Journalist Antoinette Lattouf has amended her Fair Work case against the ABC to include racial discrimination after she was sacked by the broadcaster three days into a short-term contract in December.
Lattouf was engaged by the broadcaster to cover Sarah Macdonald’s morning show on ABC Radio Sydney for the week commencing December 18, however after three shifts on December 20, was told she would not be returning.
After filing a Fair Work application in December alleging her employment was terminated unlawfully, high-profile employment lawyer Josh Bornstein of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has now joined her legal team.
In December, Bornstein said Lattouf’s dismissal was in breach of s772(1) (f) of the Fair Work Act, which deals with unlawful terminations.
In her updated claim, Lattouf alleges the reasons for dismissal include expression of political opinion relating to a social media post, with her race also a contributing factor, being of Lebanese, Arab and Middle Eastern heritage, as well as being a descendant of foreign immigrants.
In a statement to this masthead, Bornstein said that since October 7, it has become notorious in the media industry that Arab journalists are being censored and sacked.
“In this case we will show that the ABC has not sacked white journalists for expressing political opinion even where those journalists worked in news and current affairs,” he said.
“Antoinette’s role at the ABC was not a news or current affairs role. She tweeted once during her employment to make an observation about a claim by Human Rights Watch about the situation in the Middle East. Then she was suddenly and humiliatingly sacked.”
Bornstein said he and Lattouf’s legal team are seeking a detailed public apology, compensation for harm to her reputation, distress and humiliation. Lattouf will also seek an order that the ABC offer her a commensurate role back on air.
“Finally, we are also seeking the imposition of penalties on the ABC to deter it from repeating this conduct,” Bornstein said.
The Fair Work case will be heard next Thursday, January 18, with the broadcaster expected to respond to Lattouf’s lawyers on Monday, January 15.
The ABC is still yet to comment publicly on the reasons for the termination. However, it is believed to relate to a number of posts on Lattouf’s social media accounts relating to the Israel-Hamas war. It also remains unclear whether the dismissal relates to posts before or during her contracted period.
Lattouf’s Fair Work submission, obtained by this masthead, highlights a post on her Instagram account from Human Rights Watch on December 19, the day before her dismissal, which reported Israel using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.
The day prior, the ABC also published a news report on its website highlighting the same report with the headline “Israel-Gaza war: Human Rights Watch says starvation is being used as ‘a weapon of war’ by the Israeli government.”
In her December submission, Lattouf also alleged that Elizabeth Green, the station’s content director, told her the directive to dismiss her came from the broadcaster’s managing director, David Anderson.
“It was above me, it was David Anderson. I know I shouldn’t be telling you this,” the application alleges Green said.
At the time of this allegation, the ABC declined to comment.
In the same week, fellow ABC Radio Sydney presenter Josh Szeps was dismissed before his due end date following an unauthorised Sky News Australia appearance.
Prior to her employment, Lattouf expressed a number of opinions relating to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, including opinions critical of the Israeli state.
An article published on Crikey in December, co-authored by Lattouf and published prior to her employment, called into question reports of protesters chanting “gas the Jews” during an October 9 rally outside the Sydney Opera House.
Lattouf, alongside more than 300 journalists – including some from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – also signed an open letter in November calling for greater scrutiny on the reporting of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
At midday on Thursday, student and teacher protesters were scheduled to hold a rally outside the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters in Sydney over Lattouf’s sacking and the broadcaster’s treatment of staff speaking out against Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza, and coverage of the war against Hamas.
The ABC was approached for comment.
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