Creating new perspectives since 2009

Australia: ABC staff threaten strike after Arab journalist sacked

January 17, 2024 at 10:06 am

Award-winning journalist and author Antoinette Lattouf [antoinette_lattouf /IG]

ABC journalists in the broadcaster’s Sydney offices yesterday threatened to strike unless management addresses concerns over the unlawful dismissal of radio host Antoinette Lattouf, Anadolu news agency reported.

The award-winning journalist and author, who is of Lebanese heritage, was sacked by ABC last month for sharing on Instagram a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the besieged Gaza Strip.

The internationally-recognised rights watchdog released a report on how starvation was being used as “a weapon of war” by the Israeli government in Gaza. ABC also published a news item on the report.

On Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed a leaked chain of WhatsApp messages from a group called Lawyers for Israel who had lobbied for Lattouf to be sacked.

“The ABC sacked broadcaster Antoinette Lattouf after a high-level and coordinated letter-writing campaign from pro-Israel lobbyists that directly targeted the corporation’s chair, Ita Buttrose, and managing director David Anderson,” the news daily said.

The report reveals that the Israeli lobby “repeatedly wrote to the ABC demanding Lattouf be sacked, and threatened legal action if she was not.”

Yesterday, about 80 ABC staff members demanded a meeting with Anderson, who is currently on leave.

They threatened to stage a walkout if their concerns were not addressed.

Lattouf has legally challenged her termination, saying she was sacked on the grounds of “political opinion or a reason that included political opinion” and later expanded the claim to include race, due to her Lebanese heritage.

While ABC has denied Anderson was behind Lattouf’s sacking, the broadcaster has told a court that the journalist was removed “because she ignored a direction from managers and shared a controversial social media post from Human Rights Watch.”

Lattouf demands a clear public apology, financial compensation and the offer of a proportionate position.

Hearings are scheduled to begin later this week.

In a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald, Lattouf’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein, said that after “October 7 and the ensuing conflict in the Middle East, it has become common knowledge in the media industry that Arab and Muslim journalists are being subjected to intimidation, censorship and expulsion.”

Elaine Pearson, Asia director at HRW, criticised ABC’s move to terminate Lattouf.

“Journalists should be encouraged to amplify human rights reporting, not penalised for doing so,” Pearson said on X.

READ: Qatar, France broker deal to get aid, medication to civilians, hostages in Gaza