A campaigner against the death penalty has said staff at the ABC’s triple j radio station will be partly responsible if the Indonesian government executes Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australians on death row in Bali.
Supporters of the men said their bid for clemency was stymied in part by a poll which showed a slim majority of Australians supported the death penalty.
The SMS poll of 2,123 people was conducted by Roy Morgan Research over the Australia Day weekend.
Triple j suggested questions for the poll and the results were published by the station’s Hack program on January 27.
It showed 52 per cent of people agreed that Australians convicted of drug trafficking in another country and sentenced to death should be executed.
Since it was published, the courts have denied a last ditch appeal by the drug smugglers and authorities in Indonesia are now making plans to execute the pair.
Both Indonesia’s ambassador to Canberra, Nadjib Rifat Kesuma, and attorney-general Muhammad Prasetyo have referred to the poll’s findings as proof many Australians support the judicial killing of the two men.
The news has devastated their supporters.
“The boys have really turned their lives into very constructive lives for other prisoners so the families are very proud of them,” the pair’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said.
“And there’s a lot of closeness there but from my observation what’ll be happening now is that the two clients will be looking after their families, who will be shattered.”
Greg Craven, vice chancellor of the Australian Catholic University and a supporter of the Mercy campaign that was set up to call for clemency for the two Australians, was angry the triple j poll was published.
“If these two men really are executed then the radio station that commissioned the poll, the people who delivered that poll, and the people who answered that poll in the affirmative will know that they have had a part, no matter how small, in the death of two other people,” he said.
Poll should have asked real question, not theoretical one: Craven
Professor Craven said the pollsters and the radio station had given ammunition to the Indonesian authorities and it had asked the wrong question.
“It asked a theoretical question which is ‘are you in favour of people being executed if they breach foreign law?’
“The real question is, ‘are you in favour of the two reformed Australians Andrew and Myuran having their heads blown off or their hearts blown out for smuggling drugs, for which they would have gone to jail in most other countries?'” he said.
In a statement read out on triple j’s Hack on Thursday afternoon, presenter Tom Tilley said he and the Hack team had the deepest sympathies for Chan and Sukumaran and their families.
Tilley said it was not uncommon for media outlets to legitimately use polling in reporting everyday stories.
“It would be a dangerous precedent for journalists not to report these things because they are fearful of how politicians may react,” he said.
Roy Morgan Research chief executive Michele Levine said the polling company always sought to accurately reflect what the Australian public thought.
“The impact of the truth must be what it is,” she said.
Ms Levine said the company had asked the same question for more than 30 years.
“Pretty much always Australians have been strongly of the view that if an Australian is convicted of drug trafficking in a country where that crime attracts the death penalty, that the death penalty should be carried out,” she said.
“In the ’80s, it was as high as 80 per cent of people felt that way. The issue’s been softening so when we surveyed it just recently, the electorate had softened a lot, but we still found a majority, 53 per cent of people, were of the opinion that the penalty should be carried out.”
Professor Craven hopes to prove the poll wrong, and has urged all Australians to keep pleading with the Indonesian authorities to show mercy towards the two Australians.
“There could be an act of spontaneous clemency — they could be reprieved, for example. As long as these men are alive, there is hope they will stay alive,” he said.