Most Gaza war complaints to ABC allege pro-Israel bias

Most complaints to the ABC about its coverage of the war in Gaza accuse the public broadcaster of a pro-Israeli bias, a parliamentary committee has been told.

The ABC has received 3000 complaints about its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.

Of the complaints, 58 per cent allege pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian bias.

ABC Editorial Director Gavin Fang.
Editorial Director Gavin Fang says the ABC always tries to meet its policies and standards.

"It's a really complex story, a very fast moving story, so we are always trying to meet our editorial policies and our standards," ABC editorial director Gavin Fang told the committee on Tuesday.

"We're always looking to update stories and fix stories where we don't come up to the mark straightaway."

ABC managing director David Anderson was quizzed by coalition senators about whether the ABC had an anti-Israeli bias.

The senators focused on an ABC story about boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel.

Mr Anderson said the original story "shouldn't have been published in the state that it was" as it didn't include an alternative perspective, but told the committee it was addressed within a few hours.

Liberal senator Sarah Henderson described the initial story as "straight out activism".

"Who on earth let this be published in the first place?" she asked.

More than 1200 people were killed and 240 others taken hostage when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, in what the Australian government has declared a terror event.

Israel's subsequent war on Gaza has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians and wounded another 66,000 people, according to the UN and local health ministry.

Mr Anderson was questioned at length about the social media activities of ABC staff, particularly in relation to the Israel-Gaza war.

He said employees were aware of their obligations towards impartiality and potential implications of their posts.

"When it comes to personal use of social media, we don't monitor that because we're not responsible for it, it hasn't been through an editorial process and we've made it quite clear that individuals are responsible for their own posts," Mr Anderson said.

ABC staff receive training on what they need to be mindful of in relation to social media use.

"Certainly not to bring the ABC into disrepute, not to mix personal and work issues together," Mr Anderson said of the training.

"It's not unfettered, carte blanche to do whatever they want on social media."

Senate estimates at Parliament House.
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi asks a question of ABC Managing Director David Anderson.

Mr Anderson said no ABC staff were sanctioned for signing an open letter about coverage of the war in Gaza, but some were counselled about signing petitions.

During the public hearing, Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi accused the ABC of not standing up for journalists from diverse backgrounds, after some former employees said they didn't feel supported when coming under fire.

"This has been happening for years, there is a real pattern," she said.

An independent review into support systems for staff experiencing racism started in October 2023 and is expected to be finalised within months.

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