ABC rules Q&A program ‘impartially presented’ views on Israel and Palestine

An investigation by the ABC Ombudsmen has cleared panel discussion program Q&A of allegations its episode on the Israel-Gaza war was not impartial.

882 complaints were made against the episode aired on the 13th of November, with most complaints suggesting the episode had unfairly preferenced a pro-Israel perspective.

The Q&A episode aired on 14 November was filmed without an audience

The episode was pre-recorded without a studio audience, amidst mounting divisions over Hamas’ 7th of October attack and Israel’s subsequent invasion of Gaza.

The episode’s panel consisted of former Australian Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma; president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni, national chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Mark Leibler; federal Labour Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tim Watts; and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese.

The ABC noted that a “substantial number of complaints used identical wording”, suggesting an organised campaign to complain against the program.

In particular, a number of complaints raised concerns about the treatment of Mashni, as well as a disproportionate amount of speaking time given to Leibler, in comparison to Mashni and Albanese.

The Ombudsman concluded that the program “did not breach the ABC’s editorial standards for due impartiality and harm and offence”, issuing that the “highly polarised views” platformed on the episode were “appropriately challenged by the host and critically discussed by other panelists”.

“We consider that the program impartially presented these views and did not favour any perspective. By altering the presentation format of the program and actions by the host, including an introduction asking ‘how do we de-escalate tensions and restore respect’, the risk of harm and offence, while justified by the editorial context, was minimised.”

The ruling came last week as tensions in newsrooms have hit a high over the media’s responsibilities in reporting the conflict.

An open letter raising concerns over the media’s coverage of events in the middle east has been circulated widely since Friday, signed by upwards of 270 journalists, including high profile reporters from across the ABC, The Guardian, Network 10, Nine Entertainment and Schwartz Media.


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