3511) Protesting Biased & Unbalanced Geoffrey Robertson QC Interview on ABC Australia

Protesting the biased and unbalanced ABC Australia in at least four programs - "Drum" , “Lateline” , “Q&A” and ABC News Radio on  Geoffrey Robertson QC interview.

In all of the programs, Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, in Australia, funded by the Armenian Lobby, to promote his new book "An Inconvenient Genocide", was given free reign to advertise his publication apparently free of charge on the national broadcaster. . .

Please show your concern & send your own email or copy and paste the sample email by entering the following email addresses into your email's BCC column:
malcolm.turnbull.mp@aph.gov.au, jason.clare.mp@aph.gov.au, board@your.abc.net.au, comments@sbs.com.au, bonny.symons-brown@abc.net.au, steve.cannane@abc.net.au, mark.scott@abc.net.au, senator.scott.ludlam@aph.gov.au, craig.laundy.mp@aph.gov.au, info@ata-a.org.au, generalcomplaints@sbs.com.au, broadcasting@acma.gov.au, michael.ebeid@sbs.com.au, drum@abc.net.au, lateline@abc.net.au, Chip.Rolley@abc.net.au, tracey.holmes@abc.net.au, michael.brissenden@abc.net.au
And forward the replies to:
So that we'll publish them here.

Sample Email :
I write to you as one of your concerned viewers.

The primary reason for the letter is to protest the biased and unbalanced way in which this issue was presented in at least four programs - "Drum" , “Lateline” , “Q&A” and ABC News Radio interview with Tracey Holmes.

In all of the programs, Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, in Australia, funded by the Armenian Lobby, to promote his new book "An Inconvenient Genocide", was given free reign to advertise his publication apparently free of charge on the national broadcaster.

We feel that this in itself is a breach of the ABC's own policy. He was interviewed on ABC’s Latenight program on October 20th, The Drum on October 22nd, and ABC News Radio on October 23rd, during which he gave almost the same monologue about his new book on the events of 1915. No alternative views or questions were put forward. Mr Robertson QC has also secured a seat on the Q&A panel that week which, was although ostensibly about ISIS, let him spruik his book and put only one side of this issue.

The reporting on these programs and the videos shown are all one-sided, and present only that which the propaganda of the ANC has provided. Both of the programs have failed to preserve the objectivity on the issue by not letting any comments from the Turkish community in Australia. In neither case was there any attempt to actually conduct any independent assessment, let alone present any view challenging Mr Robertson's conclusions.

Although they do not receive the same amount of media coverage, there is a substantial body of international legal, history, and genocide experts, from many countries, who dispute the claim that the event of 1915 constitute a 'genocide'. It is a well defined legal term and without a competent court opinion using this term is just like naming a person as a “murderer” without a court sentence, this is demeaning for the Turkish community in Australia. The same happened last year when Prof Justin McCarthy was insulted by ABC as a “genocide-denier” straight away by defence correspondent Michael Brissenden, when he presented his scientific knowledge on the issue. This simply was not an objective reporting.

Indeed, some of the language used in the past by ABC reporters, as exemplified above, has verged on the defamatory. At the very least, it has had the effect of denigrating those who hold an alternative view, smearing them with the "denialist" hardly suggests that the ABC welcomes a free and open expression of well formed argument, based on proper study.

Moreover SBS and especially the SBS Armenian Radio program; directed by Vahe Kateb, has been used as a one-sided propaganda agent for the Armenian Lobby, to divide the Turkish and Armenian communities in Australia. They use this programme to invite the Armenian Australians to protests against the Turkish Missions in Australia (which were subject to terror attacks by Armenians in 1980s), to advertise one-sided books about the so-called "genocide", to attract support for campaigns against Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and other government officials on this issue. This is simply unacceptable.

Had the ABC and SBS any desire to present the issue in an informative and objective way, we would have been more than happy to provide whatever materials, and indeed contact with relevant scholars, who could have provided balance to the coverage.

We believe in the impartiality of ABC and SBS and support their independent reporting. The alternative views are mostly being represented on every other issue but why not on this highly controversial topic? Australia and Turkey have developed a significant bond, as have the people of both countries. We believe that we at least deserve to be treated as equal citizens.

In the interests of balance, we ask you to allow the alternative point of view to be put forward. This is a matter of extreme importance to us, and we feel that your Charter also obliges you to permit differing views equivalent air time.

We stress that we are in no way seeking to muzzle or silence debate on this topic. On the contrary, we welcome an open, and honest discussion, particularly amongst people who have some expertise in this field. Whilst we appreciate that Mr Robertson enjoys a great deal of respect, he is not infallible, and was clearly not subject to the rigorous interrogation of his position that many others, particularly on Lateline, have. We think in the interests of balance that the alternative view ought also be given equal air time, and that the ABC should facilitate the free contest of ideas and equality of access to its audience.

Contact Details

Content Partially Copied From the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance

Sukru Server AYA's Open Counter comments and Remarks on Documented Facts

Direct Link

Mr Gunes Gungor, Executive Secretary, Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance has kindly shared ABC Australia's response he has:

Direct Link

We have emailed the list above giving them the post link and asked them if they would like to respond , if so we'll be happy to publish them .

