Sky News Australia has been forced to apologise to Bob Brown after broadcasting false claims that the former Greens leader and his foundation supported “dangerous activists causing harm” during anti-logging protests.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam made the comments about the Bob Brown Foundation during an interview with Sky News host Rita Panahi on 20 April.
Duniam had already been forced to publicly apologise for the claims made during a discussion about anti-logging protests in Gippsland, in Victoria, and also Brown’s home state of Tasmania.
The News Corp Australia-owned Sky News on Friday also apologised for broadcasting the claims.
“Sky News wishes to clarify that it did not intend by the interview to suggest that the foundation or its patron, Dr Brown, undertake, support, endorse or condone dangerous practices like tree spiking in protests conducted by the foundation, or that the foundation is deceptive when soliciting donations,” Sky News said in a statement broadcast on Panahi’s program.
“Senator Duniam has withdrawn the statements and apologised to the foundation. Sky News also apologises for broadcasting the claims.”
The Bob Brown Foundation said in a statement on Friday night that Australian News Channel, which operates Sky News, had agreed to pay $12,500 to cover Brown and the foundation’s legal costs.
In his apology to Brown, Duniam said earlier this month: “I accept that the statement that I made in relation to the foundation’s charitable status and involvement in the illegal activities were false and defamatory of the foundation.”
“I withdraw those statements and I apologise to the foundation for any harm that may have been caused,” he said.
Duniam has also been forced to apologise to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young after he had wrongly claimed during the same Sky News interview that she had taken her niece to an anti-logging protest in Victoria.
Brown said on Friday that opponents were seeking to “falsely paint peaceful protesters as violent”.
“This outcome is because neither Senator Duniam nor Ms Panahi are able to debate the plight of Australia’s wild forests on its merits,” Brown said. “They are out of touch with the Australian public’s wish to protect native forests.”
Brown said in an earlier statement that Duniam “got his facts wrong”.
“We do not engage in criminal activity such as tree spiking,” he said a fortnight ago. “We are very active but peaceful defenders of Tasmania’s native forests and wildlife habitats, including the Tarkine. The foundation supports the crucial work of environmentalists in an age of environmental crisis.”
Earlier this year, Sky’s Peta Credlin was forced to apologise on air to former prime minister Kevin Rudd after claiming his petition calling for a royal commission into the Murdoch media was a “data harvesting exercise”.
Alan Jones was also forced this year to publish a correction to a 2020 editorial railing against Covid restrictions in Victoria, following a watchdog ruling that he had “misrepresented the research” on the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns.
News Corp was approached for comment.