PM orders ‘urgent’ review into ABC over Q&A terror suspect controversy

Tony Abbott has launched an inquiry into the appearance of former terrorism suspect Zaky Mallah on ABC’s Q&A program and insisted that “heads should roll” at the public broadcaster for repeating the show.

The Prime Minister said in Canberra today it was “utterly incomprehensible” that the ABC had “compounded the mistake” by yesterday rebroadcasting the episode

Abbott has now ordered the Department of Communications to conduct “an urgent review” into Mallah’s appearance in the Q&A audience on Monday night with the Herald reporting Abbott told reporters this morning that: “frankly, heads should roll over this, heads should roll over this.”

But the move was condemned by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) who branded the government’s stance as another attack on press freedom.

“In the past year the Government has attacked press freedom, the freedom of access to information and freedom of expression through its amendments to Australia’s national security laws,” MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said.

“Now the Government is at it again with this inquiry over an incident for which the ABC has already apologised and launched its own investigation into. Clearly the Government is seeking to directly influence editorial decisions at the national broadcaster.”

The ABC has responded to the inquiry with a spokesman saying: “The government has announced a review and the ABC will cooperate as required.”

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull stressed the need to understand what compelled the ABC to invite Mallah to take part.

“I think it’s very important that we get an understanding of the reason this judgment call was made which was clearly, as the ABC has acknowledged, so mistaken,” he said.

A statement from the Department of Communications said: “The Minister has asked the Department to undertake an urgent investigation into the context and decisions regarding the appearance of Mr Zaky Mallah on the ABC’s Q & A program on 22 June 2015.

“The ABC has agreed to fully cooperate with this inquiry.

“The Department will be reporting in the week of 29 June 2015.”

The SMH report also quoted Abbott as saying he was “not satisfied” with only an internal ABC inquiry “because so often we’ve seen virtual whitewashes when that sort of thing happens”.

Comment is being sought from the Prime Minister’s office.

Steve Jones


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