Indigenous activists attempt to shame NITV for lack of coverage

It was disappointing to observe well-supported First Nations social media channels attempt to publicly shame employees of NITV yesterday following that television channels’ perceived failure to cover the national street demonstrations marching in protest of the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

The post included three photographs of NITV reporters and staff socialising at a Sydney bar on the same date and time that activists in the major cities marched in protest against a number of recent state and federal government policy announcements concerning the country’s First Nations people.

The post includes photos of NITV staff celebrating at the same time and date as Indigenous demonstrators rallied in the streets of major Australian cities

The photos were premised with the assertion: “Here is what the #NITV news team was doing yesterday when the #sosblakaustralia protests were happening”.

Tagged in the post was Aboriginal journalist Danny TeeJay Johnson who recently brought national attention to the practice of discriminatory police profiling of Aboriginal people.

The social media post appeared on the Facebook page Deadly Talk — The Voices of Black Australia which has over 4,000 subscribers. Hashtagged into the post was #sosblakaustralia, an activist community with a Facebook page of almost 70,000 supporters called, Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities in Australia.

Many Aboriginal activists have long considered NITV too conservative in their coverage of Indigenous affairs. Frustrations with that station and other mainstream news organisations has recently led to the rise in popularity of Indigenous news outlets facilitated by social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

The April demonstration organised by #sosblakaustralia successfully disrupted Melbourne in protest of WA state policies to force remote Aboriginal communities to relocate to larger regional centres

The socially-networked, activist news channels have been instrumental in mobilising support for public actions like the rally that disrupted Melbourne in April. The common criticism from industry journalists and reporters for this type of participatory, citizen journalism is that good journalistic practice is far too often entirely absent.

Such is the case for the post published by Deadly Talk and distributed via other social media news channels. NITV was covering the demonstrations in Melbourne. Sydney-based journalist Danny TeeJay Johnson was on leave.

Regardless of the validity or otherwise of the cricticisms of NITV’s passivity when it comes to coverage of radical Indigenous politics, there was no call for this tactless effort to humiliate other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. More importantly, this division — whether borne from either unselfish or sour intentions — does little to improve the broader deal for Blackfullas.

Aboriginal activist and poet Ken Canning takes responsibility for the potentially defamatory post

Prominent Aboriginal activist Ken Canning took responsibility for the post and apologised to Johnson on Sunday morning, 15 hours after the original post was published. Canning stands by his criticisms of NITV however.

“I have apologised to Danny, but what I say about NITV still holds,” Canning wrote. “They should remember it was activists of the past that paved the way for them to be in the positions they are in now.”

Johnson responded to Canning’s apology, writing: “When blacks turn on blacks what hope have we got? Rumours will kill us not the government.”

Both Canning’s and Johnson’s comments, along with others, had been removed by Sunday afternoon, though the original post remains visible to the public on the Deadly Talk Facebook page.

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