Seven News copped a social media tirade yesterday after it screened a report on a “right-wing activists” meeting in Melbourne.
The report by Jodi Lee claimed “exclusive” access to a meeting of around 50 people from the True Blue Crew in response to “African gang violence.”
It included a pre-recorded interview with United Patriots leader Blair Cottrell, who criticised the Andrews government and Victoria Police. Another man, Kane Miller, said it was time for community involvement, which Lee indicated would comprise a “type of neighbourhood watch” to send protection when an incident occurs.
But the report neglected to detail Cottrell has previously spent time in prison for property damage and last year became one of the first Victorians to be convicted under the state’s new racial vilification laws. Cottrell was convicted in 2012 and 2013 of offences including arson, burglary and damaging property, and has expressed pro-Nazi views. He has previously appeared on ABC’s Hack Live.
The report also did not observe that the African community is being targeted by far-right groups.
Dr Dvir Abramovich from the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission told Fairfax Media that Seven had “crossed a line”.
“This is somebody who should never be given a platform,” he said. “They are legitimising and normalising his agenda.
“White-supremacists and neo-Nazis are feeling emboldened and energised, and are searching for every opportunity to insert themselves into the public square. On that front, Channel Seven has failed us all.”
Victoria police executive director of media and corporate communications, Merita Tabain, recently wrote a confidential email to the editors of Melbourne’s main media outlets, including Seven, Nine, TEN, ABC and SBS, expressing concern that aggressive behaviour by journalists might “exacerbate the current tensions”. It followed reports a Daily Mail photographer provoked a group of teenagers who were innocently socialising at a shopping centre in Tarneit.
Seven News director Simon Pristel said, “Seven News has reported on many meetings in the past couple of weeks held to discuss the African gang violence crisis, including governments, community leaders and police,” he said. “Sunday’s meeting was newsworthy so it was reported.”
Jodi Lee has since deleted a tweet with the offending report.
The same bulletin featured a second story on steps to address crime in Melbourne’s west.