Global approach delayed Guardian Australia’s response to open letter on Israel-Gaza war

Guardian Australia has attributed its delayed response to an open letter now signed by 337 Australian journalists to the need to coordinate a consistent global position between the British news organisation’s international offices.

“We’re a large, global organisation and this update was coordinated globally in response to the Australian letter and similar letters circulating in other countries. All decisions prioritise our editorial integrity and safety of our journalists,” a spokesperson from the independent publication told Mumbrella.

The Guardian issued an internal note to staff this week, with Australian editor Lenore Taylor joining her UK and US counterparts in message that warned staff against signing open letters or making posts to social media that might compromise perception of the publication’s editorial integrity.

Taylor, along with the British publication’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, and US editor, Betsy Reed, said The Guardian would be updating its editorial guidelines in response to the open letter signed by Australian journalists, and similar petitions circulating abroad.

“We know that a number of staff globally have signed open letters and petitions relating to the conflict. Although this may be well-intentioned, unfortunately it can be perceived as a potential conflict of interest that could hamper our ability to report the news in a fair and fact-based way,” they said. “It has resulted in unwarranted scrutiny of Guardian journalism and accusations that our journalists and our journalism may be biased.”

The updated editorial guidelines will now outline that staff “should not sign public petitions or open letters about matters that have, or could be perceived to have, a bearing on GNM’s ability to report the news in a fair and fact-based way”.

The Guardian Australia has denied that this update will donate a “wholesale ban” on staff expressing political views on social media or by signing petitions.

It comes more than a week after the open letter urged news rooms across Australia to apply greater skepticism to the Israeli Defence Force in media coverage of the evolving Israel-Gaza war.

Stressing the risks of “both-sideism”, and warning that the “disproportionate human suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza should not be minimised”, the petition outlined seven steps for Australian newsrooms to improve coverage.


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At least 25 Guardian journalists are amongst the its signatories, and the publication’s union house committee, alongside journalists from across news rooms at the ABC, Schwartz Media, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and other publications.

Editorial leadership from Nine Entertainment and the ABC were quick to issue internal messages warning journalists that signing sharing their views on such public platforms may denote that they were unfit to cover the conflict impartially.

A slack message sent by executive editor at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Tory McGuire, advised editorial staff that signatories to the letter “would be unable to participate in any reporting or production relating to the war”.

ABC news director Justin Stevens also reminded journalists to abstain from signing “any petition that may bring into question your impartiality or that of the ABC’s coverage”.

“Signing this petition may bring into question your ability to cover the story impartially,” he wrote in an all-staff email. “As I have said several times recently, maintaining trust and credibility as an ABC staff member means you forgo the opportunity to share your opinions about stories which you report or may be involved in.”

The MEAA (media, entertainment and arts alliance) has since called for the protection of journalists who have signed the open-letter.

In an email sent to members, the union wrote that “any pressure from editorial managers to prevent workers from doing this, including removing them from relevant stories, is an overreach attack on both journalists’ rights and the public’s right to know.”


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