Zaky Mallah on Q&A; on Monday night.
Zaky Mallah on Q&A; on Monday night.

Zaky Mallah: ABC reckless but News Corp bashing over top

IF the ABC wanted to heap fuel on the fire of those who believe it is a loony, left-wing terrorist organisation, it couldn't have done a better job than this week's Q&A program.

Allowing a man who pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Commonwealth officials to openly advocate for Australian Muslims to join ISIS in Syria was not only stupid but reckless.

But the front page responses by News Corp publications today turning it into a national security incident was equally disturbing - and will be seen as evidence of its ongoing ABC-bashing campaign.

As a publicly funded broadcaster, the ABC has a higher responsibility to ensure it is not only fair but also responsible.

While there are many good people in the ABC, from time to time it certainly creates a strong perception it gains greater pleasure at bashing the Abbott government than holding the Opposition to account.

But should this week's Q&A slip-up really be front page news in Sydney, Brisbane, and other capital cities?

For those still catching up with what happened, here's a quick summary.

Zaky Mallah raised a question on what might have happened if politicians, not courts, had decided his case when he was the first man charged and confined under Howard government's terrorism laws in 2003.

"I had done and said some stupid things including threatening to kidnap and kill. But in 2005 I was acquitted of those terrorism charges," he said.

"As a plea bargain happened I pleaded guilty to threatening to kill (Commonwealth) officials."

But Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade Steve Ciobo told Mallah he understood him to be acquitted on a technicality.

"I would be pleased to be part of a government that would say you would be out of the country, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

But Q & A found itself on very shaky ground when Mallah told the panel, "The Liberals now have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight, to go to Syria tonight and join ISIS because of ministers like him."

Tony Jones, realising the danger, quickly ruled the comment out of order and proceeded to wrap up the show with a rebuttal by Ciobo.

The media storm which followed, much of it driven by News Corp, prompted the ABC's Director of Television Richard Finlayson to issue a statement:

"In attempting to explore important issues about the rights of citizens and the role of the Government in fighting terrorism, the Q&A program made an error in judgement in allowing Zaky Mallah to join the audience and ask a question.

"Mr Mallah has been interviewed by the Australian media on a number of occasions. The environment of a live television broadcast, however, meant it would not be possible for editorial review of the comments he might make prior to broadcast, particularly if he engaged in debate beyond his prepared question."

"The circumstances of Mr Mallah's appearance will be reviewed by the ABC."

News Corp reports today are alleging that the ABC arranged the 'ambush' and even questioned whether Mallah was paid to appear on the program.

Mallah himself has done the Muslim community no favours by refusing to apologise or even retract his comments.

Appearing on The Project he took absolutely no responsibility for any fallout from the comments, even when asked whether his comments would seem to encourage young people to go over and fight for ISIS.

"I don't hold myself responsible for the stupidity of the Abbott government,'' he said.

He said Australia should champion freedom of speech.

"I stand by my words. I stand by everything I said last night,'' Mallah said.

He then went on to say he did not support or encourage young Australians going to Syria or Iraq to fight for ISIS.

"It's an organisation that has hijacked Islam. It's an organisation that has hijacked jihad.''

Previously, Mallah  has called on Australia's Salafist imams to fight against extremism: "You need to condemn terrorism.  You need to condemn fundamentalism.  You need to condemn those who are brainwashing our youth into believing that a group like ISIS is fighting for jihad. They are not fighting for jihad. They are fighting for bullshit."

Well at least he got that right.

Which is more than can be said for the ABC on this occasion.