One of Australia’s top television journalists has opened a bout of national soul-searching by quitting his show over the racist abuse he faces as an Indigenous man in the spotlight.
An award-winning journalist with the ABC, Stan Grant said the national broadcaster had lodged a complaint with Twitter about the “relentless racial filth” he endured.
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But he added the media itself “lie and distort my words” and depicted him as “hate-filled” after he raised Britain’s colonial persecution of Indigenous Australians during the ABC’s coverage of King Charles III’s coronation.
“I pointed out that the crown represents the invasion and theft of our land,” Grant said in an article published Friday on ABC’s website.
“Police wearing the seal of the crown took children from their families. Under the crown our people were massacred.”
His coronation commentary was heavily criticised as being one-sided and inappropriate by some conservative media.
Grant said he spoke out of love for Australia because he needed to tell the truth that Indigenous people still have the highest rates of imprisonment and poverty.
The 59-year-old announced he would walk away as a presenter after the next episode of the ABC’s Q+A current affairs discussion programme on Monday.
‘Toxicity around race’
Grant took his own employer to task.
“I am writing this because no one at the ABC – whose producers invited me onto their coronation coverage as a guest – has uttered one word of public support. Not one ABC executive has publicly refuted the lies written or spoken about me,” he said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese offered his support to Grant telling journalists: “You can have respect for different views without engaging in vilification.”
ABC news director Justin Stevens also issued a statement backing Grant, saying he faced “grotesque racial abuse, including threats to his safety”.
Osman Faruqi, culture news editor for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, who previously worked at the ABC, said staffing at the national broadcaster was not representative of the cultural mix of Australia.
But the issue went further than the national broadcaster, he said in an opinion piece on Saturday.
“It’s also bigger than the media. There is a toxicity around race that resides deep within this country, infecting all of our institutions – the media, sport, arts, business and politics,” Faruqi said.
In his departure announcement, Grant said Indigenous people had learned to “tough it out”.
But the stakes are now higher, he said, as the country prepares for a referendum this year on whether to give Indigenous people the constitutional right to be consulted about laws that affect them.
“There is a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and I am not alone in feeling judged. This is an Australian judgment on us. Such is politics,” Grant wrote. “But racism is a crime. Racism is violence. And I have had enough.”