ABC Australia staff’s concerns over pro-Israel bias revealed

Staff at Australia’s national broadcaster warned that its coverage of the war in Gaza relied too much on Israeli sources and used language that “favoured the Israeli narrative over objective reporting”, internal communications reveal, shedding new light on bias claims that convulsed the outlet.

In a summary of a meeting on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)’s coverage of the war, staff detailed concerns that coverage displayed pro-Israel bias, such as by accepting “Israeli facts and figures with no ifs or buts” while questioning Palestinian viewpoints and avoiding the word “Palestine” itself.

“Many community members – not limited to the Arab and Muslim communities – in Australia have expressed this view to several ABC journalists and in other forums,” they added.

Staff also said they felt ABC management had failed to defend their staff from attacks by other media and politicians for expressing their personal views on the war, “despite there being instances of the ABC doing that for some senior journalists who have posted about other issues in the past”.

“All major stories are subject to robust internal discussion and we listen to and respect staff input,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the ABC Ombudsman’s Office had found the outlet’s coverage of the war in Gaza to be “professional, wide-ranging and reflective of newsworthy events”.

“Given the extent of our coverage of this important and difficult story, this is a testament to the professionalism, expertise and dedication of our journalists,” the spokesperson said.

Months after the staff meeting, tensions continue to simmer at the ABC over the conflict.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) union last week registered a second vote of no confidence in the ABC’s managing director, David Anderson, and “all ABC managers involved in the decision to unfairly dismiss” freelance broadcaster Antoinette Lattouf.

Lattouf’s short-term contract as a presenter on ABC Radio Sydney was abruptly cut short in December after the journalist shared a report from Human Rights Watch accusing the Israeli government of deliberately starving civilians in Gaza.

The Sydney Morning Herald later revealed that a WhatsApp group calling itself Lawyers for Israel had lobbied for her removal with ABC’s top management.

Lattouf, who is of Lebanese heritage, has filed an unlawful termination claim against the ABC with Australia’s Fair Work Commission.

The ABC has denied that external pressure played a role in its decision to take Lattouf off the air.

The ABC spokesperson told Al Jazeera that the broadcaster “has a demonstrable track record of doing our utmost to defend our journalism and employees against unwarranted criticism.”

The spokesperson said the ABC is currently “defending the Antoinette Lattouf matter before the Fair Work Commission” and it would be “inappropriate to comment further while that decision is pending”.

The ABC’s chair, Kim Williams, on Monday accused staff who had joined the votes of no confidence over Lattouf’s treatment of rushing to judgement and being “enormously unhelpful.”

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