Dear ABC,

Why are you not reporting what is happening on Manus Island, as your charter says you should?

We, Australians opposed to the offshore detention camps, are dismayed at your silence over Australia’s horrific and ever-increasing cruelty to the men we hold there indefinitely and without charge. We acknowledge your coverage over past events. However you are silent about the dreadful events currently unfolding on Manus Island, at our behest and with our tax dollars.

We are not asking you to be activists. Unlike Minister Dutton, we understand the difference between journalism and activism.

However we are asking you to comply with your charter that obliges you to provide innovative and comprehensive broadcasting that, among other things, informs and is of an educative nature. Your role in providing, independent, courageous and high-quality journalism is one of the main reasons why 92% of Australians continue to believe that we need a national non-profit broadcaster.

We are fearful because what is happening currently on Manus is an escalating humanitarian crisis of our creation, but the Australian people know almost nothing about the details. This is not just because of the deliberate government strategy to hide the truth and not just because of the chronic failure of the ALP to raise these issues, but also because you, our ABC, have been silent.

  • You have not reported on the latest moves to close down Foxtrot complexes, forcing its inhabitants to crowd into other already overcrowded complexes, in a deliberate strategy to force them to settle in Lorengau.
  • You have not reported on the many muggings and beatings – some very severe – that the men have experienced while visiting Lorengau.
  • You have not reported that the men have been pressured to voluntarily locate themselves in extreme danger by moving to Lorengau, as this is the only location from which their application to settle in the US can be finalised.
  • You have not reported that the day after the start of Ramadan, the only place of worship for all the Manus communities – a section of the Foxtrot compound – was closed with no warning in a joint operation by Australian Border Force and PNG Police officers. This action has also left around 250 men homeless.
  • You have not reported that the local PNG MP Ronnie Knight went on the record saying “I am truly concerned now (March 17) for the safety of all refugees … there will be much bloodshed and violence. All refugees should stay in their compound.”
  • You have not reported that abandoning asylum seekers and refugees to their own resources in PNG would be a hideous and unconscionable act. Your own staff in PNG live in secure compounds, move about with security guards and undertake personal defensive training before deployment. You know how dangerous a place it commonly is.
  • You have not reported on the court case that is happening concurrently, where the Australian Government claims that all the suffering of the men on Manus has nothing to do with it.

We are despairing because the world is watching Australia – to condemn or, terrifyingly, to emulate. We have become a global leader in cruelty to asylum-seekers, in abandoning humanitarian conventions. Your silence implicitly supports this. Our Government has shown utter contempt for the truth and thinks it can command absolute secrecy through a tamed media.

Come on ABC – now more than ever, we need a fearless, independent news media. We beg you to step up to your job.

Yours sincerely



Meg Clark


Canberra Refugee Action Committee