The ABC Is Standing By Its Controversial Asylum-Seeker Story, And Has Poached A Senior News Corp Journo

ABC MD Mark Scott / File

ABC managing director Mark Scott has issued a lengthy statement along with his news director, Kate Torney, on the controversy sparked by its reporting of asylum seekers’ claims of mistreatment at the hands of the Australian navy.

The statement broadly stands by the public broadcaster’s reporting of the story, which has drawn criticism from the Prime Minister, who said the ABC seemed to take “anyone’s side but Australia’s”.

Scott’s statement does concede, however, that an element of the reporting could have been better.

The ABC’s initial reports on the video said that the vision appeared to support the asylum seekers’ claims. 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 wording around the ABC’s initial reporting needed to be more precise on that point. 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.

But this is very precise mediaspeak that’s far short of a retraction or apology, which ABC TV’s own Media Watch said last night should be issued because, it concluded, the story was wrong.

The full statement’s here.

The other development today is that the ABC, which has faced its fiercest criticism from News Corp’s The Australian over this issue, has poached the paper’s media editor, Nick Leys. It comes after The Australian recently said in an editorial that Mark Scott was out of his depth at the ABC.

Leys will now manage media relations at the ABC and the move has taken the Australian industry by surprise. Leys, a respected and well-liked journalist, took up his role in charge of the section just a matter of weeks ago.

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