The Australian Jewish News has denied sacking a senior journalist who helped the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse by supplying a damaging text message from a senior rabbi. But it looks like the paper's editor may have allowed that text message to be forwarded and, despite his protestations, it's hard to see how the removal of a top journalist was anything but directly related to that incident.
The Guardian reports:
The Australian Jewish News has denied sacking a senior journalist who helped the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse by supplying a damaging text message from a senior rabbi.
Adam Kamien was made redundant after nine years on the paper – including a stint as acting editor – after a text message he passed on to the commission resulted in the resignation of [Chabad] Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant.
Kluwgant, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, stepped down last month after the commission heard that he had called the father of three sons who were sexually abused a “lunatic” in a text message.
The text message, sent to the editor of the Australian Jewish News, Zeddy Lawrence, read: “Zephaniah is killing us. He is a lunatic on the fringe, guilty of neglect of his own children. Where was he when all this was happening?”
Kluwgant was referring to Zephaniah Waks who told the royal commission how he and his family were ostracised by religious leaders after speaking out about the abuse of his sons at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne.
Kluwgant sent the text message while Zephaniah was giving his evidence, prompting Lawrence to read it out loud to colleagues including Kamien, sources told Guardian Australia.
It is understood Lawrence also allowed Kamien to copy the text down on a piece of paper.
“As I remember it Zeddy gave him tacit approval to send it to the commission,” one source said.
But after Kluwgant’s text message was revealed at the commission Kamien came under pressure from management at the AJN and was suspended pending an investigation.
Last week the paper told staff Kamien had been made redundant after a restructure.
Contacted by Guardian Australia, Kamien declined to comment as he had signed a confidentiality agreement.
But Zephaniah’s son Manny, the only Jewish victim of child abuse to be named at the commission, believes Kamien was sacked for leaking the text message.
“I am very disappointed with the AJN’s decision,” Waks told Guardian Australia from Paris where he is living. “I understand their dilemma as a media outlet in terms of protecting their sources but in the context of the royal commission, it was a moral imperative for them to do the right thing.
“Indeed, the need to protect a source is relevant only for news sources. Clearly Rabbi Kluwgant’s text served no purpose other than to try to influence the AJN’s editor while denigrating the parent of several Yeshivah victims by defaming him.
“Had the text message not been disclosed, Rabbi Kluwgant would probably still have his senior leadership positions, and victims and their families would still be accused of exaggerating the intimidation. The journalist’s disclosure ensured the truth was told. It vindicated us fully.
“I believe that most of the community stands behind the journalist and would expect the AJN to do the right thing. They should reinstate the journalist.
“Of course I’d like to acknowledge and thank the AJN for the strong stance it has taken on this issue since I commenced my public campaign in 2011.”
When contacted by Guardian Australia, Lawrence said he could not comment on the circumstances surrounding Kamien’s redundancy but insisted it was unrelated to the royal commission and was in train “long before” the message was leaked.
“It is simply untrue to say that the journalist involved was sacked,” the Australian Jewish News said in a statement supplied by Lawrence on Tuesday.
“We are legally not at liberty to disclose the terms of the redundancy but suffice it to say that the redundancy was discussed and recorded at management level long before the [text message] event.
“We have attended every meeting of the royal commission and reported on its proceedings in far more detail than any other publication. To imply that we would be involved in a cover-up is an insult to the thorough investigative work of our journalists. No editor or media outlet has done more to help the Jewish victims of child sexual abuse or done more to call for the leadership to quit than the AJN.
“The Australian Jewish News has been at the forefront of the disclosures of paedophilia cases in the Chabad community and other Jewish organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.
“Much of the evidence presented at the royal commission derived from investigative reporting in the AJN.
“Over the past four years, we have consistently campaigned for the perpetrators of historic cases of child abuse to be brought to justice. We were also instrumental in exposing the culture of cover-ups and intimidation that exist within the community and the heinous attitudes towards reporting of abuse held by certain prominent rabbis.”