Antoinette Lattouf says she was ‘thrown under the bus’ by ABC

Former ABC broadcaster Antoinette Lattouf claims she was targeted by an “orchestrated attack” aimed at ruining her reputation and muffling other journalists after she was sacked over a social media post about the war in Gaza.

Lattouf’s remarks coincide with a warning from prominent former ABC staff members that the broadcaster’s independence could suffer if journalists began to self-censor for fear of retribution.

Antoinette Lattouf spoke to BBC News about her sacking: “It was shocking, but it also escalated very quickly and it became public very quickly.”
Antoinette Lattouf spoke to BBC News about her sacking: “It was shocking, but it also escalated very quickly and it became public very quickly.”

In an interview with Britain’s BBC News, Lattouf said she was shocked when her dismissal triggered protests and acts of vandalism outside ABC studios.

“I was floored, not only [by] how I was fired but how quickly things escalated because one minute I was taking talkback callers … the next, I’m thrown under the bus in a very public way,” she said.

The ABC says Lattouf was dismissed three days into a short-term radio-hosting contract after being told not to post anything contentious on social media – but disobeyed this by reposting a Human Rights Watch report on Israel’s alleged use of starvation as a tool of war in Gaza.

Her sacking prompted ABC journalists to threaten a walkout over the organisation’s handling of complaints against staff.

Lattouf has launched legal action in the Fair Work Commission, alleging unfair dismissal for her political opinion relating to the online post, her race, and her Lebanese-Australian cultural heritage.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last week revealed the journalist was the subject of a high-level lobbying campaign directed at the ABC in the days before her dismissal, including by a group called Lawyers for Israel.

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Lattouf told BBC World News presenter Matthew Amroliwala in the weekend interview that she had “no beef or issue with those who wish to lobby”.

“What I have real concerns with is when a lobby group seems to have a direct channel, [and] access to, very senior people, in this case, the chair of the board at the ABC, and can influence an outcome so rapidly.

The ABC’s David Anderson rejects accusations of undue pressure to sack Antoinette Lattouf in December.
The ABC’s David Anderson rejects accusations of undue pressure to sack Antoinette Lattouf in December.

“Our public broadcaster, just like the BBC, is supposed to be independent and impartial, and when it appears that it is not, this becomes a really big political and free speech issue in Australia.

“This was a really orchestrated attack to not only target me and ruin my reputation, but to send a bit of a warning shot to other journalists: criticise Israel, use your voice in the public domain, and there will be consequences.”

ABC managing director David Anderson last week said in a message to staff that the corporation was not influenced by external pressure in Lattouf’s ousting. The organisation’s union committee later said he had failed to address their concerns.

The board of ABC Alumni – a registered not-for-profit group of former employees at the public broadcaster – said in a statement on Sunday its primary concern about Lattouf’s dismissal was the perception “the ABC has ‘buckled’ to outside pressure”.

Board members, including former hosts Jonathan Holmes and Quentin Dempster, said the ABC’s independence was of “paramount importance” to the role it performed for the public.

“Staff who live in constant fear of retribution, rather than confidence in the procedurally fair processes of accountability, can quickly become self-censoring,” the statement said.

“Instead of being fearless as required by the ABC Act and ABC Charter, they can become fearful.

“An ABC Board and management which does not deliver both a collegially supportive and professionally accountable internal culture will fail in their duty to protect the ABC’s independence.”

The ABC Alumni board said the broadcaster “should have robustly resisted outside pressure until and unless Ms Lattouf had breached the ABC’s editorial policies during her broadcasts”.

Lattouf said last week her unlawful termination case against the ABC would continue after lawyers for both parties failed to reach a resolution in a mediation hearing.

Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni referenced Lattouf’s plight on Sunday while addressing the thousands of people at a weekly protest at the State Library in Melbourne.

Mashni said he had been contacted by other brown reporters who struggled to keep working at the ABC. “If you’ve been reading the papers, you’ve heard about Lawyers for Israel and the campaign they had against Antoinette Lattouf, about making the ABC an unsafe place,” Mashni said.

The ABC has been contacted for comment.

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