Australia: Calls to secure independence of national broadcaster

Following the removal of the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and allegations of attempts by the chairman of the ABC to fire a journalist in response to political pressure, ABC staffers are now calling for an independent inquiry to investigate the allegations of editorial interference.

Staff meeting at the ABC offices in Sydney. Credit: Twitter

Following the removal of the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and allegations of attempts by the chairman of the ABC to fire a journalist in response to political pressure, ABC staffers are now calling for an independent inquiry to investigate the allegations of editorial interference.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) strongly support the motion passed by ABC staff earlier today, September 26, and support their calls for ABC chairman, Justin Milne, to step down during the investigation.

On Monday, September 24, the ABC board announced that managing director; Michelle Guthrie has been sacked from her position, half way through her five year term. On Wednesday, September 26, Fairfax Media reported that ABC chairman, Justin Milne, had called for high-profile journalist, Emma Alberici to be fired following a complaint from the then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Milne is a former business partner of Malcolm Turnbull.

Following the publication of the report, ABC staff across Australia held meetings calling for an independent inquiry and for Milne to step aside during the inquiry into editorial independence of the ABC. At the Sydney and Melbourne meetings, staff passed a motion unanimously.

MEAA also called on Milne to resign if the reports are deemed to be true, noting: “Reports this morning of the ABC chairman, Justin Milne, seeking to interfere in editorial and staffing decisions at the ABC are deeply disturbing. They would indicate Mr Milne has no understanding of editorial independence, proper complaints handling processes, or the appropriate distance a board chair needs to keep from staffing matters.”

The IFJ said: “Public broadcasters, such as the ABC, must be allowed to operate without fear of political or board interference. The ABC Act (1983) guarantees operational and editorial independence, however the reports today, suggest that this is not the case. An investigation into the allegations must be launched immediately and the board must guarantee the operational and editorial independence of the ABC.”

This year the ABC had $84 million cut from its budget, and in the last four years has had 1000 staff leave due to casualisation of the workforce and outsourcing.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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