ABC ombudsman approves ‘biased’ interview with IDF

The host of ABC’s 7:30 program has been cleared of bias during an interview with an Israeli army spokesman about the deaths of World Central Kitchen aid workers.

ABC host Sarah Ferguson interviewed IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The public broadcaster received 52 complaints about the eleven-minute television interview with Ferguson that aired on ABC’s main political program on April 8.

During the interview, Ferguson told IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Peter Lerner that she did not accept that seven deaths by aid workers, including Australian Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, were unintentional.

Ombudsman Fiona Cameron’s report, published Monday, outlined that she received complaints that Ferguson’s interview was “biased against Israel” and claimed that she “continued to raise questions about whether the IDF attack on the World Central aid convoy Kitchen amounted to a war crime. ”.

In the interview, Mr. Lerner said that “errors can occur in the state of war in war situations, this is clearly a mistake.

“We have taken responsibility for the error.”

Ferguson concluded the interview by saying, “Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, I do not accept your view that it is a mistake. There is much further to go in this story, but thank you very much for joining us.”

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner will be interviewed by host Sarah Ferguson on April 8 at 7:30 am. Photo: ABC

The ombudsman assessed the complaints against the ABC’s editorial standards for impartiality and said Ferguson had a duty to conduct a test interview that does not allow the interviewee to use the opportunity as a political platform.

“It is her duty to present other views to the interviewee and her responsibility to intervene and make reasonable efforts to ensure that the questions asked are answered,” the ombudsman said.

The investigation into the deaths – published on April 5 – found that there were serious errors as well as procedural errors by the Israeli army, resulting in two senior officers being dismissed and other senior commanders being reprimanded.

The ombudsman’s report said on the 7.30 program that Ferguson’s closing statement that she did not accept Mr Lerner’s view that the deaths were a “mistake” was “a signal that the characterizations (“error”, ” tragedy”) were inadequate to the significance of the event. , and we would continue to seek further explanation.

“The presenter sometimes uses the first person to challenge interviewers who do not answer. The ‘I’ is intended as a presenter who speaks on behalf of the program.”

Ms Cameron noted that while “the first-person language may have given rise to the impression or perception that the comment was a personal opinion of the presenter”, she was “satisfied that the comments sought to qualify that the closure of the attack was a “mistake”. was premature given the ongoing investigation.”

The investigation found that the report did not breach the ABC’s impartiality standards.

Peter Wertheim, co-director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, dismissed the report’s findings, saying it was a “blatant and overt interpolation of her personal views”.

“The ombudsman’s response does not properly address the complaints,” he says.

“Sarah Ferguson is one of the ABC’s most experienced and astute presenters, and she knew exactly what she was doing.

“She was determined to play the role of judge and jury and make clear to the public that the deaths of the aid workers were a war crime, even as the full circumstances of the incident remain under investigation.”