expressed his displeasure at the treatment of Lattouf for sharing HRW material, suggesting the ABC had erred. ABC’s senior management, through a statement from managing director David Anderson, preferred the route of craven denial, rejecting “any claim that it has been influenced by any external pressure, whether it be an advocacy group or lobby group, a political party, or commercial entity.” They would, wouldn’t they?

 

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17 comments

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  1. Steve Davis

    If the ABC really was worried about its reputation for impartiality it would not have bowed to external pressure.
    Everyone now knows that the ABC can be influenced and so cannot claim to be impartial.

    The evidence and reasoning that will emerge from the unfair dismissal hearing promises to be fascinating.

  2. Terence Mills

    The ABC have become, for want of a better term, very politically correct in recent times and I am hoping that the demise of the very vanilla The Drum will lead to a new, daily a hard hitting current affairs program that actually tackles and explores all sides of the issues and is not afraid to recognise that the Right can be allowed air time .

    At one stage Insiders invited Right wing people like Gerard Henderson, Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman on and whilst I strongly disagreed with most of their opinions at least there was a plurality of views and opinions: now it seems it’s all echo chamber stuff.

    Of course we should discuss all aspects of the Israeli/Palestine conflict : I have yet to hear that the October 7th incursions and slaughter were actually planned and sanctioned by the Hamas governing authority in Gaza and not a rogue group with loose affiliations to Hamas : why would Hamas do this sort of thing, what was their objective if it really was an official incursion into Israel ? So many questions and no discussion allowed and no answers

  3. Ron

    TM, in a parallel universe, plurality of views might still happen in debates. But this is the ABC we are talking about.
    The good ship ‘Multiple Viewpoints’ has sailed, or more likely was sunk while in port, and about the same time Ita stuck her beak in. One question re Ita: Is she in it for the money, or does she believe in the cause?

    Lattouf crossed the line in the sand drawn by ABC management, she turned her back on the virtual mandate that right-think and doublespeak-plus-good must accompany the official narrative.
    Instead gave her insights and put salary at risk. I doubt if she regrets walking away from the childish hive-mind.
    I don’t see things improving anytime soon. Leftist rot has set in across upper levels of multiple sectors of business.
    ‘Go along to get along’ and you get to keep your income. It’s as simple as that, and as shallow.
    Knowing MSM is compromised leaves one option – use info from different sources.
    The public can’t sack the MSM, nor elect wise heads to replace the rotten ones.
    Just ignore them is one strategy.

  4. OlWomBat

    It is impossible to criticise Israel. Even to mention the name requires extensive denunciation of, in this case, Hamas. To have condemned the actions of Hamas as barbarous is not enough. If Israel is to be mentioned at all, first one must again condemn Hamas and assert Israel’s right to defend itself, however Israel may define and implement that “defence”. Israel is a highly protected species, not the people as such, but the state. No matter one’s religion, politics, colour, sex, age or other characteristic, egregious and criminal acts must be able to be called out, and the culprits held to account. The options to do so here in Australia are dangerously few with, in the long run, dire consequences.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Merde Dog the old scrotum headed horror is behind the staffing of this ABC recently, and Ita and Speers are surely not suitable types by having had poxed and unsuited careers. ABC staff has lost good people over time, and many newcomers are coated and contrived types, suiting the general view in commercial media that no advantaged rivals should exist and that profiteering by propaganda and rigging is the way…The commercialisation Australia, against our best interests, suits ruthless money grubbing exploiters. The comments above need reading and absorption by all, especially the vulnerable many…

  6. David Baird

    Not only did Lawyers for Israel arrange to apply pressure on the ABC from various quarters, they declared, without flinching, that they’d not done such a thing. So ‘Liars for Israel’ is a little more accurate. The ABC has again performed a superb preemptive buckle with triple somersault and pike. I trust Antoinette’s legal actions elicit much interesting detail on exactly who WhatsApped whom, and when. This whole matter is not simply appalling, it’s dangerous. When our allegedly independent national broadcaster has a predisposition to cave into a pressure campaign like this we’ll never be given the full facts on any ‘contentious’ event.

  7. New England Cocky

    The ZION@ZIS are unable to justify the STATE SPONSORED GENOCIDE OF PALESTINIAN ABOUYT 25,000 WOMEN & CHILDREN IN THE GAZA STRIP AS THE IDF ZION@ZI FANATICS PURSUE THEIR STATED OBJECTIVE OF ”DRIVING ALL PALESTINIANS INTO THE SEA”.
    .
    So the next best thing is to silence all public criticism as happened in Germany 1933-1945. Do you notice any bizarre similarities??
    .
    One strategy to express our dissatisfaction is ”the BDS Campaign” Ban, Divest, Sanction any and all Israeli produce and suppliers.
    .
    Meanwhile the Albanese LABOR government has surrendered Australian sovereignty for the USUKA sub debacle, which like the very costly under-performing JFX fighter jet plane and the Taipan helicopters will likely be redundant by the time they are built, exceeded the initial contract price considerably and have proven to be third rate military armaments.
    .
    But no worries Retched Mediocrity has been told by the US to deploy Australian military assets to protect Saudi Arabian and Egyptian interest in the Red Sea against the only nation supporting Israel ….. don’t bother to ask the Australian Parliament.

