After some pretty damning claims were made about the ABC and Four Corners in particular yesterday, ABC's Head of News Gaven Morris has today released this statement with regard to comments by Senators and others:
ABC News stands by the reporting in the Four Corners program “The Forgotten Children”, which aired on Monday night and told the important story of the more than 100 refugee children who are living on Nauru in their own words and those of some of their teachers. Claims made by the Government of Nauru and the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which were also raised during a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday and uncritically repeated in The Australian today, are not correct. The Nauruan government and the and DIBP may “contest” Four Corners’ assertions but they have produced no evidence to cast doubt upon them.
As the Nauruan government routinely refuses journalists access to report on offshore processing, and charges prohibitive fees for media visas which are not refunded if the applications are refused, Four Corners relied on a range of sources for footage. This included hiring a freelance camera operator on Nauru to gather footage, as is routinely done on many stories. The key interviews with the children were conducted remotely by Four Corners , and their stories were subjected to the program’s usual rigorous fact-checking processes. Four Corners checked and verified the veracity of all footage used in the story through a number of sources. The case presented by the story is also supported by some 2000 incident reports obtained by Four Corners . These unredacted reports document incidents affecting the young witnesses in the program and corroborate their evidence.
The program was made in this way out of necessity. Otherwise, the stories of these children would not have been told.
To specifically address some of the claims:
The hospital shown in the film is where the late Omid Masoumali was taken to in April this year, as stated in the program. This is supported by video of Mr Masoumali in hospital which the ABC obtained but decided was too gruesome to put to air. Amnesty International states that the hospital was “not equipped” to treat Mr Masoumali’s burns and did not provide him with a bed sheet. Four Corners understands that the new part of the hospital to which the Nauruan Government refers was not connected to water and sewerage at the time referred to in the program. According to some reports, it is still not fully functional.
The school toilets shown in the program are the toilets that greeted the children when they were sent to the Nauruan schools. This is when they were filmed and also how they were described in the program by one of the teachers who saw them at that time. There can be no doubt about this.
The video of school fighting shown was filmed near the school and provided to Four Corners by sources on the island, as were the other videos. The fact that some of those also have appeared on YouTube does not cast doubt on their veracity. There is no suggestion that the violence shown did not occur, and it is typical of the violence reported by Amnesty International, the teachers, the students and many other witnesses.
Four Corners requested an interview with the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton requested that any interview be live, which is not part of the Four Corners format. The Minister was offered a live interview on the episode of Lateline immediately following the program’s airing and also on AM the next morning. He declined both.
Four Corners also requested permission to speak with Brisbane Catholic Education, the providers of education support on Nauru. The information required regarded school attendance figures; our request for this information elicited the following response from the Department: “Attendance in schools in Nauru is a matter for the Government of Nauru.” On Friday afternoon the Department offered “a background interview with you on Education support offered in Nauru” with a Departmental spokesperson, which is not what had been requested and was not helpful.
Contrary to claims, the Department did not offer or provide any images or footage to Four Corners.