The ABC has offered up an apology for misrepresenting information regarding an alleged rape of a five-year-old child on Nauru.
The report in question, sourced by the ABC’s 7.30 to paediatrician Karen Zwi, alleged last week that “a five-year-old boy who was raped on Nauru and risks being returned to his attacker”. Dr Zwi told the program that the child was “raped on Nauru” and “began to self-harm”.
But a spokesman has since acknowledged ABC News had made “an error” in its report.
“Our source, the treating doctor told our reporters about two cases. One was an older child. The doctor stands by her statement that this child was allegedly raped on Nauru,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“She also told our reporters about another of her patients, a five-year-old old who was allegedly sexually assaulted on Nauru. Our story incorrectly used quotes about the older child in referring to the younger child.
“In addition, on at least one occasion the incident was referred to as a rape instead of an alleged rape. ABC News apologises for the errors and confusion.”
Immigration Department officials yesterday told a Senate committee the alleged victim in the story was actually over 10 years of age and had suffered “skin-to-skin” contact with another detainee child on the island.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection secretary Michael Pezzullo said media reports on the issue had been deeply misleading, per the ABC.
“It’s getting to the point that there is advocacy parading as journalism that is actually deleterious to a sensible discussion about these matters,” he said.
In a statement responding to the Department’s claims, Karen Zwi said the information she provided was “factually accurate”.
“I do not wish to be drawn into the age of the child concerned for confidentiality reasons but all children have a right to expect safe and nurturing environments,” she said.
“That is not currently happening for many children in immigration detention.
“A child is a child. I stand by the statements I have made with regard to children in detention.”
The 12-year-old child in question could be sent back to Nauru alongside 267 asylum seekers in the wake of last week’s High Court judgement, which upheld offshore immigration detention.