ABC to hold emergency board meeting as Lattouf saga escalates

The ABC's turmoil over its handling of the dismissal of Antoinette Lattouf is escalating.

The ABC's turmoil over its handling of the dismissal of Antoinette Lattouf is escalating.

The ABC board will hold an emergency meeting as its dispute with ousted radio host Antoinette Lattouf threatens to escalate into a full-blown crisis.

Tuesday’s crisis meeting follows an unprecedented vote by ABC journalists expressing no confidence in managing director David Anderson.

In all, 125 of 128 members voted against Anderson’s leadership at a union meeting on Monday. It prompted Anderson to issue a statement late on Monday, reinforcing his commitment to the national broadcaster’s integrity.

“I am proud of the ABC’s journalism and the great work of our journalists,” he said.

“As ABC managing director and editor-in-chief I have always defended the ABC’s journalism. I have worked hard to stand by the ABC’s journalists and ensure they are protected from punitive behaviour that would hinder their work and ultimately affect the independence of the ABC – whether that be from AFP raids, political pressure, powerful organisations or lobby groups.”

Anderson said he would “continue to robustly defend the work of our journalists, who often face significant external pressure themselves”.

“As editor-in-chief, I accept this task with great honour. It is not a role I take lightly. Any suggestion I would not defend our position when external pressure is applied – regardless of where that pressure is coming from – is offensive and incorrect.”

“I have listened to and heard the concerns of members of staff and I will meet with them in the coming weeks.”

“As I said in my statement last week, the ABC rejects any claim that it has been influenced by any external pressure.”

The escalating disquiet among ABC staff follows Lattouf launching a wrongful dismissal case against the broadcaster after her aborted five-day fill-in stint on Sydney radio in December.

She was reportedly fired three-days into a five-day role over a Human Rights Watch post she shared on social media on December 19 about Israel “using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war in Gaza”.

The ABC said the post breached an order not to share her views on “matters of controversy”. It denied Lattouf’s race or political opinion influenced the decision.

It has also since amended its defence at Fair Work Australia, denying Lattouf was sacked.

The parties met for mediation at FWC last week, but it failed. Lattouf has vowed to keep fighting.

“I love [the] ABC and I will always advocate and fight for an ABC that can operate and inform the masses, inform and entertain the masses without fear or favour,” she said afterwards.

Her legal team is seeking a detailed public apology and compensation for harm to her reputation, distress and humiliation. Lattouf also wants an order that the ABC offer her a commensurate role on air.

Also on Monday, the broadcaster’s global affairs editor, John Lyons, added to the mounting criticism.

He said it was one of the ABC’s “darkest days” when leaked WhatsApp messages were reported documenting a letter-writing campaign led by a group of pro-Israel lawyers targeting Anderson and ABC chair Ita Buttrose over the Lattouf incident.

“When I read those WhatsApp messages, for the first time ever, and hopefully the last time ever, I felt embarrassed to work for the ABC,” he said.

“I was embarrassed that a group of 156 lawyers could laugh at how easy it was to manipulate the ABC.”

This week claims emerged for a second group lobbying the ABC via phone messages for Lattouf to be sacked.

“It makes me sick in the stomach to see people celebrate my sacking,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

“It makes me sick in the stomach to see an alleged Ita Buttrose response saying I’m now gone. It makes me worry about the ABC’s integrity.”

Lyons, who is about to travel to Israel to cover the war in Gaza, also criticised the ABC for giving in to pressure from a lobby group, claiming it amounted to capitulation to foreign influence.

“The clue is in the name: Lawyers for Israel thought that they could run a campaign to bully an ABC journalist out of her job and they did, they succeeded,” he said.

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