Pro-Israel lobby influence over ABC threatens journalistic ethics, independence: APAN

Jan 17, 2024

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) has today called on the Federal Government to investigate revelations that a pro-Israel lobby group applied pressure to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) to terminate the employment of journalist Antoinette Lattouf.

In letters to Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, APAN expressed its dismay that a series of leaked WhatsApp messages between members of the Lawyers for Israel lobby group demonstrated a concerted campaign to threaten the national broadcaster into dismissing Ms Lattouf.

APAN President Nasser Mashni said the WhatsApp chat, which included messages calling on lawyers to contact the ABC so that it felt “there is an actual legal threat”, spoke volumes about the level of influence pro-Israel lobby groups had over the media.

“Can we trust the ABC to report the truth from Palestine, knowing that its decision-makers may have capitulated to threats from an ideologically driven lobby group that is supporting a government that is currently being investigated for committing genocide?” Mr Mashni said.

“Australians should all not only be troubled but also outraged that it seems our taxpayer-funded, national broadcaster has handed over its independent decision-making power to a Zionist group.

“Australian journalists must be able to exercise their journalistic ethics, independence and freedom of expression to report the truth, even if it makes some in our community uncomfortable.”

APAN’s letter highlighted that the public had a right to be informed on matters of public interest in a way that enabled them to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities.

“It should not be controversial for journalists to report on the murder of civilians by an apartheid state,” he said.

“Independent reporting is particularly important at this moment, when our government must be scrutinised and held to account for its failure to act against Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza.”

“The fact that it was Ms Lattouf’s sharing of a Human Rights Watch story – a story the ABC had already reported on – that incited this lobby group to campaign for her termination, and which was then seen as a source of ‘bias’ by her employer, is staggering.

“When you couple this incident with the resignation earlier this month of ABC Parliament House broadcaster, Nour Haydar, who cited concerns about the ABC’s commitment to ‘cultural diversity’, it really does beg the question as to whether the Israel lobby has succeeded in making the ABC an unsafe workplace.”

In its letter to the federal ministers, APAN called for the Australian Government to urgently and thoroughly investigate the influence of Zionist and pro-Israel lobby groups on the ABC, other media outlets, truth-telling and cultural institutions, focusing on:

  • The decision-making process that led to Ms Lattouf’s dismissal;
  • The degree to which lobby groups – including but not limited to Lawyers for Israel – can, have or are influencing media and cultural institution decision-making;
  • The influence Zionist and pro-Israel lobby group pressure has had, and is having, on the ABC’s commitment to journalistic independence and diversity;
  • The context in which Zionist and pro-Israel lobby groups are targeting media and cultural institutions, and ways to shore up the integrity of these institutions.