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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 3022

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

(Question No. 585)

Senator Abetz asked the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, upon notice, on 8 April 2011:

Given that:

(a) the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has previously agreed that the West Bank security barrier is predominantly a fence and not a wall (response to question on notice no. 157);

(b) the ABC has advised that 'the barrier has been referred to in a number of ways' and cited four instances which used the terms 'security barrier' and 'border fence', however, the examples cited were about the Gaza barrier, which is a fence for the entirety of the Gaza/Israel border;

(c) the ABC advised further that it 'accepts that specific context is relevant in each circumstance';

(d) a protest at the barrier at Bil'in was the specific context for the broadcast headed 'Protester killed in campaign against West Bank wall' (AM, 25 April 2009); notwithstanding that the barrier was, and is entirely in the form of a fence, there are multiple instances in this report where the barrier is referred to as a 'wall'; and

(e) additionally, the report used the term 'wall' when referring to the entirety of the security barrier, terminology favoured by Israel's critics and commonplace in ABC reports:

(1) Does the ABC now concede that it often uses the expression 'wall' or similar expressions when referring to the entirety of the West Bank security barrier and/or when referring to a section of the barrier that is entirely in the form of a fence.

(2) Does the ABC concede that such usage breaches the requirements in the editorial policies for accuracy and impartiality.

Senator Conroy: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The story in question picks up the usage employed by groups such as the International Court of Justice, but the reporter also specifically refers to the particular section of the barrier as an "eight metre high razor-wire fence".

The ABC agrees that care needs to be exercised to avoid using the labels favoured by one side or the other and to be as accurate as possible. In this instance, it was clearly more accurate to refer to this particular section of the barrier as a fence, which is what the reporter did in the key element of the story when describing the local activities she was observing.