Sports reporter sacked over ‘despicable’ Anzac tweets

Communications minister denies influencing SBS decision to fire Scott McIntyre

SBS sport reporter Scott McIntyre has been fired for posting ‘disrespectful’ tweets about Anzacs on Anzac Day. Photograph: Twitter

SBS sport reporter Scott McIntyre has been fired for posting ‘disrespectful’ tweets about Anzacs on Anzac Day. Photograph: Twitter

 

Australian communications minister Malcom Turnbull has denied influencing a decision by broadcaster SBS to sack one of its reporters over a series of tweets that were critical of Anzac Day celebrations.

Scott McIntyre, a sports journalist with SBS, tweeted a series of messages on Saturday in which he was highly critical of Australia’s involvement in the World Wars.

His comments were described as “highly inappropriate and disrespectful” by SBS executives who announced their decision to take “decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position at SBS, with immediate effect.”

The reaction to Mr McIntyre’s comments has sparked a debate on free speech in Australia.

Referring to the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings by Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) during the first World War, Mr McIntyre tweeted: “The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.”

“Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.”

Questioning the role of Australian and New Zealand forces in other conflicts, he tweeted:

“Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan”

“Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki.”

Scott McIntyre's tweets

Mr McIntyre was critical of the focus of celbrations on Anzac Day. He attracted abuse on twitter over his comments regarding the behaviour of Anzac troops. He drew attention to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan by Australia's allies during the second world war and tweeted the following image

Australia’s communications minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised Mr McIntyre’s comments and drew them to the attention of SBS executives. “Difficult to think of more offensive or inappropriate comments,” Mr Turnbull tweeted.

He later denied his intervention influenced SBS into sacking the soccer journalist.

A statement subsequently issued by SBS said Mr McIntyre had breached the station’s code of conduct and social media policy.

“Respect for Australian audiences is paramount at SBS,” company managing director Michael Ebeid and director of sport Ken Shipp said in a statement.

“Late on Anzac Day, sports presenter Scott McIntyre made highly inappropriate and disrespectful comments via his twitter account which have caused his on-air position at SBS to become untenable.

“Mr McIntyre’s actions have breached the SBS code of conduct and social media policy and as a result, SBS has taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position at SBS, with immediate effect.

“At SBS, employees on and off air are encouraged to participate in social media, however maintaining the integrity of the network and audience trust is vital. It is unfortunate that on this very important occasion, Mr McIntyre’s comments have compromised both.

“SBS apologises for any offence or harm caused by Mr McIntyre’s comments which in no way reflect the views of the network. SBS supports our Anzacs and has devoted unprecedented resources to coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.”

SBS was criticised by some for firing Mr McIntyre, including journalist Hugh Riminton, who is also a board member of Soldier On, an organisation that supports injured soldiers.

Mr Riminton said the tweets were untimely, immature and in one case offensively wrong.

“But lest we forget, our diggers also died for free speech,” he said.

The human rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, said McIntyre’s freedom of speech was not being curtailed.

“We’re talking about political interpretations of history and that is open for debate,” he said. “And he will be judged very harshly.”

Scott McIntyre is a prominent soccer reporter and commentator with 31,000 Twitter followers.

He has covered two Fifa World Cups and four Asian Cups and is described by SBS as “bringing unrivalled knowledge of the region’s complex football landscape”.

Additional reporting: Guardian