ABC Slammed For Refusing To Let Public Take Part In Controversial Gaza Q&A Episode

ABC Slammed For Refusing To Let Public Take Part In Controversial Gaza Q&A Episode

Last night’s Q&A episode saw panellists engage in tense discussions over the escalating Israel-Hamas war, but given the controversial nature of the debate, the episode was recorded in an empty studio with no audience.

Host Patricia Kavelas made the announcement at the start of the episode, acknowledging the “difficult and sensitive discussion” about to take place, given the sensitive topic matter. Kavelas also drew attention to a significant police presence outside the ABC Melbourne studios.

“We believe in your right to ask questions, and that is a right we will always defend. Tonight, our panellists will hear your questions through video link as we explore an issue rocking our diaspora Jewish and Arab communities,” she said.

The panel included Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts, former Australian ambassador to Israel and Dave Sharma, Australia Palestine Advocacy Network head Nasser Mashni, lawyer and national chair of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Mark Leibler, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories Francesca Albanese.

The discussion was primarily civil but became tense several times as Leibler and Mashni clashed over several points, including protests in Australia. At one point, the debate became extremely tense, with Karvelas calling for calm. “Deep breaths, deep breaths and I hope the country is having one, too,” she said.

Leibler, at one point, accused pro-Palestine protests of celebrating violence. However, his comments were immediately criticised by Mashni and Albanese. “We are killed, we’re blamed, we’re smeared,” Mashni said.

“The reality is what we have is 75 years of oppression, 75 years of denial. Palestinians are human beings, too. We have rights like everybody else to live in peace and sanctity,” he said.

Several viewers called out the program online, accusing the show of showing bias and not treating all guests equally.

“Francesca is the international legal expert and she was completely disregarded and all they did was effectively attack Nasser on live TV. Barely touched the surface of the issues facing Gaza today,” one X (formerly Twitter) user said.


Former Labor candidate for the Melbourne seat of Menzies, Stella Yee, accused Kavelas of not treating her guests equally. “So far, I don’t think Patricia Karvelas questions Mark Leibler the same way she does Nasser Mashni,” Yee tweeted. “Just watch who she interrupts/peppers questions as they speak. Also, watch who gets more airtime”.

One X user even went as far as to accuse the program of not recognising the level of trauma experienced by those inside Gaza. “Not one acknowledgement of that trauma and heartbreak, they went straight onto the next question,” they said.

The backlash comes just weeks after controversial text messages from Middle East correspondent Tom Joyner leaked from a Whatsapp group with other international media members. Within the messages, Joyner referred to reports of Hamas beheading Israeli babies as “bullshit”.

At the time, ABC managing director David Anderson defended the broadcaster’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Joyner, who Anderson said is remorseful over the comments, is being investigated by the ABC, with the ABC boss adding that the journalist had “the right to procedural fairness”.

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