  8. Steve Davis

    “Leftist rot has set in across upper levels of multiple sectors of business.”

    Leftist rot ???

    Ron, please explain.

  9. Douglas Pritchard

    It is not common knowledge, but soon after Penny Wongs arrival in Israel she was handed a script.
    The instruction was to stick to that otherwise they would deny her food, water, power, and the chance that a stray 2000lb bomb may drop on her.
    Given those choices, its not surprising that, like the ABC, she complied

  10. JulianP

    @David Baird January 18, 2024 at 11:05 am.

    “When our allegedly independent national broadcaster has a predisposition to cave into a pressure campaign like this we’ll never be given the full facts on any ‘contentious’ event.”

    Excellent conclusion David, and the only one possible. Thank you.

    BTW, it seems that Antoinette Lattouf was not the first top-level journalist to have either been sacked or left the ABC in disgust at being muzzled. Helen Tzarimas and Tracey Holmes were first, then Antoinette, and the most recent is Nour Haydar.

    Not only does this represent a serious drain of top level talent, but an equally serious loss for public interest – a vital matter to which you rightly draw our attention

  11. Clakka

    Yet another ludicrous guilt-targeted olde worlde ruse by the wearisome Zionists; “anti-semitism”. A catch-phrase that may once have had substance in the perennially ignorant xenophobic Europe. So arrogant now are the ones that use it as a stick of protest, they haven’t bothered to change their main narrative. It is not possible to be ‘anti-semitic’ when differentiating between actions of the Palestinian state and the Israeli state, as they are both semites. But of course moderne Zionists rely on the convenient ignorance of the ‘west’.

    That said, the shiny arses in the upper echelons of the ABC operate via dispensing bs from their bottoms down. Seems the only cure now could be their repeated innoculation with dung beetles.

    As for the remaining Oz msm, innoculating them in the same way would be meaningless, because their very lifeblood already feeds from the endless dismal pit of funded manure from the commercialized global death cult.

    Indeed, SD, the outcome of the unfair dismissal hearing, and especially its reasoning, will be illuminating (maybe). And I note, I too could not reconcile Ron’s “Leftist rot …” statement.

  12. Truth Teller

    I am predicting the ABC will be instructed to settle the case before it goes back to the legal system for a decision. This way none of the background evidence will see the light of day.

  13. Wayne Turner

    Sadly the ABC has been crap for years. Remember when Emma Alberici did her job of looking at, and pointing out bad Coalition policy.

    The ABC forced her out of the joint, because the ABC truly is aiming to be a mouth piece for the Coalition, and as bad as the rest of the MSM.

    Gutless Federal Labor, should of cleaned up the ABC, as soon as they got in again. Change management, dump the illogical false balance BS. Allow those working at the ABC to be actual journalists. Be tough on all sides. Call out lies, and find out the truth.

    Our mediaocracy continues ..

    https://amp.theguardian.com/media/2018/sep/26/abc-chairman-michelle-guthrie-sack-emma-alberici-appease-coalition

  14. Caz

    Once upon a time we would have seen the ABC broadcast programs covering the events that lead up to conflicts like this one. They even had a program for school children called Behind the News ( I think I have the title correct). There was also Background Briefing: is it still on? Apart from Media Watch there is no criticism of media in general and so called TV presenters in particular. I watched David Speers on 7.30 waiting for his report on the conflict. It didn’t rate a mention. Could not be bothered watch 7.30 until Laura came back on. There are good people at the ABC, the 200 who protested about the coverage, but management has no understanding of the ABC Charter. The ABC must be free of political interference and not bow to pressure groups.
    The population of Jews in Australia is .4%. Compare that to First Nation’s People who are 3.8%. Even if the 152 lawyers represented all Jewish Australians, which they don’t, why on earth would anyone take notice of these bullies? Clearing out the ABC board is the answer.

  15. Centrelink customer

    Message for Anthony Albanese

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Last March I provided your office with a report of another illegal debt scheme administered by Services Australia. Your office refused to investigate or follow up, no reason given. I was told your office had forwarded my complaint to Amanda Rishworth. I have not received a response from her office.

    Services Australia forced me into significant debts as a result of their review decision made by an anonymous “delegate or authorised officer”, not an authorised review officer (required by law). The decision is void, yet Services Australia used it to withdraw thousands of dollars from my payments.

    Dear Prime Minister, I ask you again to take action.

  16. B Sullivan

    OlWomBat,

    I’m just putting in a touch of pedantry, not criticising your comment.

    If an act is egregious, then it doesn’t have to be called out, because by definition it is already standing out. The word comes from the Ancient Greeks who observed that egrets always stood out from the rest of the different bird species in a flock. If an act is egregious, it is pretty hard not to see it. The genocide in Gaza is literally bleeding obvious and its perpetrators should as you say be held to account.

  17. Fred

    Yes just keep your gob shut while a race of people is exterminated

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