Tony Jones
Tony Jones

Tony Jones: ABC unaware of Zaky Mallah gangbang tweet

Q&A host Tony Jones has defended having convicted criminal Zaky Mallah on the show but says the program was not aware that Mallah has tweeted messages about "gangbanging" two female journalists.

Mr Jones used the first minute of Monday's broadcast to clarify the decision to allow Mr Mallah on the program.

"Others can and no doubt will judge this program and the ABC … but it is appropriate to put a few facts on the record," he said.

"The Q&A team were not aware at the time Zaky Mallah appeared of the very offensive and misogynistic tweet that he put out about two female journalists. Had we known, we would have rejected his participation."

But Parliamentary Secretary Steven Ciobo, who was on the program and responded to the question from Mr Mallah last week, said the explanation was "very strange", the ABC reported.

"So his tweets expressing sympathy for terrorist organisations, his tweets against me and others ... apparently none of that precludes him from being on the panel," he said.

Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson joined the condemnation of Q&A on Monday night's program, saying Mr Mallah's appearance was not a free speech issue. He said the ABC had made a serious error of judgement in giving Mr Mallah a "platform".

"To be brutally honest Tony I think the producers and yourself ought to be ashamed of yourselves for giving a platform," he told Mr Jones.

Mr Mallah was convicted in 2005 of threatening to harm ASIO officers but acquitted on other terrorism charges.

He tweeted earlier this year that two female journalists, Miranda Devine and Rita Panahi, "need to be gangbanged".

Mr Jones maintained Q&A had followed the ABC's charter by presenting "a diversity of perspectives so that over time no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded nor disproportionately represented".

He said the safety and security of panellists and the audience was "always a key priority for us".

News Corp has savaged the ABC over the issue with days of coverage.

But other news organisations have defended the public broadcaster, pointing out that Mallah is actively speaking out against ISIS.