ABC TV in burns backdown: managing director Mark Scott admits no evidence Australian navy tortured asylum seekers
The Daily Telegraph
February 5, 2014
THE ABC has backed down in the controversy over its reporting of claims that navy personnel tortured asylum seekers, apologising "if our reporting led anyone to mistakenly assume that the ABC supported the asylum seekers' claims".
A statement issued yesterday by ABC managing director Mark Scott and his news director Kate Torney admitted that video shown by the ABC of burned asylum seekers' hands did not establish how their hands had been injured.
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"The ABC's initial reports on the video said that the vision appeared to support the asylum seekers' claims," the statement reads. "That's because it was the first concrete evidence that the injuries had occurred. What the video did not do was establish how those injuries occurred."
The statement, published online by the ABC, indicated regret over how the asylum seekers' claims were presented.
"The wording around the ABC's initial reporting needed to be more precise on that point," it continued.
"We regret if our reporting led anyone to mistakenly assume that the ABC supported the asylum seekers' claims.
"The ABC has always presented the allegations as just that - claims worthy of further investigation."
The backdown follows criticism directed at the ABC from The Daily Telegraph, other media outlets, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
"A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone's side but Australia's," Mr Abbott said last week.
The ABC's own Media Watch program joined in the criticism on Monday night.
"The ABC overreached, by essentially endorsing the allegations of navy mistreatment on radio, TV and online throughout the day," Media Watch host Paul Barry said.
"Because even if the (Indonesian) police did back the asylum seekers' claims, there was no way of knowing they were true ... We believe the ABC should have been far more cautious, given the evidence it had, and given it was making such a big call against the navy."
On the same program, Barry caused a Twitter storm by admitting to voting Liberal in last year's federal election.
"Paul Barry broke my heart admitting he voted Liberal," sobbed one Twitter user.
"Paul Barry is god dang dead to me," wrote another.
Yet another shattered fan pleaded with the presenter: "You were joking when you said you voted Liberal, weren't you?"
Barry later confirmed he had voted Liberal.