Australia: Respected television journalist steps down after targeted racial abuse

Veteran journalist Stan Grant has stepped down from his role as a program host and columnist for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) after no action was taken by the media outlet against sustained online racial abuse aimed at the journalist and his family. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stands with its Australian affiliate, the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), in condemning the systemic racism and discrimination against Indigenous and minority media workers in Australia.

ABC staff and MEAA members gather in support of veteran journalist Stan Grant, who stepped down following online racist abuse. Credit: MEAA

Grant is an Indigenous Australian journalist and Wiradjuri man, who has worked in Australian and international radio, television and online news for more than 30 years. The journalist announced he would be stepping away from his media commitments on May 19, releasing a final column announcing his departure as host for ABC current affairs program Q+A and as a regular columnist for ABC News online.

The move comes after what Grant detailed as vitriolic racism and threats to his safety following his appearance as a panellist during ABC’s coverage of the coronation of King Charles III on May 6, where he appeared on invitation from the ABC, to speak as a journalist and a Wiradjuri man on the history of the invasion and theft of First Nations’ land at the hands of the British empire and monarchy. Grant has long suffered racial abuse and mockery online, with the ABC lodging an official complaint with Twitter earlier in 2023, but Grant cited the lack of action taken by the ABC in response to the intensified backlash against his remarks on the coronation as an “institutional failure” and the reason for his move away from the media.

“I take time out because we have shown again that our [First Nations] history — our hard truth — is too big, too fragile, too precious for the media. The media sees only battle lines, not bridges. It sees only politics,” he said.

ABC director of news, Justin Stevens, published a statement the same day as Grant’s final column condemning the “grotesque and racist abuse” and said the ABC would continue to report all online threats to the police. Stevens said he took responsibility for the coverage and called for all criticism to be directed to him and ABC News management, while also decrying “unfair, inaccurate and irresponsible” reporting on Grant’s comments from other Australian media organisations.

On May 22, a large number of ABC staff and MEAA members gathered outside ABC Sydney headquarters, and other offices across the country, in support of the presenter. Stevens and Lowanna Grant, a National Indigenous Television (NITV) journalist and Grant’s daughter, among others, spoke at the rally, rejecting racism at the national broadcaster and calling on ABC to take a strong stand on the issue.

A continuing escalation of racially motivated threats and attacks on journalists is a critical concern for the IFJ, amid the rampant spread of misinformation and disinformation and increasing social and political polarisation and intolerance across the region. IFJ has called for strong action to address online abuse and trolling against media workers and to fight against all forms of hate speech and discrimination.

MEAA Chief Executive Erin Madeley said:“The racist targeting of Stan Grant is a blight on the nation and cause for reflection on how media workers are supported to carry out their vital work. Stan Grant is an eminent journalist. We must take this terrible moment to properly grasp what we are facing and to ensure that the workers who tell our stories can continue to perform their vital public service free from abuse and danger.”

The IFJ said:“The IFJ supports equality and diversity, not only in content but also in the media workers who present the news in the public interest. But for that to be possible, there must also be tolerance and respect, both inside the media and out. The IFJ stands with MEAA in calling for swift and strong action by the ABC as well as the Australian authorities to prevent further abuse of journalists based on race, religion, gender, disability and other forms of identity.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

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

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