11 November 2015
by Nicky Davis

ABC loses child abuse victims' support after 'repulsive' Media Watch attack on Fiona Barnett


Nicky Davis: '... the ABC should not just apologise and make restitution to Fiona Barnett, but should also investigate the internal processes which allowed such a biased piece of propaganda to be produced and broadcast.'

Following ABC Media Watch's misleading and defamatory attack on child abuse victim and whistleblower Fiona Barnett last week, co-ordinator of child sexual abuse survivor advocacy group SNAP Australia, Nicky Davis, provides more detail about Media Watch's unethical reporting and demands the ABC make good. She says the ABC, via Media Watch, has lost the trust and support of the many thousands of Australian survivors of child sexual abuse by institutions and elite paedophile networks.

Mark Scott
Managing Director of the ABC
GPO Box 9994
Sydney NSW 2001
mark.scott@abc.net.au
Fax: 8333 5344

Dear Mr Scott,

I am writing to complain about the appalling Media Watch episode 40 on 2 November, 2015 which engaged in a deliberately misleading, defamatory and unjustifiable personal attack on a courageous whistleblower.

There are many reasons why the ABC should not just apologise and make restitution to Fiona Barnett, but should also investigate the internal processes which allowed such a biased piece of propaganda to be produced and broadcast. The ultimate irony is it was published on a program supposedly holding the Australian media to high journalistic standards, while demonstrating the lowest form of suppression of the truth and denial of freedom of speech.

The smug, condescending attacks on Ms Barnett personally, and on the extremely painful information she was only able to reveal after much healing work, had absolutely nothing to do with the stated purpose of Media Watch, which is to inform the public about media manipulation. In this episode, Media Watch itself engaged in the worst form of manipulation: telling the Australian public what information they should listen to or believe and sneeringly smearing the reputation of someone who told a truth of which the decision makers at Media Watch – and the ABC – did not approve.

I spoke to Sally Virgoe, the "researcher" on this segment, during her "research". From the start, she presented as biased and determined to smear Fiona, but I at least assumed that Media Watch's approach to this issue could only possibly be an examination of what the media did with the information Fiona and I presented at the media conference on 23 October. Fiona was far more co-operative than Sally deserved, as Sally's questions went far beyond Media Watch's scope, and her manner was aggressive, demanding and insulting.

But the result was worse than I imagined possible. While the media coverage was briefly mentioned, the complaint was that the media should have ignored Fiona, and the majority of the segment was devoted to positioning Fiona as unbelievable and anyone who listened to what she had to say as simply wrong.

At this point, it is important to note that neither Fiona nor myself had ever asked anyone to blindly believe what she had to say. Quite the opposite. We asked for a proper investigation of her claims and those of many others. Given the seriousness of the crimes involved and the large number of victims coming forward, the consistency with which authorities dismiss these claims without investigation reeks of corruption.

Media Watch and the ABC have shown themselves by this broadcast to be supportive of corruption and to think it desirable to silence whistleblowers.

'Media Watch itself engaged in the worst form of manipulation: telling the Australian public what information they should listen to or believe and sneeringly smearing the reputation of someone who told a truth of which the decision makers at Media Watch – and the ABC – did not approve.' ~ Nicky Davis, SNAP Australia.

I provided Sally Virgoe with a large amount of information about the media conference itself, what we were asking for and hoped to achieve, as well as an official statement from SNAP, all of which was ignored. Information which disproved at least one of the broadcast claims was provided by Fiona to Media Watch days before the broadcast. It was also ignored and an examination of the correspondence will dispel any attempt to claim misunderstanding. Media Watch chose to misrepresent Fiona's intentions and to mislead on certain facts. Media Watch have every right to choose which information they include, but they should be prepared to face appropriate scrutiny for those decisions.

The ABC, via Media Watch, has lost the trust and support of the many thousands of Australian survivors of child sexual abuse by institutions and elite paedophile networks.

Once upon a time, survivors could rely on the ABC to be interested in telling the unpalatable truth, regardless of pressure from politicians, church officials and others in positions of prominence. Not only would the ABC crack the stories others didn't want to touch, but the ABC could be relied upon not to skirt superficially over material that would be all too tempting for commercial networks to sensationalise.

So it is with great sadness that we now realise the ABC, via the once balanced and informative Media Watch, has demonstrated behaviour as superficial, condescending, factually incorrect and victim blaming as the worst complicit bishop spouting disinformation from a bully pulpit, or the worst shock jock manufacturing ill-informed outrage to advance the deceptive and sinister agenda of his political masters.

Do not be misled into thinking that Australians do not recognise the line the ABC crossed on Monday 2 November.

Media Watch's unjustified personal attack on one of the bravest women ever to grace these shores is nothing less than an abandonment of freedom of speech. The criticism of her was a disgrace to the journalistic standards they purport to uphold.

If you do not apologise to her personally, publish in full her statement, and investigate and take action against everyone involved in this repulsive attack, it will demonstrate to all survivors that like the BBC, the ABC will protect VIP paedophiles above truth, justice or the safety of children.

Regards,

Nicky Davis

SNAP Australia