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Q&A ??’ ABC arranged Zaky Mallah ambush: take that as a comment

The ABC deliberately arranged for a “convicted criminal and terrorist sympathiser” to confront federal MPs on one of its top-rating ­programs, raising security fears and unleashing a fierce political backlash.

The Australian Federal Police is on standby to brief the high-powered ABC board after the ­federal government urged an overhaul of security at Q&Afollowing its decision on Monday night to allow Zaky Mallah, a man convicted of threatening to kill ASIO officers, to join the studio audience without any security checks.

Mallah’s appearance on Q&A was deliberately manufactured by the ABC to ambush guests, including politicians, government frontbencher Steven Ciobo and Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon, and all sides of politics condemned the ABC for its grave error of judgment after ­Mallah blamed the government for Australians who chose to join Islamic State.

“The Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL (Islamic State) because of ministers like him,” Mallah said on the program in response to comments by Mr Ciobo.

Tony Abbott said the ABC had “betrayed Australians” and called Q&A a “lefty lynch mob” for ­providing a national platform for ­Mallah, who he described as a “convicted criminal and terrorist sympathiser”.

In comments to the Coalition partyroom, Mr Abbott said he would consider a government-wide boycott of Q&A.

“We all know that Q&A is a lefty lynch mob and we will be looking at this and we will bring something back when we return,” he told angry MPs.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged the ABC to overhaul its security arrangements, and raised concerns that volatile audience members could endanger the lives of audience members, politicians and staff.

Contacting ABC boss Mark Scott, chairman Jim Spigelman and Q&A host Tony Jones, Mr Turnbull said it “beggars belief” that Mallah was included in a live audience and the ABC had paid “inadequate attention” to issues of physical security when assembling audiences for the program.

“He had served a term of imprisonment for threatening to kill ASIO officers. He had been charged with threatening suicide attacks and preparing for terrorist attacks in that context, although had been acquitted. He had travelled to Syria in the pursuit of what he described as ‘jihad’. “His social media presence is vile, abusive and violent,” Mr Turnbull said. “Surely we have learned to take threats of this kind, to take people like this, extremely seriously. The idea that there was no physical security checks on that audience, or that this man was allowed into it, is extraordinary.”

Justice Minister Michael Keenan has agreed to make the AFP available for a security briefing and the ABC board will engage in an external review of Q&A, including its audience makeup and its commitment to balance, impartiality and accuracy.

Government MP Alex Hawke wrote to the ABC demanding Q&A be taken off-air while the ­review was undertaken and asked for all communications between the public broadcaster and Mallah to be released.

The ABC accepted Mallah’s nomination to appear in the audience of Q&A and chose his question out of the dozens emailed to producers ahead of Monday’s filming in the ABC’s Ultimo studios in inner-city Sydney. Panellists were not warned Mallah would be in the audience. A briefing note from Q&A producer Tara Thomas told panellists that citizenship and terror were on the show’s agenda but they were not informed who would ask the question and what they would ask.

It is clear the ABC was aware of the question. Would-be questioners were informed by Thomas if their question had been “short-listed” and told that “the program normally gets through 70 per cent of short-listed questions”.

Mr Ciobo likened Mallah to the Sydney siege gunman Man Horan Monis and said the situation was potentially dangerous given “unpredictable people can do unpredictable things”.

“His tweets after the show are consistent with his highly radicalised comments on the show and demonstrate this is an individual who warrants ongoing scrutiny,” he said. “I have no doubt there’ll be closer scrutiny paid to this individual. We’ve seen the consequences of what occurred in the Man Monis case and clearly he is a ­highly radicalised man.”

Astounded by the level of applause on-set for Mallah’s comments, Mr Ciobo said the makeup of the audience did not represent mainstream Australian views.

“It was certainly surprising that there appeared to be such a large number of people who would applaud an individual who confessed he had aspired to murder an Australian official and espoused views that run so contrary to mainstream Australian values,” he said. “To get that number of people enthusiastically clapping was quite a surprise.”

After the show, Mallah tweeted: “The majority of the #qanda audience tonight was pro Libs and pathetic. I would pay to see that Minister dumped on #ISIS territory in Iraq!”

The Australian can reveal the AFP and government security agencies are closely scrutinising Mallah and have begun monitoring his social media use.

Mallah was first exposed by The Australian in 2003 when journalist Martin Chulov wrote a front-page story revealing his jihad ambitions.

After Chulov’s reports, the Counter Terrorist Command launched an investigation in which a police officer went undercover as a journalist and exposed Mallah’s threats to kill government staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or ASIO. A jury acquitted Mallah of terror-related charges but he was jailed for his threats to kill government staff.

Asking a question as an audience member on Q&A, Mr Mallah complained that the government’s proposed changes to the Citizenship Act could result in him being stripped of his citizenship.

A forthright Mr Ciobo said that in relation to Mallah, he regretted the changes to the law “weren’t retrospective in application”. “I’d be pleased to be part of a government that would say you’re out of the country,” he said.

Mallah replied that such comments explained why some Muslims felt justified in travelling overseas to join Islamic State. “The Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of ministers like him,” he said. Jones ruled the comment “out of order”.

The director of ABC Television, Richard Finlayson, admitted Q&A had “made an error in judgment in allowing Mallah to join the audience and ask a question’’. The taxpayer-funded ABC has refused to answer The Australian’s questions about whether it paid for Mallah’s travel to appear on the show.

Last night Mallah did not resile from his comments or take responsibility for their impact, but used an appearance on Ten’s The Project to warn Muslims against travelling to Iraq or Syria to fight with Islamic State, which had ­hijacked Islam and jihad.

Former ABC Media Watch host and media columnist Jonathon Holmes defended the broadcaster and said Mallah’s radical views were from when he was a stupid young man, and he now did not support Islamic State.

“This is precisely the kind of guy we need to help us stop the kids being recruited by ISIS,” he said of Mallah. “He’s the sort of person Abbott should be welcoming rather than dismissing as an enemy of the people.”

But in the audience on Monday night, University of Sydney student Jeremy Travers, 24, said he was “frozen” and “in shock” when Mallah responded to Mr Ciobo. “From the moment Tony stepped in to the moment I got home, I was angry at myself for not simply saying, ‘How dare you,’ ” he said.


1 - Did Q&A approach Zaky Mallah to join the show’s audience, or did he approach Q&A?

2 - Were the Q&A team aware of the general nature of the question that Zaky Mallah was going to ask?

3 - Did the ABC pay for Zaky Mallah to appear on Q&A?

4 - Did the ABC pay for his transport or travel to the program?

5 - Can you please release the correspondence between Mallah and the ABC.

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Whose ABC?

Posted by Ronit on 2015-06-23 23:18:26 GMT