The federal Department of Communications has released a summary of its investigation into the Zaky Mallah fiasco on Q&A, in which the convicted criminal claimed on live TV that a government minister was giving young Muslims a reason to join ISIS.
The review was commissioned by communications minister Malcolm Turnbull after the incident, which led to a deluge of criticism of the ABC for allowing Mallah into the audience and not sufficiently assessing his background – especially some despicable comments Mallah made on social media about female columnists – and any potential security risk he may have posed. Government figures and conservative commentators declined to appear on this week’s show as a result.
The departmental investigation is out (in the middle of a Friday afternoon). You can find it here, but it notes there wasn’t a total absence of research on behalf of the Q&A team. From the report:
The 22 June 2015 broadcast was the first time that Mr Mallah had been shortlisted by the Q&A editorial management team to ask a question of his own construction and actually had the opportunity to ask the question during the broadcast. This was in the context of an episode which, amongst other issues, discussed the Government’s proposals to remove citizenship from dual nationals involved in terrorism-related activities.
It was only at the time that Mr Mallah was being considered to ask a question live-to-air that any checks on Mr Mallah were undertaken for the purposes of that 22 June episode. After attempts to contact two people familiar with Mr Mallah were unsuccessful, the Q&A team relied on its previous experience with Mr Mallah, the advice of another ABC journalist, a review of a recent television appearance and a review of his social media posts undertaken in August 2014, which did not include Mr Mallah’s offensive tweets posted in early 2015 or his recent YouTube videos, in determining that he was not dangerous, would not be disruptive and would be a suitable audience member to ask a question.
Ultimately his selection for appearance was an editorial judgement made by the Q&A editorial management team, which is led by the Executive Producer, Peter McEvoy. We have been advised that this decision did not raise any issues of concern for the team in relation to the Editorial Policies of the ABC that they determined would require any referral beyond Mr McEvoy.
It’s somewhat bizarre that a “review of his social media posts undertaken in August 2014” was relied on. The ABC later said that if it had known about the posts Mallah would never have appeared on the show. The review notes the ABC “subsequently acknowledged an error of judgement” in having Mallah on the show.
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