The hysterical government and media reaction to Zaky Mallah’s appearance on Q&A programme on Monday 22 June amounts to a witch hunt against the ABC who seem to be cowing in to pressure of this onslaught.

The call by 2GB shock jock Alan Jones that “heads should role at ABC” has been echoed by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott who had applauded ABC a week before for its programme “The killing Season” regarding changes in Labor’s leadership before the last election.

“Whose side are you on?”, asked the Prime Minister.

Well, not on any one’s side, Mr Abbott. ABC is an independent broadcaster financed by the tax payer not to take sides, even of the government of the day. It needs to broadcast diverse views and provide a forum for robust debate amongst all Australians.

One of the great features of a free society is the freedom of expression and to say what you think, and we pride ourselves for this privilege available in the Western world in general and Australia in particular.

However due to the concentration of media power in a few hands, what gets publicized is controlled by commercial, political or racial vested interests. What makes the headlines is to a great degree dictated by the media barons rather than independent journalists.

There are some exceptions and ABC is one of them.

As a public broadcaster, ABC has a great track record of keeping the public interest in the forefront providing free debate from all sections of the society. Unlike the shock jocks and sensationalized tabloid newspapers, it has avoided media hysteria based on populism, nationalistic frenzy and towing the agenda dictated by the government of the day.

Always and specially during the time of national crises, ABC has maintained objectivity, provided opportunity to share diverse opinions and held forums for good debate on issues relevant to our multicultural society.

However at times it has been reprimanded by the government of the day and questioned over its independence with threats to cut its budget and move staff. The same ongoing threat “heads should role at the ABC”.

During the first gulf war in 1991, ABC brought a number of academics and activists to debate the government’s support for joining the coalition against attack on Iraq. There were concerted threats made against ABC and pressure put on Labor government of Bob Hawke to make ABC to toe the governments line on the issue and stifle debate.

Same thing happened at the time of the second Gulf War and invasion of Iraq in 2003. ABC again showed independence and objectivity by broadcasting diverse views and giving opportunity to debate the reasons for and against joining the coalition of the willing. Calls were made from the usual quarters to cut down ABC to size. Prime Minister at the time, John Howard was furious and threatened ABC with threats of downsizing which was apparently followed up together with changes to the ABC top brass.

It seems the witch hunt of ABC will continues unabated.

Z I Ahmad