ABC Senate inquiry welcomed – The Australian Jewish News

A “SENSATIONALIZED and biased report” on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian youth in the West Bank “did not provide adequate context”.

The charges of “advocacy journalism” against a correspondent whose “history of political activism in favor of the Palestinian side and “statements that she considers her professional role as a journalist to be a vehicle for advocacy” are public knowledge.

Jewish children faced anti-Semitic bullying from their classmates after watching a report at school that “emphasized the Palestinian story rather than the Israeli story”.

A Q+A debate over May’s war between Israel and Hamas, featuring two strongly pro-Palestinian voices and no pro-Israel guests from the Jewish community, resulted in an “outpouring of undiluted and unquestioned lies and vitriol” toward Israel. Jewish state.

These are all accusations leveled at the ABC for many years by Jewish communal bodies, which have filed countless complaints with the national broadcaster with varying degrees of success, all of which have been handled internally without transparency.

“As a staunch supporter of the CBA, I fear that complaints are not taken seriously and this undermines the organization,” Government Senator Andrew Bragg said last Friday, announcing an investigation into the handling systems. complaints from the national broadcaster.

“If mistakes are made, Australians expect the national broadcaster to fix them quickly. Having made numerous complaints myself, I fear this is not the case.

Senator Bragg said The AJN this week, “Concerns have been raised about ABC’s foreign reporting in the Middle East.

“It is important that the CBA reviews these complaints through a clear, independent and timely process.”

The investigation comes after the announcement in October that the national broadcaster will conduct its own independent review of its complaints process, led by former Commonwealth ombudsman John McMillan and former SBS and Ten executive Jim Carroll.

“This review is well underway and Members of Parliament, including Senator Bragg, have already been questioned as part of the review process,” ABC President Ita Buttrose said in a statement asking the Senate to put an end to the review. terminate or suspend its investigation.

“Instead of respecting the integrity of this process, the Senate committee under the leadership of Senator Bragg decided to initiate a parallel process,” she lamented, saying it appeared to be “a blatant attempt to usurp the role of the ABC Board and undermine the operational independence of the ABC”.

“This is an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and silence its role as the most trusted source of public interest journalism in this country,” she continued.

But the co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, said the Senate’s entirely external inquiry “will provide a welcome additional level of public scrutiny”.

“ECAJ welcomes the Senate investigation, just as we welcomed the CBA investigation, and we intend to make submissions to both,” he said.

“The dismissal of approximately 95% of complaints filed with the CBA under its current internal process is simply not credible, and growing public criticism of this process, not only from the Jewish community but also many other circles, cannot be ignored. .”

Wertheim agreed that the ABC must remain independent of political interference, “But being independent is not the same as being law per se,” he said.

“To be truly independent, the complaints process must be external to the organization, as it is in other industries.”

Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said the ABC’s complaints process “has excelled in absolving the ABC of wrongdoing”.

“The creation of the Senate inquiry demonstrates that the failures of the ABC complaints mechanism are being noticed far beyond the narrow concerns of interest groups,” he said.

“Its complaints mechanism, as it stands, appears designed only to admit specific factual errors, but not more nuanced violations of its editorial code, such as presenting stories with obvious bias or lacking significant context. .”

The Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), Colin Rubenstein, said: “The AIJAC warmly welcomes this well-founded, timely, properly constituted and very appropriate Senate inquiry, as well as the similar survey recently set up by the CBA board.

“We will make submissions to both inquiries, arguing for and demonstrating the need for a long-overdue external and independent complaints procedure for the ABC, which could help restore its credibility, performance and reputation, including by ensuring that its news coverage meets its expectations. legal obligations to be “accurate and impartial”.

The Senate Committee will be receiving submissions and holding public hearings in the coming months, with a report expected by the end of February 2022.

The ABC will shortly publish a discussion paper for its consideration before soliciting public submissions. Its findings will be published in April 2022.

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Norman D. Briggs