SBS, The Australian and the Armenian Genocide: a recent exchange of views

Update 26 June 2017: more on this story from Mitchell Bingemann again in The Australian of 26 June and from Michael Ebeid of SBS in Senate Estimates (from page 87 of the proof Hansard). George Donikian, Armenian-Australian, former SBS and commercial newsreader and now ambassador for SBS, suggests ‘SBS is basically acting as a state broadcaster here that is toeing the government line’ on non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Mr Ebeid for SBS outlines its policy and denies it has been influenced by Australian-Turkish propaganda.

On 24 April, the SBS website carried an op ed by Baris Atayman, freelance journalist and member of the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance (ATAA). The post was later withdrawn, then reposted on 3 May.

The article was called ‘Comment: An Australian-Turk’s take on the ANZAC spirit’ and it referred to shared Australian-Turkish military experience since 1915, the peaceful aspirations of Ataturk, and the need for multicultural harmony. ‘This ANZAC Day’, the article concluded, ‘at the dawn service in your local RSL club or among the groups parading through the town, if you see a member of the Australian-Turkish community, see this shared history through their eyes. It is the same as yours.’

Members of the Australian Armenian community took exception to aspects of the SBS article relevant to the Armenian Genocide. Armenian views were reported by Mitchell Bingemann in the ‘Media’ section of The Australian on 14 May under the heading ‘SBS’s Turkish report scrutinised‘. Bingemann’s piece noted the ATAA’s record of denying the Armenian Genocide and its expulsion last year from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s ‘Racism. It Stops with Me’ campaign.

Media understands that SBS News and Current Affairs has a specific policy on referring to the Armenian genocide that prohibits its reporters from naming it as such. Instead reporters are instructed to refer to the event not as a genocide but as a “mass killing of Armenians considered by many to have been a genocide, which Turkey denies”. It is understood that no such policies are extended to the ­Nanking massacre, the Jewish holocaust or the Rwandan ­genocide.

Bingemann’s article sets out the views of Armenian and Turkish spokespersons, as does the ABC program linked above. The latest edition (2016) of the SBS Editorial Guidelines includes material on coverage of controversial issues and world conflicts. Readers are invited to make their own judgements on whether Mr Atayman’s article was in accordance with the guidelines and with other SBS policies contained on its website.

Honest History has posted much material on the Armenian Genocide; use our Search engine with relevant search terms.  Bingemann’s article notes that some twenty countries, as well as the New South Wales and South Australian parliaments, have recognised the Genocide.

Chapter 3 of The Honest History Book is also relevant. The chapter covers Australian connections with Armenians since the Genocide – which commenced on 24 April 1915 – and the authors are Vicken Babkenian and Judith Crispin.

16 May 2017 updated


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