No response has come through so far. We suppose it would have been the same response, if they ever did.

On the other hand, they have visited the post link:

Site Caretakers

Email we have received from ABC (Australia) Corporate_Affairs:

C71201-14 - Lara Kaplan: dec., 16 at 7:16

ABC Corporate_Affairs3

Dear Ms Kaplan

Thank you for your email concerning interviews with Geoffrey Robertson QC about his recent book, broadcast on the ABC's Lateline, Q&A, NewsRadio and The Drum programs.

As your correspondence raised concerns of a lack of impartiality, your letter was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC's editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the broadcasts and assessed them against the ABC's editorial requirements for impartiality, as outlined in section 4.2 of the enclosed ABC Code of Practice which states that the ABC should:

"Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented."

The Code does not require that each perspective should receive equal time or that it should be presented within each program.

The central question that each of the interviews conducted with Geoffrey Robertson focussed on, with varying amounts of detail, was whether the actions of the Ottoman government against its Armenian population during WWI constituted genocide. It was also considered whether governments, such as the Australian government, should recognise these events as genocide and whether the Turkish government should make reparation to Armenia.

Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the weight of evidence is compelling that there were massacres, other extra judicial killings and many deaths of prisoners and internees under the care of the Ottoman government during WWI. These facts are well enough established that there was no editorial requirement to challenge them during these programs.

Notwithstanding this, there is ongoing debate about the extent of those atrocities and whether they amount to genocide.

The essence of the Turkish perspective, as we understand it, is that there was no intent on the part of the Ottoman government to destroy the Armenian ethnic group; the large-scale deaths that occurred were the result of civil strife rather than pre-meditated policy.

On Q&A the subject was a very small part of the overall discussion. Geoffrey Robertson was asked two questions, one of which from an audience member Gunes Gungor incorporated the view that the Ottoman actions were a legitimate response to a nationalist uprising among Armenians.

On Lateline Geoffrey Robertson's book was one of a number of issues discussed. In the course of the interview on Lateline, the Turkish view was presented by Emma Alberici that the deaths were the result of "military necessity".

On The Drum the issue was dealt with at greater length. The introduction included the statement that the Turkish government denies that more than a million Armenians died "at the hands" of the Ottoman government and that "debate still rages over whether the massacres can be termed genocide". The segment preceding the interview with Geoffrey Robertson QC included the assertion of the Turkish government that the deaths were the result of civil war and a statement from the Turkish Consul-General, Gulseren Celik, that there is no scholarly consensus surrounding the events.

In the interview on NewsRadio on 23 October the Turkish government's perspective was also presented in the course of the interview; noting that the Turkish government does not accept that genocide was committed and the actions of the then government were justified.

Audience and Consumer Affairs, therefore, is satisfied that the Turkish position was not excluded.

In assessing whether the position advocated by Geoffrey Robertson was disproportionately represented we have taken into account: the nature of the programs, the degree of contentiousness and current debate about this issue in Australia, the balance of the weight of evidence in relation to the issue, and the extent to which alternative perspectives were presented in the programs and have been presented over time on other programs.

It is normal practice, when a high profile person such as Geoffrey Robertson releases a book potentially of interest to ABC audiences, that various ABC programs will interview the author so he or she can explain its contents to the audience and so the programs can take advantage of the opportunity of discussing other issues while the author is available. This does not constitute advertising, but it is to be expected that the interview will canvass the perspective of the author.

In a contemporary Australian context, the level of contentiousness of the events in Turkey during WWI is comparatively low. It is not, for instance, an issue on which the major political parties have significantly different views and there is no current attempt to have the events recognised as genocide by any Australian parliament. Nonetheless, it is true that in the lead-up to the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign next year it may become more prominent and that, no doubt, has influenced the timing of this book.

As noted, the balance of the weight of evidence strongly rests with the assessment that large scale atrocities were committed against the Armenian population during WWI, but the degree of official complicity is controversial. In assessing whether the broadcasts demonstrated a balance that follows the weight of evidence, we have been conscious of the fact that the relevant evidence constitutes both facts and opinions and that there has not yet been resolution of this question at law. We note that the view that these events constituted genocide is advanced by an appreciable number of credible scholars and has been officially recognised by many governments, as well as by the New South Wales Parliament.

We would like to emphasise that this assessment does not constitute an endorsement of Geoffrey Robertson's opinions on these issues. The ABC has no editorial position on whether the Ottoman government committed genocide. Nor does the ABC have a view on whether the Australian government should take any particular position on the controversy.

In the context of these particular broadcasts, we have concluded that there was a requirement for the programs to ensure that viewers and listeners were aware of the fact that the Turkish government rejects the allegation of genocide and asserts that the actions of Ottoman military and officials were justified. That was achieved. Similarly, for the reasons set out above we are satisfied that Geoffrey Robertson's perspective was not disproportionately represented in these broadcasts.

The ABC is open for debate on these issues and will present all significant fact-based perspectives if and when program makers deem them to be of sufficient interest to our audiences. Accordingly, while noting your concerns, Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied the broadcasts are in keeping with the ABC's editorial standards for impartiality.

Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, http://www.acma.gov.au .

Yours sincerely

Kirstin McLiesh

Head, Audience and Consumer Affairs


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