Australia’s SBS channel sacked one of its top football commentators, Scott McIntyre, for a series of tweets on Anzac Day doubting the wisdom of glorifying Aussie troops in any theater of war.
As the country marked 100 years since the Gallipoli landings, in which the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) – as British Empire forces – fought Germany’s ally, the Ottoman Empire, McIntyre chose to condemn Australian troops in the campaign for the deeds of some in Egypt prior to the landings. He included ‘Diggers’ in Palestine and Japan in his broadside, and even declared his country guilty by association of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Some 8,709 Australian and 2,721 New Zealand troops, lost their lives during the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915, and are regarded as heroes in their countries, having being sent to their deaths in a futile campaign.
The operation was a fruitless attempt by the Allied powers (France, the British Empire and Russia) to gain access to the Black Sea. All sides suffered heavy losses and the Allies were forced to withdraw after eight months of struggle.
McIntyre expressed belief that the April 25 celebrations were actually “cultification [sic] of an imperialist invasion.”
“Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these brave Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan,” he tweeted.
The controversial tweets, which appeared on the page mainly dedicated to football, caused outrage on social media.
Some users even suggested that McIntyre wasn’t writing the tweets, and his account was hacked.
However, when the journalist’s employer learned of his tweets, it was quick to fire him on Sunday.
SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeidc said McIntyre’s remarks were not only “inappropriate and disrespectful,” but also violated the company’s code of conduct and social media policy.
“It’s not tenable to remain on air if your audience doesn’t respect or trust you,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that McIntyre was only fired after he refused to delete the inappropriate tweets from his page.
Australia’s Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was the one who brought SBS’s attention to McIntyre’s words, he described as “despicable remarks, which deserve to be condemned.”
However, the minister denied the government having anything to do with the firing of the sports journalist.
As a private citizen, McIntyre has a right to express his political views, but “as a reporter employed by SBS he has to comply with and face the consequences of ignoring the SBS social media protocol,” Turnbull explained in a statement.
But not everybody in Australia agreed with McIntyre’s dismissal. Prominent Channel 10 journalist Hugh Riminton said that SBS had other options with which to punish their man.
Riminton wrote on Twitter that the comment by the football commentator were “untimely, immature and in one case offensively wrong,” but reminded that the Australian soldiers “also died for free speech.”
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance also expressed concern by the whole McIntyre incident, saying that employers are being inflexible in their social media policies.
It urged that the social media policies be amended in order to balance the debate and freedom of expression.
“Opinions that should be able to be expressed without heavy-handed retribution by the employer,” the union said in a statement.
McIntyre was one of SBS’s leading football commentators, covering two FIFA World Cups and four Asian Cups. He has over 30,000 followers on Twitter.