The decision of an Israeli radio station to expel journalist Antoinette Latuff, as a result of pressure from pro-Israel groups, sparked widespread controversy on social media platforms.
The expulsion decision, according to activists and human rights officials, came against the backdrop of the journalist’s sharing on her Instagram account of a Human Rights Watch video condemning Israel.
Radio staff in Sydney threatened to go on strike unless management clarified what was raised by a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, which showed a series of leaked WhatsApp messages showing that a pro-Israel campaign had an influence on the decision to fire Latuff.
Australian broadcaster ABC strongly denied allegations that the journalist was fired for her stance. ABC Executive Director David Anderson said that his organization rejects “any claim that it was influenced by any external pressure, whether from a group, lobby, political party or commercial entity.”
— Elaine Pearson (@PearsonElaine) January 16, 2024
Anderson added that ABC takes criticism, comments and complaints seriously, but will continue to support employees and their work, both internally and externally.
The ABC claimed in its justifications to the Fair Work Commission that Lattouf was sacked last December from presenting the Sydney Morning program on ABC Radio, two days before her contract expired.
The radio's decision angered many people, and they considered it an attempt to silence voices and prevent any voice opposing Israel, even if it was from well-known human rights institutions.
Human Rights Watch's regional director for Asia, Ellen Pearson, said that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's justifications for dismissing Lattouf were “worrying.” “Human Rights Watch reports are used by the media, government officials and courts around the world, including the ABC,” she said. “Journalists should be encouraged to promote human rights reporting, not punished for it.”
So: @ABCaustralia DID fire award-winning journalist @antoinette_news for reposting @HRW video on starvation in Gaza. Whether or not the firing was affected by pro-Israel groups, it is disconcerting that a media company punishes a journo for exposing atrocities. @Irenekhan https://t.co/tTgXTLQoX1
— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPT (@FranceskAlbs) January 17, 2024
“This could have a negative impact on Australian journalists' ability to share human rights content from trusted organisations, which is very concerning,” she added.
Former Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth told ABC's RN Breakfast program that the radio's reaction worries him “because hiding what Israel is doing does not stop what Israel is doing.”
“This is not the way a news agency should operate,” Roth added, adding that it would not serve the Australian public if the ABC was not willing to stand up to pressure not to criticize Israel, calling on ABC management to acknowledge that its response was wrong. .
At the same time, UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese wrote on her own page: “Whether or not the dismissal was influenced by pro-Israel groups, it is alarming that a public media company would punish a journalist for exposing an atrocity.”
Lattouf's case will be discussed again publicly when the radio defends allegations of unfair termination at the Sydney Labor Commission on Thursday.
Antoinette Lattouf said that her dismissal was based on her political opinion. She later added that the reason was also due to her Lebanese origin.