Numerous LGBTQIA+ organisations have signed an open letter criticising Media Watch for a segment this week on transgender healthcare.
The segment discussed the sacking of The Age columnist Julie Szego. The ABC program’s host Paul Barry called the columnist “another casualty” in the “gender war”.
Szego was sacked from The Age this month over disparaging comments about colleagues after the newspaper refused to publish an article she wrote about gender-affirming care for trans children. Szego later self-published the article.
In the segment, Barry declared Szego had been “cancelled” following “a row about a news piece”.
The host ended the segment by declaring covering “transgender issues is difficult territory”. But “denying women a voice or spiking stories that will cause a fuss is surely not the answer,” he said.
“In a debate where both sides accuse the other of extremism, it’s the media’s duty to be an honest broker, treat both sides with respect, and not be scared into silence,” Barry said.
‘False view of the established science’
But in an open letter to the ABC, the Trans Justice Project and other organisations pinged the Media Watch segment itself on its “lack of accuracy, balance, and fairness”.
They write that the program “failed to adequately engage with vital facts and context” including the broad consensus of peak medical bodies in support of gender-affirming care.
In the letter, the organisations also said the segment failed to acknowledge Szego’s article referenced “fringe conspiracy theories, discredited science and links to known anti-trans disinformation groups.”
Also, they added the segment didn’t “acknowledge the broader political context of the article which would help the audience understand the trans community’s reaction to these pieces and the specific themes raised.”
“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,” the letter reads.
“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.”
Age columnist Julie Szego departs the newspaper after editor spikes transgender article. pic.twitter.com/UEGe0wMn79
— Media Watch (@ABCmediawatch) June 27, 2023
‘Lack of care’
The letter calls for Media Watch to “set the record straight” after a “lack of care” on accuracy, balance and fairness.
Trans Justice Project director Jackie Turner said, “We are standing together with a number of trans-led, LGBTQIA+, and human rights groups calling for a correction and apology from Media Watch.
“Trans people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It’s incredibly concerning that a show that markets itself as an impartial watchdog has done such a poor job of representing these issues accurately and fairly.
“In an environment of increasing hostility towards the LGBTQIA+ community it is so important that the media are engaging in accurate and fair reporting, and are not spreading disinformation about our communities.”
Media Watch stands by segment
Media Watch executive producer Tim Latham told Crikey the show stands by the segment, citing the importance of airing “differing points of view”.
“It was a fair and balanced account including plenty of criticism of Ms Szego, her article and her views. It offered significant airtime to the counterpoints,” Latham said.
“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+’.”
Latham said Media Watch published the responses on the program’s website.
Patrick Elligett, editor of The Age, told Media Watch that Szego wasn’t sacked for her views on “gender identity politics” but instead her “repeated public disparagement” of The Age and its staff.
“The Age is committed to covering gender issues in a way that few other outlets, including the ABC, have the stomach for,” Elligett told the ABC.
“It’s not unusual for freelance submissions to be rejected.
“I won’t reveal private criticism of authors and their work. But Julie has publicly stated that one of those reasons was the perception she had become too close to an activist community on gender issues.
“In my view, that disqualified her from writing news on the topic.”
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