Home » Complaint to ABC: LNL interview with Sophie McNeill

Complaint to ABC: LNL interview with Sophie McNeill

Response from ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs

Dear Ms Dirgham,

Thank you for your email regarding the Late Night Live interview between Phillip Adam and Sophie McNeill.

In accordance with the ABC’s complaints handling procedures, your concerns have been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit that is separate to and independent from the content making areas of the ABC. Our role is to review and, where appropriate, investigate complaints alleging that ABC content has breached the ABC’s editorial standards. The ABC’s editorial standards can be found here: https://edpols.abc.net.au/

Please note, as has been explained in our previous correspondence, Audience and Consumer Affairs can only review clear and specific complaints about ABC content which relates directly to the ABC’s editorial standards. While you have stated your view that the ‘interview with McNeill no doubt also breaches the ABC’s Code of Practice’, you have not identified how any specific part of the discussion breaches any specific ABC editorial standard. Your claims of inaccuracy and a lack of impartiality need to be substantiated with reference to specific excerpts of the content. As such, we have not investigated your complaint.

Nevertheless, in good faith, Audience and Consumer Affairs have sought additional information from the program team regarding the interview. The program team have advised that “Sophie McNeil is an award-winning ABC foreign correspondent for the ABC; her book ‘We can’t say we didn’t know’ has been well received. The book is a series of stories of citizens caught up in devastating conflicts including the war in Syria.

Ms McNeill’s book and the interview with Mr Adams included some discussion on certain events in Syria, but also scanned the war in Yemen, and the fate of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.  

The interview was in the context of what Sophie O’Neill argues is the possible watering down of the international rule of law with regard to warfare, and a defining shift away from armies fighting each other, to the direct targeting of civilians, women and children. The UN’s 2015 Responsibility to Protect doctrine, (R2P) was a global political commitment, endorsed by all UN member states, to prevent this type of fighting, including genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

You list a number of other journalists who have reported from inside Syria, (and some murdered) under the most dangerous of circumstances. Ms O’Neil instead used the testimony of eye witness accounts, a valid journalistic tool. Her analysis was informed by extensive contacts within Syria including the UNHCR, the Red Cross and people on the ground.  

Ms O’Neil did explore the plight of citizens in Madaya, as part of Syria’s ongoing humanitarian and refugee crisis, as she could and should.”

We have noted your imputations regarding Médecins Sans Frontières and the United Nations. However, the ABC remains satisfied that both organisations are appropriate to feature in ongoing reporting regarding the Syrian conflict and it is reasonable for the ABC to rely on these organisations for information or corroboration in various circumstances.  

The information you believe should have been included in the interview and the people you believe it should have focused have been noted.

For your future reference, complaints submitted with do not specifically outline how the ABC content is in breach of the ABC’s editorial standards, including nominating a standard or standards you are alleging to have been breached, might not receive a substantive response.

Yours sincerely,

Reena Rihan

Audience and Consumer Affairs

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