Media Release: Overblown media reporting of ‘terrorist’ threat used to smear refugees

Overblown media reporting of ‘terrorist’ threat used to smear refugees

Amongst much awful reporting of an alleged terrorist plot, the Australian newspaper ran the headline ‘Mohammad Ali Baryalei: from refugee to battlefield plot ringmaster’.  Worse still perhaps was Wagga Wagga’s daily Advertiser (owned by Fairfax), with an opinion piece that claimed ‘The flood of “asylum seekers” like Mohammad Ali Baryalei and those at the Liverpool mosque had to be stopped.’


‘Such attempts to smear refugees and Muslims as terrorists are completely unjustified, they do nothing to prevent terrorism, but will stoke racism against refugees and Muslims’ said Chris Breen for the Refugee Action Collective.


‘Mohammad Ali Baryalei came to Australia as a child refugee, but his refugee status has absolutely nothing to do with the allegations against him. He grew up in Australia, and later appeared as an actor on Australian TV series Underbelly. The Australian could equally pointlessly have titled its article “from Australian actor to battlefield plot ringmaster” but chose to smear refugees’ said Breen


‘Allegations against Baryalei remain unproven, as do allegations of terrorist plots. The Australian Federal Police who worked closely with the media to get out footage of the raids before they were even over, now admit the word ‘beheading’ was not used in the phone call intercepted. No attacks have been carried out, no evidence of plots been provided, and all allegations remain to be tested before a court of law. It is therefore extremely inappropriate and prejudicial for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to report the allegations as if they were fact on national television. Abbott claimed “direct exhortations were coming from an Australian… to conduct demonstration killings here in this country…This is not just suspicion; this is intent”’
‘Other credible allegations were made by those whose houses were raided but not charged, of being beaten and abused by police, backed by evidence of facial bruising, but Abbott chose not to report those.’


‘This all about the politics of fear, timed to coincide with Australian troops being deployed to Iraq, and coming a week before new oppressive anti-terror laws go to parliament’ said Breen

‘If anything makes terrorism more likely it is not accepting more refugees, but further military action in Iraq, where Western intervention was responsible for up to one million deaths last time around.1

Even ASIO agrees this increases the risk of terrorism, telling Parliament in 2012/13 that “Issues such as Australia’s military deployments over the last decade… fuel the radical views”.’


Breen continued ‘On the same day, which coincided with the anniversary of Operation Sovereign Borders, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison released details of 12 boat turn backs after claiming for a year that ‘on water matters’ are secret. Leaving aside the hypocrisy, this is 12 times people seeking sanctuary have been terrorised by the Australian Navy, and had their lives put at risk – under the Howard government asylum seekers died during boat turn back operations.’


‘There may well have been Iraqi and Syrian refugees on those boats, but Morrison doesn’t care. The Coalition is again sending troops to Iraq, but Morrison refuses to rule out sending Iraqi refugees back to the war zone. Iraqi and Syrian refugees remain imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru, and warehoused in Indonesia. Those fleeing Iraq and Syria can’t go back, and their continued detention makes a mockery of Morrison’s claim that he will provide set aside more places for such refugees.’


For further comment call Chris Breen for the Refugee Action Collective on 0403 013 183


1. See, and