To: Mark Scott, Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
We are writing to ask you to change ABC policy with regard to its news reports on Palestine. There is bias by ABC news against Palestinians under illegal occupation by Israeli Military. For the past seven years, ABC news has presented a narrative concerning Israel that is untrue. We are asking the ABC to address the news of Palestine and Israel in line with its charter obligations to present news from an unbiased and even handed perspective. On these issues, the ABC has consistently taken an overtly political stance. A position that may put you in step with both major Australian political parties — and which may benefit your career options — but which is not in line with your statutory task as outlined in the ABC charter. I will detail some local and international examples that highlight this.
Palestine is subject to a violent, military occupation that is recognised world-wide as illegal. The ABC has not referred to Israel as a terrorist state committing genocide against the Palestinian people. The Goldstone report refers to this policy of genocide in the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2008-9. This report describes how Israeli military killed 1,400 Palestinians over 50% of whom were children and injured many more seriously and destroyed infrastructure in Gaza.
Israel detains Palestinians in defiance of its own agreements. After almost 10 years in prison, Samer Issawi was released in the Egypt-sponsored deal between Israel and Hamas to free the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. However, on 7 July 2012, Issawi was arrested again near Hizma, an area within the municipality of Jerusalem, on charges of violating the terms of his release (that he should not leave Jerusalem). Others who were released as part of that deal were also arrested, some with no declared reason. Accordingly, Issawi began a hunger strike on 1 August 2012 to protest against his illegal imprisonment and Israel’s violation of its agreement to release prisoners.
Samer Issawi’s detention without trial is the rule rather than the exception for Palestinian men and in many cases for women and children. According to UNICEF more than 7,000 Palestinian children were arrested and held in detention without charge or trial over the years 2001-2011. You may be aware that Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states it is illegal to remove children under military occupation (West Bank) from occupied territory thus prohibiting family visits.
On 23 February 2013 an Australian citizen, Khalil Hamdan, attended at the ABC studios at Southbank in Brisbane and told the story of members of his family, some of whom have been detained, tortured and killed by Israeli soldiers. We were told by an ABC news editor that the story was not news. Meanwhile the case of prisoner X has coverage all over the ABC.
Last year, Senator Clare Moore raised Khalil’s concerns about his family in the Senate stating:
“Two weeks ago in my office I was visited by Khalil Hamdan, an Australian citizen and a good friend of our community over many years. He is originally from Palestine and is now living in Brisbane after many years of living in exile from his home country. Khalil and two of his supporters who work very closely looking at the issues around Palestinian-Israeli relationships came to see me because they were particularly concerned about Khalil’s brother-in-law Ridha Khalid, who was taken from his home and arrested, in front of his wife and two (sic) children, in May this year by soldiers from the Israeli army. His wife, Weam, is the sister of Khalil Hamdan. She contacted her brother in great distress. Mr Khalid’s sister described the arrest of her husband. She said:
“25-30 Israeli soldiers, young men and women, broke into their small two bedroom unit at 3 am in the Camp No.1 refugee camp in Nablus, Palestine. They smashed down the door and took Ridha away for no reason and we don’t know why he was taken from us. After they took him away they asked us to get out of the unit with my two (sic) small children and then these young people in Israeli army uniforms proceeded to destroy everything in our small home-furniture, electrical appliances, including the children’s computer and all the kids’ school books.” [Weam has five children].
The 20th May 2013 is the anniversary of Ridha Khalid’s administrative detention. Weam’s flat has been raided again by soldiers and her 19 year old son taken from her. Fortunately her son has been released. His father, Ridha Khalid, went on hunger strike as soon as he went into prison. This was reported in al Maan news.
In a recent interview on community radio 4ZZZ, David Albuquerque drew attention to how clever the ABC is at refuting his claims of lack of reporting of the Palestinian hunger strikers.
David Albuquerque has some experience of writing to the ABC about Palestinian hunger strikers. ABC representatives deflect his critique of ABC TV by stating that some reports can be found on the ABC website.
ABC TV does not report on the hunger strikers but the ABC does have small news grabs late at night some imported from other news sources like the BBC. One such report on RN at 2am one night claimed that the Palestinian prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, had died of a heart attack, implying his death was of natural causes. No mention was given by ABC news of the autopsy stating that Arafat had been tortured to death by Israeli soldiers.
In other words the ABC is quite willing to report Israeli spin without comment or balance e.g. ABC news made no attempt to quote the Palestinian witness at the autopsy (which was widely reported by international news sources).
With an increasing number of people getting their news from sources other than free to air / bottom of the rung news sources, more people are becoming aware of the ABC’s inherent bias against Palestine. Maybe it doesn’t concern you that the ABC appears to be engaged in a race to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps you are happy to be viewed as a perpetrator of institutional bias against Palestine; but at some point a public informed from more independent sources, may be happy to see their 8 cents a day spent elsewhere.
We request that:
- That the ABC acknowledges its failure to report on the hunger strikers.
- That the ABC report on the progress of hunger strikers in their struggle for freedom and justice.
- That ABC TV interview Khalil Hamdan about the terrible situation faced by his family under Israeli occupation.
- You, as Managing Director, apologize to the Palestinian community for the ABC’s mis-representation of the conflict in Palestine as ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’ when Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and its policy of apartheid is genocidal.
The ABC has been in step with successive Australian governments over this issue. It appears that the bi-partisan support you enjoy personally is contingent on adopting a favourable line towards Israel. It is time for both the ABC and you personally to assert some independence.
[Editor’s Note: dear readers, please indicate your support in the comments box below.]
- Israel’s military assault on Gaza was designed to “humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability” – [United_Nations_Fact_Finding_Mission_on_the_Gaza_
- ABC’s Code of Practice: Impartiality and diversity of perspectives. The ABC has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism. The ABC is guided by these hallmarks of impartiality:
• a balance that follows the weight of evidence;
• fair treatment;
- (a) Principle 2 – Accuracy. The ABC requires that reasonable efforts must be made to ensure accuracy in all fact-based content. The ABC accuracy standard applies to assertions of fact.
- Principle 7 – Harm and offence – a public broadcaster should never gratuitously harm or offend and accordingly any content which is likely to harm or offend must have a clear editorial purpose.