Sunrise in hot water over segment
Seven West Media is being sued over a controversial segment on its Sunrise breakfast program which aired last year.
In March 2018 Sunrise broadcast a segment on non-Indigenous families caring for Aboriginal children who have been subjected or exposed to abuse, reports the ABC.
Residents from the small Aboriginal community Yirrkala, approximately 700 kilometres east of Darwin, have filed a lawsuit alleging the program defamed 15 applicants by broadcasting slightly blurred background footage of them during the panel discussion.
Lawyer Peter O'Brien said even though a blurring filter had been used, the adults and children were still easily identifiable.
"Our clients are extremely unhappy with being recklessly depicted in such a negative manner,' said Mr O'Brien, principal solicitor of O'Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors.
"The plaintiffs assert that the segment about child sexual abuse and the forced removal of children while showing identifiable images of innocent people is defamatory."
The footage was originally shot with the resident's permission who understood it was to illustrate a story on a positive health initiative in the small community.
The controversial chat on Channel 7 breakfast show, which was later found to have breached the commercial television industry code of practice, came after children's minister David Gillespie's proposal white families should be able to adopt indigenous children to save them from rape, assault and neglect.
Sunrise host Samantha Armytage introduced the segment by saying: "Post-Stolen Generation, there's been a huge move to leave Aboriginal children where they are, even if they're being neglected in their own families, wrongly claiming indigenous children could not be fostered by white families.
The segment sparked a massive protest in Martin Place which provides the backdrop for the morning show. But as the crowd grew, producers went to great lengths to hide it from their audience, closing soundproof blinds in the studio and broadcasting stock exterior footage behind the hosts.
It wasn't lost on some viewers.
"Turned the TV on to watch the protest outside Sunrise this morning. Conveniently they have blocked the windows. F***ing cowards," wrote on twitter user.
In a statement, Mr O'Brien's law firm said it will be argued in the Federal Court that the context of the commentary resulted in defamatory imputations that the people featured in the footage had been abused, assaulted or neglected children.
"The plaintiffs are Aboriginal people from a remote part of Australia, they should not be depicted in this manner in the context of this program, just because they are Aboriginal," said Mr O'Brien in the statement.