Today Tonight chastised with ACMA Muslim ruling

By By Amy Kellow | 21 September 2012
Image Source: Today Tonight's website.

Today Today has been slammed by the media watchdog for a factual inaccuracy about a Melbourne council's efforts to integrate Muslims, inferring it was promoting Sharia law.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found the current affairs program guilty of factual inaccuracy on three seperate accounts.

The segment, which aired on 5 October 2011, claimed Darebin council in Melbourne was actively campaigning for the integration of Muslims into society, funded by money from the Federal Government's counter-violent extremism scheme.

It argued the community had advertised for an outreach project officer to escalate integration.

The segment featured an interview with members of Victorian not-for-profit organisation The Q Society, concerned about the increasing "Islamification of Australia". It also interviewed the Ratepayers Association of Australia president and a spokesman from the Islamic Council of Victoria.

The program claimed: "Now the Council is spending ratepayers’ money to make Muslims feel more at home and to spread their faith."

A consumer told the media watchdog the program was incorrect, created public panic and portrayed the Muslim community in a negative light.

The show's first breach of the Code of Practice followed its description of the outreach project officer's role, which was to work with the both the Muslim and local community. The segment focused on the officer's push to promote the Muslim community, with ACMA finding it had overlooked the officer's plans to create broader intercultural dialogue.

The program was also accused of factual inaccuracy for its reporting that the council was implementing Sharia customs. The segment said: "Recently, boys were banned from mixing with girls at a Council DJ’ing event. There’s the $45,000 pool curtain installed by the council pool to shield Muslim women from public view while they swim."

ACMA ruled that while the Council was being "sensitive to specific cultural and religious needs", it was not executing Sharia rules or imposing them on the Melbourne community.

Additionally, the program was found guilty for claiming "No-one, including the Mayor, was prepared to speak to us". The media watchdog found the Mayor was indeed willing to speak to the program and deemed the statement inaccurate.

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