A segment of Seven’s Today Tonight that suggested a Melbourne city council was instituting Sharia law has been found to be in breach of commercial TV’s code of practice by the media watchdog.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority found the current affairs show was guilty of three seperate factual inaccuracies.
The show which said the council was “spending ratepayers money to make Muslims feel more at home and to spread their faith” went to air on the October 5 last year.
The story about a job vacancy to help the Muslim community at the Darebin Council included suggesting the ‘Muslim Council’ had ‘form when it comes to implementing Sharia customs’.
ACMA considered the statement was presented in a ‘conclusive and unequivocal manner,’ stating that ‘the ordinary, reasonable viewer would have understood from the statement that the council has previous experience in implementing Sharia customs by banning boys from mixing with girls at a Council event.’ But in fact, found ACMA, the council had previously worked to support mixed gender events while remaining sensitive to cultural needs.
Another breach came when the show said the role of the Outreach Project Officer was limited to working with the Muslim faith. However, the role was to create ‘interfaith’ dialogue.
The final breach came when the show stated that ‘no-one including the Mayor, were prepared to speak to us.’ However the ACMA report showed the Mayor of the council had returned the show’s call numerous times as well as sending an email and providing a media statement, which was not used in the story but posted on Today Tonight’s website at a later date.
The show was however cleared of complaints that it created public panic and portrayed Muslims in a negative light.
Although ACMA found Today Tonight to be in breach of the code, it does not have the power to issue fines or similar sanctions.