Australian-Lebanese journalist 'unfairly sacked' by ABC over Gaza post, commission finds

Australian-Lebanese journalist 'unfairly sacked' by ABC over Gaza post, commission finds
Lattouf can now pursue her unlawful termination case against ABC at the Federal Court, after the Fair Work Commission found she was sacked from her role.
3 min read
03 June, 2024
Antoinette Lattouf was fired after she posted a HRW report on Israel's use of starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza [Getty/file photo]

Lebanese-Australian journalist Antoinette Lattouf was sacked by the Australian broadcaster ABC following a social media post she made regarding Israel’s war in Gaza, the Fair Work Commission found in her unfair dismissal trial on Monday.

The commission "comprehensively rejected" the broadcaster’s jurisdictional challenge to Lattouf’s termination, the journalists’ lawyer Josh Bornstein said, according to Australian media.

In December last year, Lattouf was taken off the air three days into her casual role as a radio host for ABC Radio Sydney’s ‘Mornings’ programme, filling in for Sarah Macdonald.  The journalist had two hosting slots remaining as per her five-day contract.

ABC claimed that she had "breached" their editorial guidelines.

Lattouf’s sacking prompted her to take legal action against the network, as she believed her contract was unlawfully terminated. In her case against ABC, Lattouf said she was fired on grounds of "political opinion or a reason that included political opinion".

In January, the network responded and claimed it did not sack her as she was "paid for the full five days" of the contract, and attempted to have the termination case shelved.

The commission rejected ABC’s claims, stating that they found Lattouf’s employment was "terminated at the ABC’s initiative".

Gerard Boyce, the deputy president of the commission, found that Lattouf was sacked at a meeting on December 20 because "she had been told not to make social media posts for the whole of the five days she would be presenting on the show, but she did so anyway".

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The ruling now permits the 40-year-old journalist to pursue an unlawful termination case at Australia’s Federal Court, for "breaching its employee enterprise agreement by sacking her without a proper basis and without due process".

A text sent by the executive in charge of Lattouf’s employment, Chris Oliver-Taylor, to ABC’s managing director David Anderson also revealed that he would fire the journalist on December 20.

The text read: "Confirming my view is that she has breached our editorial policies whilst in our employment. She also failed to follow a direction from her producer not to post anything whilst working with the ABC. As a result of this, I have no option but to stand her down. Call me if you can, but if not possible, I will action within the hour".

In December, Lattouf posted on her social media accounts a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Israel potentially using starvation as a weapon of war during its military onslaught on Gaza.

Multiple reports have emerged throughout the war that Israel was purposefully exacerbating hunger levels in the war-hit enclave, which could be classified as a war crime.

The commission also found ABC managers discussed posting content on social media with Lattouf, who was reportedly told to keep a low profile but that content from "reputable sources" was "fine". 

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Boyce also added that ABC did not respond to an email Lattouf sent after she was dismissed, in which she asked why her social media post breached guidelines.

Following her dismissal, Australian media revealed that a pro-Israel group had pressured ABC’s executives to fire her.

'Lawyers for Israel' threatened legal action against ABC if it did not fire Lattouf, the Sydney Morning Herald said after obtaining leaked messages from a WhatsApp group.

ABC went on to deny outside influence in their removal of Lattouf off the air, though the commission said it found that Taylor-Oliver knew of the emails and messages sent to Anderson.

Following the Fair Work Commission's findings, Lattouf said she was "pleased with the outcome" but "disappointed" that she was "fired for posting a fact the ABC itself was also reporting, namely a report of Human Rights Watch about starvation used as a tool of war".

 
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