An expletive-laden conversation between two Australian newsreaders on Novak Djokovic’s visa saga has gone viral, after a video of it was leaked online.
It shows Channel 7 journalists Mike Amor and Rebecca Maddern talking candidly about the tennis star as they prepare to read Tuesday’s evening news.
Maddern says Djokovic is “lying” and “sneaky”, while Amor says the athlete has “fallen over his own… lies”.
Channel 7 has launched an investigation into the “illegal” leak.
The high-profile newsreaders, who are based in Melbourne, were reacting to the news that the Serbian star had been allowed to enter the country to play in the Australian Open next week, despite not being vaccinated and admitting to making mistakes on his travel forms.
“Novak Djokovic is a lying, sneaky [expletive],” Maddern says during the conversation, which was not broadcast on television.
“Whatever way you look at it, it’s unfortunate that everyone stuffed up around him,” she adds, seemingly referring to Djokovic blaming his agent for an accidental error on his travel declaration form.
Amor can be heard saying the tennis star “fell over his own [expletive] lies” before adding, “I think he’s going to get away with it.”
In a statement, Channel 7 said it was a private conversation between two colleagues, and the recording was illegal.
Australians show their support
While there was shock at the sharp language, many social media users have thrown their support behind the newsreaders.
“Thank you for speaking what we are all thinking about,” wrote one Twitter user. “Is it too late to nominate Rebecca Maddern and Mike Amor for Australians of the year?” said another.
Australian TV writer Colin Vickery tweeted that he “can’t see this hurting Mike Amor or Rebecca Maddern’s reputations”.
Intense criticism has been aimed at both Djokovic and Australian authorities over the visa row.
On Monday, a court allowed him to enter the country, despite not being vaccinated. It was a hugely controversial decision, as Australians have had to live under some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 rules, especially in Melbourne, where he is now training for the Grand Slam, which endured 262 days under restrictions last year.
Many people have accused Australia’s state and federal governments of favouring the rich and famous during the pandemic by allowing them to travel freely to and from the country, while ordinary citizens have been banned from even crossing state borders to be with dying loved ones.
It gained the nickname “Fortress Australia”, with thousands of families being separated by the country’s closed borders.
Alice Lamberton, 22, lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and her mother lives in the Australian state of Queensland. They have not been able to see each other for nearly three years because the Australian government will not allow Miss Lamberton to fly in.
Despite being fully vaccinated, her travel exemption request has been denied eight times, because, as an adult, she does not qualify under the federal government’s definition of “immediate family” to be able to visit her mum.
“It’s heartbreaking… just because Novak is a well-known sports person with lots of money, he can do whatever he wants,” she told the BBC.
“It’s just another case of celebrities being able to enter Australia, but people who are connected to hard working citizens are being turned away.”