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Turnbull denies influence on SBS sacking

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Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has denied having any influence in a decision by SBS to sack one of its reporters over offensive Anzac Day tweets.

Scott McIntyre drew widespread condemnation for criticising what he said was the “cultification [sic] of an imperialist invasion” – apparently in reference to the Gallipoli campaign.

He also accused Australian soldiers of carrying out executions, rape and theft in Egypt, Palestine and Japan.

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Mr Turnbull, who has described the comments as “despicable”, drew them to the attention of SBS’s managing director Michael Ebeid.

But he denies interfering in the matter, saying management of SBS, not the government, was responsible for staffing decisions.

McIntyre, as a private citizen, was entitled to express his political views, he said.

“But in his capacity as a reporter employed by SBS he has to comply with and face the consequences of ignoring the SBS social media protocol,” Mr Turnbull said in a statement on Monday.


Cabinet colleague MP Scott Morrison backed Mr Turnbull, describing the tweets as obscene.

“It is a free country, you can say what you like but there are consequences for when you say stupid and ugly things,” he told 2GB.

McIntyre’s sacking has caused a fresh debate about freedom of speech.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance is concerned employers are being inflexible in their social media policies, arguing they should recognise staff were entitled to a private life and personal opinions.

Social media policies should be nuanced in order to strike a balance between debate and freedom of expression.

“Opinions that should be able to be expressed without heavy-handed retribution by the employer,” the union said in a statement on Monday.

Human rights commissioner Tim Wilson said SBS had no choice but to take action against McIntyre because he worked for a government organisation, but he questioned whether firing him was the right move.

McIntyre’s only comment since his dismissal was in reply to prominent Australian journalist John Pilger, who offered his support on social media, adding “you speak for many”.

“Thanks John,” McIntyre tweeted back.


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