The union representing Australian journalists has expressed concern that tight social media policies are benefitting employers but infringing on the “private lives of media professionals” after an SBS journalist was sacked over the weekend.
Scott McIntyre, a sports reporter, was fired after he authored a series of tweets from his personal account criticising the “cultification” of the First World War, and inhumane acts committed by Allied Forces, including the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki
— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan. — Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
McIntyre’s comments drew a strong reaction on social media, with none less than Federal Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull weighing in.
Difficult to think of more offensive or inappropriate comments than those by @mcintinhos. Despicable remarks which deserve to be condemned.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) April 25, 2015
On Sunday, SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid confirmed the reporter had been sacked.
Responding to the controversy the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) issued a brief statement this morning.
It said employers must recognise “that their employees are entitled to a private life, with their own beliefs and opinions; opinion that should be able to be expressed without heavy-handed retribution by the employer”.
“MEAA is concerned about the application of the social media policies of media employers following the dismissal of an SBS employee for opinions expressed on the social media platform Twitter,” it said.
“These policies are becoming an industrial issue and MEAA has expressed these concerns before.
“Increasingly, media employees are being required to use social media platforms to promote their work, and those accounts are then being used as a marketing tool benefitting media employers.
“The policies have begun to infringe on the private lives of media professionals, dictating what they can and can’t say in a private capacity, outside of their work.”
The statement described current social media policies as “inflexible”.
The union did not respond to specific questions put by New Matilda including whether it was representing McIntyre, or whether there was any hope his dismissal could be overturned on legal grounds.
In its own statement about the sacking, SBS pointed to its social media policy as justification for the move.
“Mr McIntyre’s actions have breached the SBS Code of Conduct and social media policy and as a result, SBS has taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position at SBS, with immediate effect,” the statement attributed to Ebeid and Sport Director Ken Shipp said.
“At SBS, employees on and off air are encouraged to participate in social media, however maintaining the integrity of the network and audience trust is vital. It is unfortunate that on this very important occasion, Mr McIntyre’s comments have compromised both.”
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