The ABC has been issued with a letter on behalf of the November Platoon led by retired special forces commander Heston Russell demanding an apology for an article published in October 2020.
Addressed to reporters Mark Willacy, Alexandra Blucher, Dan Oakes, and the ABC itself, the letter asks for an independent review into the article along with the publishing of a full correction with an apology.
The original article made allegations of war crimes against members of the November Platoon based on information given by a US Marine.
“A United States Marine Corps (USMC) helicopter crew chief says Australian special forces shot and killed a bound Afghan prisoner after being told he would not fit on the US aircraft coming to pick them up,” claimed the ABC article.
The events were not independently confirmed and the ABC did not speak to members of the November Platoon before publishing the story.
A media frenzy ensued around the ABC article which traumatised the platoon members and their families with defamatory accusations. Members of the November Platoon have called the ABC’s behaviour a breach of Australia’s Journalist Code of Ethics.
The ABC further published on November 19, 2021 said that the November Platoon was under a criminal investigation. Australia’s Defence Department has confirmed today that there is no active criminal investigation specifically into the November Platoon or the events detailed in the ABC article.
Russell went on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live to attack the ABC’s lack of journalistic standard regarding the article.
“This has been thirteen months. We have been labelled as ‘guilty’ until we have had to prove ourselves innocent. This is 44 members of November Platoon and our families. Over those thirteen months we’ve seen the fall of Afghanistan,” said Russell.
“In order to come forward and actually defend ourselves mate, we have had to expose ourselves on the global stage for having been those people who went outside the wire conducting 67 missions in 2012, killing 117 insurgents – making myself, and ourselves and our families – targets to the actual real threats in the world that these keyboard-cowards sitting behind their computers making these stories and being unaccountable choose to […] fish around our personal lives for months, contacting people, trying to find every little piece of dirt they can do to throw on to this agenda – this Walkley-winning agenda – as opposed to doing their job and providing balanced conversations.”
The November Platoon has denied the ABC’s allegations and demanded evidence, including recordings from the night, be investigated to clear their names.
Russell has made a Youtube statement detailing the current situation regarding the status of the story.
In October 2020, the ABC issued a statement standing by their article.