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Communications minister blasts ABC for repeating ‘Labor lies’

Communications minister Mitch Fifield has again complained about the ABC’s reporting, this time accusing the broadcaster of reporting “Labor’s partisan rhetoric” as fact.

Fifield’s latest complaint is around the reporting of the ‘Super Saturday’ of by-elections due in July, which was reported by a number of ABC journalists and guest commentators as a deliberate act by the government to unsettle the opposition Labor party.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield: ‘It is totally unacceptable for the national broadcaster to report this Labor lie as fact’

The latest letter to ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is the sixth complaint by the minister against the broadcaster this year, having previously complained about articles by economics correspondent Emma Alberici, Triple J’s decision to move the Hottest 100 from Australia Day and two comedic sketches produced by the ABC.

In May, the Australian Communication and Media Authority upheld a public complaint against the ABC’s political editor, Andrew Probyn, for describing former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the “most destructive politician of his generation”. Probyn is one of the ABC reporters cited in the minister’s latest grievance along with Laura Tingle and Barrie Cassidy.

Commenting on the latest complaints, former ABC staffer and board director, Quentin Dempster told Mumbrella: “Either the ABC is consistently wrong or the minister is making the complaints as a tactic of political intimidation.”

However, Dempster was clear Fifield was within his rights to complain about incorrect coverage, saying: “The minister is entitled to complain, as is anyone. Journalists have to be accountable for their stories.”

In a statement, the minister said: “I have written to the ABC asking that factual errors in their reporting regarding the date chosen by the Speaker for Federal by-elections be corrected.

“The ABC’s legislation requires its news to be accurate and impartial. As the responsible minister it is my duty to hold the ABC accountable in meeting the high standards taxpayers expect.”

The Guardian has reported the minister’s latest letter complained about a number of the broadcaster’s journalists repeating a ‘Labor lie’.

“Since the announcement of the decision, the Labor party has falsely claimed that the selection of the date of 28 July was a political decision of the government and the prime minister.

“It is totally unacceptable for the national broadcaster to report this Labor lie as fact.

“These claims are false. The prime minister did not decide the date for the byelections. The date for the byelections was set by the Speaker, in accordance with the constitution, and acting on the advice of the independent AEC [Australian Electoral Commission].”

An ABC spokesperson said in a statement: “As with any complaint it will be treated according to ABC complaints processes and we will respond in due course.”

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