Media Watch responds to open letter from LGBTQIA+ community

Over 20 organisations and companies point to an imbalance in story on Media Watch but producer defends report.

Media Watch has responded to an Open Letter from LGBTQIA+ community organisations which cited a lack of balance in its report this week following the sacking of columnist Julie Szego from The Age.

Open Letter to Tim Latham and Paul Barry,

We were extremely disappointed in the lack of accuracy, balance, and fairness in Monday night’s segment on a journalist, her conflict with The Age, and her article about gender affirming care.

Gender affirming care helps trans people to thrive, live their best lives, and gives them the freedom to be themselves. The broad medical consensus is that gender affirming care is life-changing treatment, it improves people’s lives, and more needs to be done to make it more affordable and accessible to everyone who needs it.

The segment failed to adequately engage with vital facts and context that were necessary for audiences to gain a full understanding of the article in question.

While there were many issues with the segment we have three core complaints.

#1 The segment did not acknowledge the wealth of evidence and broad medical consensus around gender affirming care

Gender affirming care is supported across almost all major medical organisations in Australia and internationally.

In a statement in 2020 the Royal Australasian College of Physicians stated:

“Withholding or limiting access to care and treatment would be unethical and would have serious impacts on the health and wellbeing of young people … Ensuring children and adolescents with gender dysphoria can access appropriate care and treatment regardless of where they live, should be a national priority.”

And just last week the American Medical Association, one of the largest and oldest medical organisations in the US, strengthened its position in support of gender affirming care in the face of vicious anti-trans attacks.

#2 The segment did not acknowledge that the article referenced fringe conspiracy theories, discredited science, and links to known anti-trans disinformation groups.

The article references multiple conspiracy theories that have been discredited and debunked.

One of the organisations referenced in the article was also recently reviewed in an article published in the Yale School of Medicine Journal:

“SEGM [Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine] does not appear to hold meetings, screen its members, or publish a journal……A contextual examination reveals that SEGM is an ideological organization without apparent ties to mainstream scientific or professional organizations. Its 14 core members are a small group of repeat players in anti-trans activities a fact that the SEGM website does not disclose”

#3 The segment did not acknowledge the broader political context of the article which would help the audience to understand the trans community’s reaction to these pieces and the specific themes raised.

In the US and the UK anti-trans lobbyists have stoked fear and prejudice about trans and gender diverse people, working to undermine our human rights, our access to health care, but also helped to fuel sharp increases in violence, harassment, and abuse towards the trans community.

In the US, the same kinds of medical disinformation platformed in this article have been used by the Republican party as justification for laws proposing to ban gender-affirming care. This is important information for audiences to understand the political and social context of the article, and what the impact of this kind of disinformation has been in other countries.

Ultimately these kinds of stories provide parents with a false view of the established science and fuels anti-trans stigma. This increases trans and gender diverse children’s risk of being exposed to conversion practices, family violence, and denial of care.

We believe that the segment lacked balance, fairness, and accuracy and request Media Watch to take the following actions to remedy the situation.

We request that Media Watch:

Film a correction for air on the next episode, detailing the role that disinformation played in the piece in question, apologising for the lack of care taken to ensure accuracy and fairness, and unpacking the relevant omissions made to give the public a better understanding of the surrounding context.

Make a public commitment to engage with, and take seriously the input of, trans and gender diverse leaders for future stories of this nature.

Trans Justice Project
Switchboard Victoria
Amnesty International Australia
Transgender Victoria
PFlag Tasmania
PFlag Australia
Hunter Gender Alliance
Equality Tasmania
The Shed
South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance (SARAA)
Parents for Trans Youth Equity
Victorian Pride Lobby
TransFolk of WA
Transcend Australia
Democracy in Colour
Thorne Harbour Health
Queer Unionists in Tertiary Education
Lucy Architecture
Twenty10 inc GLCS NSW
Dowson Turco Lawyers
Australian Unemployed Workers Union
Trans Pride Australia
Australian Rainbow Veterinarians and Allies

Media Watch Executive Producer, Tim Latham:

The Julie Szego case is a legitimate story for Media Watch.

It was a fair and balanced account including plenty of criticism of Ms Szego, her article and her views and it offered significant airtime to the counterpoints.

Media Watch invited the director of the Trans Justice Project Jackie Turner to comment for the segment in which she disputed the accuracy of Szego’s article and called many of her sources ‘ideological, misleading, or explicitly anti LGBTQIA+’

Media Watch also included comments from Natalie Feliks – a trans rights activist and writer. She endorsed the Age’s decision and called Ms Szego and her article ‘misinformed, propaganda and lies’ and argued that Szego was channelling ‘not a feminist ideology’ but a ‘far-right Nazi aligned ideology and needs to be treated as such.’

Media Watch also included quotes from the Age Editor on why he spiked the story and dismissed Ms Szego.

Media Watch posted all three statements in full on its website.

We stand by our story and the importance in airing differing points of view.