Channel Seven is being sued by residents from a remote Northern Territory community over a highly controversial segment that aired on its breakfast program Sunrise.
Last year in March, Sunrise aired a segment about non-Indigenous families caring for Aboriginal children who had been abused.
The controversial spot, which was later found to have breached the commercial television industry code of practice, followed children’s minister David Gillespie’s proposal that would allow non-Indigenous families to adopt Indigenous children to “save” them from rape, assault and neglect.
Channel Seven is in hot water following the segment as they broadcasted footage alongside the story featuring residents in Yirrkala, an Aboriginal community one thousand kilometers east from Darwin.
As reported by the ABC, the lawyer leading the defamation case, Peter O’Brien, said even though a blurring filer was used, the adults and children were still able to been seen and identified.
O’Brien said the footage was originally shot with the resident’s permission as part of a story about a positive health initiative but has seen been taken out of context and spun in a negative light.
He said: “Simply picking up this footage and playing it behind that sort of context, particularly with the very sorry message that’s being pushed in this particular program, is very disturbing.
“They were able to identify themselves and have had others identify them.
“So we say that there are clearly defamatory imputations that flow from the content and footage depicted behind the content, in the context of the program itself.”
In a statement, O’Brien’s law firm said he will be arguing in the Federal Court that the context of the commentary was defamatory and that it suggested the people in the footage had abused or neglected children, were unable to protect children, were members of a dysfunctional community and were participating in harmful culture.
A spokesperson for Channel Seven said the network would be able to defend itself based on the fact the footage was indeed blurred.
They said: “The proceedings relate to some footage used in the background to the story which was blurred to prevent any person being identified and Seven is able to defend the case on that basis.
The case was heard in Federal Court in Sydney last Friday and will continue on June 12.