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Journalist brings unfair dismissal claim against the ABC

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Journalist Antoinette Lattouf has filed an unlawful dismissal claim against the ABC, after she was fired from a short-term radio host role.
Journalist Antoinette Lattouf has accused the ABC of unfair dismissal.

The ABC has appeared at a Fair Work Commission hearing over an unfair dismissal claim brought by journalist Antoinette Lattouf.

Lattouf claims she was “terminated unlawfully” during a short-term contract after she shared a social media post about the war in Gaza. Lattouf’s lawyers said “she was sacked by the ABC because she expressed a political opinion and also because of her race”.

The ABC said Lattouf was dismissed “because she failed or refused to comply with directions that she not post on social media about matters of controversy”.

Background

Lattouf, who is Lebanese, is a broadcaster and author, who founded the not-for-profit Media Diversity Australia.

She was hired to host ABC Sydney radio from 18-22 December. However, she was dismissed on 20 December.

Her contract was terminated after ABC management raised concern over a Human Rights Watch post she shared on social media.

The specific post accused Israel of using starvation as a “weapon of war in Gaza”.

Lattouf’s case

Lattouf has filed a complaint to the national workplace tribunal, the Fair Work Commission.

A statement from Lattouf’s lawyers alleges she was “sacked because of her ethnicity”. It also said the ABC “systemically discriminates against people with Arab or Muslim backgrounds as well as other people of colour”.

She is seeking “a detailed apology, compensation for harm to reputation, and distress and humiliation”. She is also hoping to secure a role at the ABC, similar to the job she was dismissed from.

ABC response

In its submission to the Fair Work Commission, the ABC said Lattouf’s allegation is “fundamentally and entirely misconceived”.

“The Applicant’s race and national extraction/social origin were entirely irrelevant to (and played no part in) the decision not to continue her casual engagement”.

The ABC claims Lattouf was asked not to post online about “matters of controversy” as a journalist employed at the broadcaster. But, the ABC said she “failed” to do this.

Leaked messages

It follows reports in Nine newspapers on leaked messages between members of a WhatsApp group named “Lawyers for Israel”.

The messages say individuals in the group wrote letters to senior ABC management and the ABC’s Board calling for Lattouf’s dismissal. According to one of the messages, ABC Chair Ita Buttrose “replied to 7 of [their] letters”.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson released a statement following the story. He said the ABC “rejects any claim that it has been influenced by any external pressure, whether it be an advocacy or lobby group, a political party, or commercial entity”.

ABC staff

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the industry union, called Lattouf’s dismissal “disturbing”.

It said: “The ABC should be backing its own employees when they come under attack.”

Yesterday, MEAA held a meeting with more than 200 staff. They are demanding a meeting with Anderson to “address growing concerns about outside interference” and “culturally unsafe management practices”.

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