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ABC boss demands magazine delete "vicious" terror article

Media Week

The head of the ABC has demanded that right-wing magazine Quadrant delete an opinion piece which suggests it would have been preferable if the Manchester bomb had been detonated in the national broadcaster's Ultimo studios.

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Quadrant Online editor Roger Franklin, in a piece titled “The Manchester Bomber’s ABC pals“, attacked the panellists on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night  – which was filmed before the Manchester bombing occurred .

The first version of the story said: “Life isn’t fair and death less so. Had there been a shred of justice, that blast would have detonated in an Ultimo TV studio. Unlike those young girls in Manchester, their lives snuffed out before they could begin, none of the panel’s likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty.”

The paragraph was later edited slightly, so the second sentence read: “What if that blast had detonated in an Ultimo TV studio?”

However, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie wasn’t placated, sending a fierce letter to Quadrant, which reveals ABC management called in security experts to assess risks to staff after the article was published.

“Quadrant promotes itself as ‘the leading general intellectual journal of ideas’,” the letter reads. “Those words ring hollow in the wake of last night’s vicious and offensive attack on the ABC, its staff and its program guests.

“To take issue with our programming and our content is one thing. But to express the wish that, if there were any justice, the horrific terrorist bombing in Manchester would have taken place in the ABC’s Ultimo studio and killed those assembled there is a new low in Australian public debate.

“Your subsequent attempt to make amends by changing some of the wording (without acknowledging or apologising for the original article) has done little to undo the damage. The article continues to state that if a blast occurred in one of our studios, none of the likely casualties ‘would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty’.”

She said she was appalled at Quadrant’s willingness to use the UK terror attack to make a political point.

“One of the immediate results of this behaviour is that while our staff both here and in Manchester were working long hours to provide extensive coverage of this unfolding tragedy, we were also forced to reassure worried staff who had read your article and call in our own security experts to assess any possible impact flowing from your inflammatory words.

“I ask that this response be posted prominently on the Quadrant website, and I also ask that the article, which continues to contain entirely inappropriate comments about possible bombings at the ABC, be removed and apologised for.”

Australian Federal Police have reportedly been notified about the article.

Franklin told the Sydney Morning Herald that the article had an anti-terrorism message.

“It is absurd to suggest that in the third-last paragraph I would advocate a terrorist act,” he said.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield labelled the article “sick” and “unhinged”.

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