ABC Chair Ita Buttrose slams ‘abhorrent, incorrect’ suggestions from staff David Anderson showed ‘lack of support’ for independent journalism

ABC Chair Ita Buttrose has issued a scathing response to staff who she says suggested David Anderson had “shown a lack of support” for independent journalism and journalists in recent weeks.

More than 200 ABC employees on Monday met virtually and passed a vote of no confidence in the Managing Director of the public broadcaster, 125 votes to three.

Staff called on Mr Anderson to take “immediate action” to win back the confidence of employees following a series of incidents which they said had “damaged the reputation of the ABC as a trusted and independent source of news”.

Mr Anderson responded shortly after the news broke, promising to meet with staff to discuss their concerns while defending his conduct.

“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,” he said. 

A statement from the ABC Board was released on Tuesday, firmly backing in Mr Anderson with a unanimous vote of confidence.

Ms Buttrose, speaking on behalf of the Board, addressed criticisms levelled by ABC staff at senior management.

“It is abhorrent and incorrect that people would suggest that he (Mr Anderson) has shown a lack of support for independent journalism and journalists,” she said.

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“David Anderson has always been a strong supporter of the independence of the ABC and its journalists.

“He has encouraged them to report without fear or favour and has never weakly surrendered to criticism as some critics have alleged.”

She went on to hit back at claims the ABC could be influenced by “lobbying pressure”.

The Sydney Morning Herald last week published a series of leaked WhatsApp messages between a group of pro-Israel lawyers discussing contacting the ABC’s Ombudsman and Board of Directors over radio presenter Antoinette Lattouf’s journalism concerning the war in Gaza.

During the meeting of ABC staff members on Monday, the broadcaster’s global affairs editor John Lyons said he felt “embarrassed that a group of 156 lawyers could laugh at how easy it was to manipulate the ABC”.

“The ABC regularly receives, and responds to, complaints from individuals or organisations and the assumption that either the Managing Director as Editor-in-Chief or I would be influenced by any sort of lobbying pressure is quite simply wrong,” Ms Buttrose said.

The ABC Chair also appeared to reference the ongoing conflict between terror group Hamas and Israel in the Gaza strip and the difficulties facing journalists who are reporting on the conflict.

“The Board, including the Managing Director, recognise that this is a very difficult environment for our staff with many societal issues that threaten to divide us,” she said.

“We will continue to prioritise actions that support our staff, ensure our journalistic independence, and protect the trust that Australians place in the ABC.”

The ABC statement also confirmed the Board had met on Tuesday to discuss the legal action brought by Ms Lattouf, who is claiming the broadcaster terminated her contract on the grounds of a “political opinion or a reason that included political opinion” and race due to her Lebanese heritage.

“The Board notes that the ABC rejects the claims and has lodged its defence,” the statement said.

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