Seven called out over 'racist' interview
CHANNEL 7 News has been accused of being soft on racism and neo-Nazi groups after it interviewed a far-right leader but failed to mention he had been convicted of racial vilification.
The report, on the channel's Melbourne news program, featured a group called the United Patriots Front (UPF) and the "true blue crew" and a meeting they held in the wake of the city's concern over gang violence committed by young African man.
Blair Cottrell, leader of the UPF, has in the past said "yes, I am a racist", yet his racist views were not challenged on Sunday night's news program.
He has also expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and been convicted of stalking and recklessly causing serious injury.
During the segment, Seven said it had been given "granted exclusive access to a secret meeting organised by right wing activists."
The reporter highlighted that members eschewed that particular term and preferred to be called "patriots" instead. They were keen to set up a "kind of neighbourhood watch" program.
"They have come together to help average Australians deal with what they are calling an immigrant crime crisis," the journalist added.
On social media, it's been called a "Nazi PR disaster" and "offensive".
ABC presenter Charlie Pickering said Channel 7 needed to "get its s**t together". Former cabinet minister Craig Emerson said Seven were promoting "Jew-hating neo Nazis".
One Twitter user said she was "struggling to get my head around how low channel 7 has sunk."
A neo-Nazi neighbourhood watch -— Susan Metcalfe (@susanamet) January 14, 2018
still struggling to get my head around how low channel 7 has sunk https://t.co/2xFdv5NT6k
My father fought against nazis, spent years in a German POW camp and watched them take all the Jewish POWs away - it turns out to Auschwitz. He wouldn’t be happy with Seven promoting Jew-hating neo-nazis. https://t.co/qnPtyhJzd9— Craig Emerson (@DrCraigEmerson) January 15, 2018
In the package, Cottrell was given free rein to detail his solution to the issue: "The Government could be doing a lot more to combat this crime, but police aren't being given the powers they need to combat this problem we have in this country."
However the report failed to mention the Cottrell was convicted just months ago of racial vilification.
He was one of three men who made a video of a mock beheading with cries of "Allahu Akbar" to urge people to rally against a proposed mosque in Bendigo.
He was charged with knowingly engaging in conduct with the intention of inciting serious contempt for, or revulsion of a class of persons, in this case Muslims. Cottrell said he would appeal the ruling.
The report also failed to mention the UPF's policies which include a blanket ban on all Muslims immigrating to Australia and a ban any new mosques.
Last May, Facebook booted the UPF from the social media platform and Cottrell was barred from accessing the website.
In 2016, on ABC'S Hack Live debate, Cottrell said he was a racist.
On the same program, former Australian soldier Andrew Fox-Lane pointed out the UPF head had spent time in prison for stalking his ex-girlfriend's partner. Mr Cottrell said he was "much wiser" for the experience.
News.com.au has contacted Channel 7 for comment.
Earlier today, The Guardian reported it had received a statement from Seven News Director Simon Pristel.
"Seven News has reported on many meetings in the past couple of weeks held to discuss the African gang violence crisis, including govs [sic], community leaders and police. Sunday's meeting was newsworthy so it was reported." the statement read.