Sky News host Peta Credlin issues lengthy apology to South Sudanese community over Covid comments

The Guardian
The Guardian
Peta Credlin apologised to Melbourne’s South Sudanese community over comments she made on Sky News during a 2020 Covid outbreak.

Sky News host Peta Credlin has issued a four-minute on-air apology for incorrectly linking Melbourne’s South Sudanese community to a 2020 Covid outbreak and making other harmful comments.

Credlin’s latest apology – which follows a previous attempt last year – comes almost 18 months after the offending statements were broadcast on 26 June 2020.

“In June last year, while commenting on the Covid-19 pandemic, the escalation of new infections in Victoria, and various public health measures, I incorrectly linked the South Sudanese community to a cluster of cases that had developed following an end-of-Ramadan dinner in Melbourne’s northern suburbs,” Credlin told viewers on Friday night.

“This was factually wrong, and I again deeply regret the error. On the basis of that error, I made various other statements that I accept have caused genuine hurt and offence to South Sudanese community members. It was not my intention.

“My statements were understood to mean that the South Sudanese community had been reckless, irresponsible, or even deliberate, in breaching social distancing requirements, that the community had failed to adapt its cultural practices like other Australians, and that this was putting Australians at risk. I do not believe there was any truth to those inferences.”

Credlin last year claimed the state government’s health orders hadn’t reached the South Sudanese community because many of its members didn’t understand English.

“This just underscores why new migrants need to urgently learn English ... so that they can quickly become part of mainstream Australian society,” Credlin said at the time.

She claimed while South Sudanese migrants could speak Dinka many – especially women – could not read it because they were banned from attending school in their homeland.

The Society of South Sudanese Professionals refuted Credlin’s comments in a statement at the time describing them as a “serious assault on South Sudanese Victorians”.

“Communication within the community is also strong and people are as aware of the social distancing restrictions as everyone else in Australia,” the organisation wrote in a statement.

The organisation clarified that “women and girls are not banned from attending schools in South Sudan,” adding that “the war and other factors meant many children were unable to go to school, but this was not ideological and not something the migrant community has continued in Australia”.

The News Corp Australia-owned Sky News was forced to issue an apology for the segment on 28 June 2020 following a backlash over Credlin’s report.

“Peta Credlin and Sky News Australia accept these comments were inaccurate and sincerely apologise for any offence caused by the remarks which have been removed from all platforms,” the network said in a written statement. Credlin also broadcast an apology on the 29 June.

The apologies were similarly met with backlash. On Friday, Credlin said that, since meeting with members of the South Sudanese community, she had come to realise her original apology was “too limited and caused further offence which was not my intention”.

In her Friday apology, Credlin clarified that the South Sudanese community was not involved with the end-of-Ramadan cluster and “indeed more than 93% of South Sudanese-born members of the community are Christian, not Muslim”.

“The South Sudanese community’s compliance with Covid restrictions is not affected by a lack of English language skills. Although I said that 15% of the Sudanese-born community speak virtually no English and that many South Sudanese, especially women, were banned from attending school in their former homeland, what the statistics actually show is that the overwhelming majority, 96.5% of South Sudanese-born migrants, speak some English, with around 84% speaking only English or speaking English well or very well,” Credlin said.

“The statistics also show that a large proportion of South Sudanese-born migrants are educated. I also was not clear that I was using statistics of South Sudanese-born migrants, and did not mention that many members of the community were born in Australia, educated here and read, write and speak English perfectly well. Some South Sudanese women felt I particularly singled them out for unfounded criticism, which I deeply regret.”

During the original broadcast last June, Credlin also claimed that 32% of South Sudanese-born migrants were officially unemployed and that 70% earned less than $800 a week. On Friday, Credlin said she failed to acknowledge in 2020 that the same ABS data showed a majority of all Victorians earned less than $800 a week.

“Lastly I implied that the culture of the South Sudanese community is about getting membership, unemployment, and an inability to speak Australia’s national language, to the point of not even knowing about social distancing. That was deeply offensive,” Credlin admitted.

“I extend to the South Sudanese community my sincerest apologies for these errors, and the hurt, humiliation and offence caused by the broadcast.”

Credlin said that Sky News would be running news stories in the coming months to give a voice “to the positive contributions many South Sudanese Victorians make to the broader community, as well as those within the South Sudanese community”.

A Sky News spokesperson said on Sunday the channel and Credlin had issued an apology in 2020 soon after the segment went to air.

“Following a separate and more recent complaint over the same broadcast, Sky News and Peta Credlin engaged in extensive consultation with other South Sudanese community members. Peta Credlin made a further apology on last Friday’s episode of Credlin as soon as agreement was reached.”

Comments / 0

Comments / 0