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ABC ‘threw me under the bus’, says Lattouf

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21 January 2024, The Age, by Megan Gorrey and Calum Jaspan

Former ABC broadcaster Antoinette Lattouf claims she was targeted by an ‘‘orchestrated attack’’ aimed at ruining her reputation and muffling other journalists after she was sacked over a social media post about the war in Gaza.

Lattouf’s remarks coincide with a warning from prominent former ABC staff members that the broadcaster’s independence could suffer if journalists began to self-censor for fear of retribution.

In an interview with Britain’s BBC News, Lattouf said she was shocked when her dismissal triggered protests and acts of vandalism outside ABC studios.

‘‘I was floored, not only [by] how I was fired but how quickly things escalated because one minute I was taking talkback callers … the next, I’m thrown under the bus in a very public way,’’ she said.

The ABC says Lattouf was dismissed three days into a shortterm radio-hosting contract after being told not to post anything contentious on social media – but disobeyed this by reposting a Human Rights Watch report on Israel’s alleged use of starvation as a tool of war in Gaza.

Her sacking prompted ABC journalists to threaten a walkout over the organisation’s handling of complaints against staff.

Lattouf has launched legal action in the Fair Work Commission, alleging unfair dismissal for her political opinion relating to the online post, her race, and her Lebanese-Australian cultural heritage.

The Age last week revealed the journalist was the subject of a highlevel lobbying campaign directed at the ABC in the days before her dismissal, including by a group called Lawyers for Israel.

Lattouf told BBC World News presenter Matthew Amroliwala in the weekend interview that she had ‘‘no beef or issue with those who wish to lobby’’.

‘‘What I have real concerns with is when a lobby group seems to have a direct channel, [and] access to, very senior people, in this case, the chair of the board at the ABC, and can influence an outcome so rapidly … Our public broadcaster, just like the BBC, is supposed to be independent and impartial, and when it appears that it is not, this becomes a really big political and free speech issue in Australia.’’

ABC managing director David Anderson last week said that the corporation was not influenced by external pressure.

The board of ABC Alumni – a registered not-for-profit group of former employees at the public broadcaster – said in a statement its primary concern about Lattouf’s dismissal was the perception ‘‘the ABC has ‘buckled’ to outside pressure’’.

Board members, including former hosts Jonathan Holmes and Quentin Dempster, said the ABC’s independence was of ‘‘paramount importance’’ to the role it performed for the public.

‘‘Staff who live in constant fear of retribution, rather than confidence in the procedurally fair processes of accountability, can quickly become self-censoring,’’ the statement said.

‘‘Instead of being fearless as required by the ABC Act and ABC Charter, they can become fearful.

‘‘An ABC Board and management which does not deliver both a collegially supportive and professionally accountable internal culture will fail in their duty to protect the ABC’s independence.’’

An ABC spokesman declined to comment on the interview.

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Article source: The Age/ Megan Gorrey Calum Jaspan 21.1 2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000