Rohan Smith, The Advertiser, July 11, 2018
“IF WE have to declare war on Channel 7, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Those are the words of a fed-up member of the African community in Melbourne leading a push to gather outside the television network’s headquarters on Friday afternoon.
Titan Debirioun is demanding an apology from the Sunday Night program over a “racist” story that aired last weekend promising to shine a light on “African gangs running riot, terrorising, robbing, wreaking havoc”.
On Facebook, Mr Debirioun wrote that the media “continues to vilify and demonise our community year after year” and “it seems that we’ve been downgraded from people into juicy headlines guaranteed to raise viewership”.
In a video ahead of a planned, peaceful protest, he said the media has “pretty much waged war against our community”.
“You guys are making people fear us for no reason,” he said. “You’re making people look at us like we’re monsters. We’re just like anyone else. We have dreams, we have aspirations, we have hardworking people that are trying to change their lives.
“By you guys continuing to spread this agenda, you’re pretty much destroying these people’s future and their reputation.
“I’m not going to let that happen anymore. It’s over for that. We’re going to start fighting back, we’re going to make sure we protect our community and our image.
“When you are one the most prevalent media sources in Australia, what you say affects millions of people, and it seems Channel 7 doesn’t care about that. They’re just trying to scare the general populous.
“We are going to fight back. We’re going to protest until we get an apology … We have allowed them to diminish our whole reputation. I’m not going to allow Channel 7 to bully my people, make money off it, keep on pushing this bulls**t agenda.
“I think it’s time to stop with the whole ‘African gangs’ approach. You guys are feeding ignorance. You’re giving people lies to feed their belief that we’re somehow lesser beings.
It’s been three years and enough is enough.
“We’re going to start holding you guys accountable for your actions. If that means we have to continuously protest and pretty much declare war on Channel 7, a verbal war, a war on rights, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
The protest has been planned for 4pm on Friday at Seven News headquarters on Harbour Esplanade and more than 1100 people have registered their interest in attending.
It follows a controversial story featuring reporter Alex Cullen that was criticised before it even went to air. Community leaders from South Sudan were quick to claim their countrymen and women were being treated like “criminals”.
Cullen is the same reporter who presented the much-hyped interview between former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and the mother to his new baby, Vikki Campion, last month.
Melbourne-based lawyer Maker Mayek, who is originally from South Sudan, urged viewers to boycott the program rather than watch the “bogus story”.
“Africans love this country as much as any other Australian and have no interest to harm others,” he wrote on Twitter.
Comedian Meshel Laurie wrote it was “racist bulls**t”.
The Sunday Night program aired an interview with Melbourne woman Elaine French, who was working at a high-end jewellery store in Toorak when it was robbed by a group of men.
Described as a “broken woman”, Ms French said the robbery had ruined her life.
“I don’t have a life anymore. These four walls is where I live. I’m too nervy. I can’t go to a shopping centre because if I ran into a coloured person I’d be having a panic attack again,” she said.
The hysteria around African gangs peaked in January when Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said people in Melbourne were “too scared to go to restaurants because of African gang violence”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed in, accusing Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews of failing to deal with gang violence in Melbourne.
But the Prime Minister’s comments were called out by an African community leader who accused him of using Sudanese “street gang” problems in Victoria to score political points.
News.com.au invited Channel 7 to respond to the criticisms but is yet to receive a response.