Australian Broadcasting Corporation chair resigns over political interference claims

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Canberra, Sep 27 (IANS) The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) resigned on Thursday following allegations of political interference.

Justin Milne resigned from the national broadcaster amid reports he had called for journalists to be fired because their reporting was disliked by the Australian government, the BBC reported.

His exit comes after managing director Michelle Guthrie was fired on Monday.

In departing, Milne denied any government interference, and said he was leaving to “provide a release valve” for the “firestorm” stirred up by the reports.

“Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC,” he said.

Milne had allegedly told Guthrie to sack two senior journalists whose reports had provoked complaints from the government this year.

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In one leaked email about economics journalist Emma Alberici, he wrote: “They hate her… Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC, not Emma.”

In another reported exchange, he directed the managing director to “shoot” the ABC’s political editor, Andrew Probyn.

These claims and others were leaked to Australia news outlets just a day after Milne, in charge of the ABC board, sacked Guthrie halfway through her five-year term.

The ABC is funded by public money, but has its editorial independence protected by a legislated charter, the BBC said.

Under its policies, the broadcaster has a legal duty to present news in an impartial manner, free from political bias or influence.

In recent years, it has been criticised by the centre-right Liberal National government for allegedly showing bias in some of its stories.

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Reports that Milne, a former business partner of ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, sought to remove journalists behind those stories, prompted wide outrage on Wednesday leading to staff protests across the country.

The government has announced an inquiry into the alleged interventions and resolutely denied pressuring the broadcaster over its editorial stance.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Milne’s exit on Thursday, saying it was time for the ABC to “resume normal transmission”.

–IANS

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