The 2011 story by Tim Noonan depicted a Brazilian tribe of Suruwaha Indians as a suicide cult that encouraged the murder of disabled babies.
In 2012 ACMA found Seven’s report breached the Code of Practice because it was likely to “provoke or perpetuate intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person or a group”.
Seven asked the Federal Court to declare that various statements in the report were not factual in nature. But the court rejected an attempt to overturn ACMA’s ruling on a technicality.
The Sunday Night report also included adventurer Paul Raffaele, who famously claimed in 2006 on Nine’s 60 Minutes that a West Papuan child called Wa-Wa had to be rescued from cannibals.
Advocacy group Survival International, which champions tribal peoples around the world, branded the report “Freakshow TV” for portraying Brazil’s Suruwaha tribe as child murderers, “Stone Age” relics, and “one of the worst human rights violators in the world”.
A Suruwaha man told Survival,”They took the footage they filmed here far away, to show JOCUM (a fundamentalist, evangelical missionary organisation) and to lie about us.”
“How could he treat the Suruwaha so badly?” he asked of Raffaele.
Survival International claims Suruwaha have been the target of fundamentalist missionaries who have lobbied Brazil’s Congress to pass a law which would have allowed Indian children to be removed from their families.
Seven’s website openly fundraised for the evangelical organisation associated with the campaign.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “Tribal peoples have been accused of ‘savagery’ since the first European colonists arrived and sought justification for the brutalities of imperialism. Unfortunately the myth of the ‘Brutal Savage’ is rearing its ugly head once more – and it’s just as harmful now as it was then. It is right and proper that this ruling has been upheld. There is no excuse for such extreme prejudice in the media today.”