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Australia's ABC staff concerned network is ‘favouring Israeli narrative’ on Gaza

March 26, 2024 at 5:46 pm

Generic photo of Darwin ABC studio, 22 April 2005. SMH Picture by GLENN CAMPBELL [Fairfax Media via Getty Images]

Internal communications at Australia’s national broadcaster reveal staff warnings about the Gaza war coverage, indicating an overreliance on Israeli sources and language “favouring the Israeli narrative over objective reporting.”

Concerns outlined by the staff at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) include accepting Israeli facts without question, while scrutinising Palestinian perspectives and refraining from using the term “Palestine”.

The three-page summary, obtained by Al Jazeera through a freedom of information request, details a November meeting involving 200 staff members, expressing concerns regarding the broadcaster’s coverage.

While Australian media reported the general concerns aired during the meeting, the document provides in-depth insights into staff complaints, including previously undisclosed instances of perceived pro-Israel bias.

Addressed to the managers and colleagues at ABC, the document stated: “We’re worried the language we’re using in our coverage is askew, favouring the Israeli narrative over objective reporting. This is evident in our reluctance to use words such as ‘War crimes’, ‘Genocide”, ‘Ethnic cleansing’, ‘Apartheid’ and ‘Occupation’ to describe the various aspects of the Israeli practices in Gaza and the West Bank, even when the words are attributed to respectable organisations and sources.”

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The “concerned ABC journalists and staff” added: “Meanwhile, we’re quick to use ‘terrorist’, ‘barbaric’, ‘savage’ and ‘massacre’ when describing the October 7th attacks. Similarly, we regularly quote sources referring to highly contested claims made by Israel, but not those made by Palestinians and their supporters.”

While ABC could not make accusations of genocide or war crimes taking place, staff said, the broadcaster “should be more proactive in reporting them to properly contextualise the conflict.”

“This is especially the case as we are far more comfortable in labelling Hamas’s actions ‘terrorism’ yet lack the language to correctly describe Israeli aggression in the region,” they wrote.

In response to the concerns raised by staff, an ABC spokesperson told Al Jazeera that the broadcaster refrains from commenting on confidential staff matters. The spokesperson said: “All major stories are subject to robust internal discussion and we listen to and respect staff input.”

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

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