TRUE OPINION: The Australian media’s reticence to even consider the basic humanity of Palestinians is a sign that freedom of speech and opinion is balanced towards powerful oppressors, writes Yaakov Aharon.
SBS management pressured it’s journalists to remove their signatures from the ‘Do Better on Palestine’ petition, which calls for the media to “make space for Palestinian perspectives’ and avoid “both-siderism.” As of the writing of this article, the petition letter has been signed by 723 people, many of them working in Australia’s media industry.
In fact, full disclosure, the publisher of this news site and the author of this article signed the petition as soon as we saw it because we’re not knuckleheaded hacks who prioritise our journalistic careers over the human rights of Palestinians.
True Crime News Weekly is a completely independent news outlet. We have no masters or corporate overlords to tell us what we letters we can sign.
Others in the media industry are not as lucky however.
The author of the petition, Jeanine Khalik, tweeted on Thursday, May 20 that, “I am being asked by anxious and terrified journalists at @SBSNews to remove their names from the open letter after being asked to by bosses. It is absolutely shameful that this is happening and only proves the point of the open letter”.
Khalik – a former journalist with News Corp and Crikey who has also worked for the ABC – then added that journalists from other major outlets who were also keen to sign the petition were being pressure by management not to.
SBS management for their part clarified that journalists were not explicitly threatened by their bosses, but rather they received calls that implicitly threatened the safety of their job.
“No individuals were directed to remove their names from the open letter, nor has there been any disciplinary action taken or proposed in relation to this matter,” a spokeswoman for SBS told The Guardian.
“SBS is a publicly funded national broadcaster which must be, and be seen to be, objective and impartial. SBS had informal conversations with employees to remind them of their obligations to be balanced and impartial in all their editorial output, and to consider public perceptions of their impartiality.”
With that in mind, it’s perhaps important to note just how impartial SBS management themselves are. Both the managing director and executive director of SBS, James Taylor and Sally Roberts, have enjoyed all-expenses paid trips to Israel from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD). In JBOD’s countless media statements on Israel and Palestine, they have never criticised Israeli policy and frequently express “unequivocal support for Israel”.
That doesn’t sound very impartial to me but perhaps you may disagree.
Furthermore, SBS non-executive board member Warren Mundine received no accusations or questions over his supposed ‘impartiality’ from his fellow board members when he tweeted earlier this month, “#IstandwithIsrael against the Hamas terrorist.”
‘Impartial’ is a cheap label the intellectually dishonest use to dismiss those brave enough to share their opinions.
Impartiality is a human trait. And so is having an opinion. SBS is run by people and naturally those people have their own agenda. It’s okay to have an agenda, but can’t they be honest about it?
The current death toll stands at 275 Palestinians and 12 Israelis. At best, the both-siderism indicates that SBS believes the casualty toll is worth an equal amount. Each Israeli is worth 22 Palestinians. At worst, and much more likely, they are hiding that their management is in the pocket of the Israeli lobby.
And it’s not like SBS doesn’t have previous form on silencing journalists speaking out about war crimes.
In 2015, sports reporter Scott McIntyre was unfairly dismissed after then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull personally complained to the board about tweets McIntyre had written on Anzac Day suggesting Australian soldiers – or diggers – weren’t as innocent as the Anzac mythology likes to suggest and were involved in war crimes, including gang rape.
Moreover, it’s not even only Palestinian-Australians and their allies in our local media who are being silenced this time in such a manner.
In the United States last week, newswire service AP fired a young Jewish journalist, Emily Wilder, just a few weeks after hiring her following a backlash whipped up by a number of far-right and conservative websites and two-bit personalities like Ben Shapiro for her previous (and already public) support and advocacy for Palestine while was in college. The firing of Ms Wilder has caused widespread consternation amongst journalists working in AP and across the wider media landscape in the US.
There is no balance here. Israel has one of the most advanced armies in the world. When Israel bombs Gaza, it is bombing a stateless people living in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The Palestinians have no state to mobilise them to rebuild, no army to fight back, and not even anti-aircrafts guns to shoot down Israeli fighter jets.
This is not a conflict, crisis, or a rise in tensions; this is a massacre. This is not a land dispute; it is ethnic cleansing.
Remember this next time you read an article that could have been written by a suit-and-tie journalist or auto-generated by a bot: borrowing language from the hegemony does not make the article true.
Feature Image: AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean (sourced from DoBetterOnPalestine.com)