Sacked last month, Antoinette Lattouf joined the ranks of journalists dismissed for expressing support for Palestinians.
Australia’s national broadcaster is under fire amid claims that pro-Israel lobbyists forced the sacking of a broadcaster.
Journalists at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) have threatened a walkout after details emerged regarding the firing of Antoinette Lattouf. The radio host last month joined a growing list of journalists across the globe to have been dismissed for expressing views supporting Palestine or calling for Israel to end its bombardment of Gaza.
The Australian-Lebanese commentator and columnist was just three days into her short-term contract when she was dismissed. The sacking came shortly after she posted on social media a Human Rights Watch report alleging that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.
The broadcaster had itself covered the release of the report. However, a chain of WhatsApp messages obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that a group called Lawyers for Israel had leaned on ABC’s top brass to get her off the air.
Critics say that pro-Israel campaigners are intent on eradicating dissent in newsrooms. Numerous journalists in countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have lost their jobs or been suspended since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 sparked the Israeli offensive in the enclave.
Lattouf has challenged her dismissal as unlawful, and the case is due to be heard by Australia’s Fair Work Commission.
In her submission last year, the journalist claimed she had been unlawfully dismissed on the grounds of “political opinion or a reason that included political opinion”. Last week, Josh Bornstein, one of the lawyers representing her, claimed on X that the sacking was “based on both political opinion and race”.
It’s a privilege to represent Antoinette Lattouf in her unlawful termination case against the ABC which has now been expanded. We claim that the sacking was based on both political opinion and race. https://t.co/YpaplOI5jW
— Josh Bornstein (@JoshBBornstein) January 11, 2024
The case has garnered widespread support. About 80 colleagues at ABC have demanded more transparency over the broadcaster’s complaints process, threatening to walk out if demands are not met.
Cassie Derrick, media director for the advocacy group Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, said on X that journalists were “demanding their bosses have their backs and stand up for a free, independent press”.
Journalists at ABC “are being let down by management, who are capitulating, it seems, to external bullying”, she added.
#MEAAmedia members at the ABC today called on managing director David Anderson to urgently meet with staff and address growing concerns about outside interference, culturally unsafe management practices and to stand up for journalism without fear or favour. #PressFreedom… pic.twitter.com/LHomCActtu
— MEAA (@withMEAA) January 16, 2024
In its defence to the Fair Work Commission, ABC denied that race or political opinion had played a role in Lattouf’s sacking. It reiterated that she had been directed not to post about “matters of controversy” during her contact and called her case “fundamentally and entirely misconceived”.