The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation resigned on Thursday over allegations that he pressured the national broadcaster to fire two political journalists after interference from the government, reported the BBC. Justin Milne, appointed to the post last year, denied the claims and said he was leaving to relieve pressure on the company.
Besides this, the ABC board on Monday fired its managing director Michelle Guthrie, whom Milne had allegedly asked to fire economics journalist Emma Alberici and political editor Andrew Probyn. Reports from the two senior journalists had allegedly led to complaints from the ruling conservative government.
In an email about Alberici, Milne allegedly wrote, “They hate her... get rid of her. We need to save the ABC, not Emma.”
The email, along with other messages, were leaked to the press a day after Guthrie’s removal.
Milne, who was a former business partner of ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, stepped aside on Thursday after the company’s board held a meeting without him, reported ABC News. “Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC,” he said in an interview. “There was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government.”
“Clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation, and as always, my interests have been to look after the interests of the corporation,” he said.
Australia’s Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the resignation was the “right decision” and the government would appoint an acting chairman and begin the search for a long-term replacement.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also welcomed the resignation and said, “Time for the ABC to resume normal transmission, both independently and without bias. That is what Australia’s taxpayers pay for and deserve.”