Ombudsman to review Armenian-Australian complaints against SBS coverage of Nagorno Karabakh

The Armenian National Committee of Australia’s (ANC-AU) letter of protest, against public broadcaster SBS’s one-sided coverage of the Nagorno conflict, has been referred to the network’s Ombudsman for further investigation.

In the letter addressed to the head of Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) George Savvides and Managing Director James Taylor, the ANC-AU called out an inaccurate report covering the post-war situation between Azerbaijan, the indigenous of the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia. 

The three-minute segment in question, sourced from Al Jazeera and presented on during a SBS World News broadcast last month, focused on landmines following the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) war, placing blame squarely on the Armenian side and failing the fundamental principles of media objectivity and the importance of providing the perspectives of all sides of a conflict, including perspectives from third parties, such as from independent international human rights organisations.

In the letter, ANC-AU Executive Director, Haig Kayserian highlighted SBS’s failure to report on arguably more pressing post-conflict issues, such as the ongoing illegal detainment of over 200 Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) by Azerbaijan, the desecration of cultural and religious heritage sites such as the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in occupied territories of the Republic of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijani Armed Forces’s illegal invasion into sovereign Armenian territory – all of which have received international and national condemnation.

“It is extremely alarming when we see Australia taxpayer dollars fund an SBS segment which presents warmongering dictator Aliyev as the victim of his own military aggression and attempts to ethnically cleanse the Armenian population of Artsakh,” Kayserian said.

“This report is completely unacceptable. We will hold SBS to a higher standard and similarly hold other major Australian media outlets to account, should they fail to do their job to standards.”

The ANC-AU letter requested a response from SBS for airing such an inaccurate and demeaning news report, and an apology for the insulting remarks made against the indigenous Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh).

SBS Managing Director, James Taylor promptly responded to ANC-AU’s objection, noting that the independent Ombudsman of the network will review the claims of inaccuracy.

The SBS Ombudsman Office has 60 days to respond to ANC-AU’s complaint, and should the issue remain unresolved, it may be escalated to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“We look forward to receiving a response from the SBS Ombudsman, which will be appropriately communicated to our community,” Kayserian concluded.

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