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Free Press Watch originally published Feb. 4 2014.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called the national broadcaster ABC “unpatriotic” and has criticized it for “taking everyone’s side but Australia’s.

Mr Abbot says the television station should reflect “some basic affection for the home team,” the BBC reported. He made these statements in an interview with the radio station 2GB last Wednesday.

Mr Abbott said he was “worried and concerned” because the ABC had worked together with Guardian Australia in reporting that Australian spy agencies had been trying to spy on the phones of the Indonesian president, his wife and the people who are close to him. This investigation was based on leaked documents from the U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The reports led to a diplomatic dispute between the Australian government and the Indonesian government, led to Indonesia suspending military cooperation with Australia, according to the BBC.

Mr Abbott also complained about the ABC’s coverage of the accusations that Australian navy personnel have mistreated migrants seeking asylum in the country. This includes reports that migrants picked up by the Navy had been beaten and forced to hold on to a hot boat engine. The Indonesian police said that asylum seekers showed burn marks on their hands.

“If there’s clear evidence, the ABC, like all other news organisations, is entitled to report it,” said Abbott in the 2GB interview, of the asylum controversy. “But you can’t leap to be critical of your own country.” He added that the ABC should give the Australian navy the “benefit of the doubt”.

Acting Opposition leader Tanya Plisberk has defended the ABC, saying the station’s scrutiny of the government was “welcome.”
She also criticized Mr Abbott, saying that he “should stop complaining about media coverage and start behaving like a Prime Minister.”

In December, when the ABC faced criticism regarding its coverage of the spying charges, the managing director of the corporation defended the station’s reporting. “We are an independent media organization and of course sometimes we will publish stories that politicians won’t be happy about,” he said. “That’s the role we have to play.”

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