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4 Corners letter to NT minister published

AAP logoAAP 16/08/2016 Neda Vanovac

In a letter to the Northern Territory's then-corrections minister, Four Corners reporters Caro Meldrum-Hanna praised the work he was doing in youth detention as important and "proactively trying to make things better".

Sky News on Tuesday afternoon published the letter, dated June 2, in which Ms Meldrum-Hanna lists at length Corrections Minister John Elferink's achievements.

"Based on our research, the Northern Territory is proactively trying to make things better," she wrote.

"From Sentenced to a Job, in-prison education programs, reducing reoffending rates, restraining the growth of prisoners, to barbeques being planned in Don Dale to teach the juveniles about cooking ... Minister Elferink, this is a significant legacy. It is also your legacy."

She asked him to show her how things were changing and what was being done to level the playing field for indigenous offenders, and said Four Corners was not interested in "gotcha moments".

Footage of six boys being abused at the centre filmed from 2010 to 2015 was broadcast, but the changes made to youth detention since then, that Mr Elferink praised, were not detailed in the story.

The government has called it a "set-up", saying that Mr Elferink was interviewed for about eight hours but almost none of the footage made it into the show.

The day after the episode aired Mr Elferink was stood down from the portfolio, and Chief Minister Adam Giles said he travelled interstate to avoid death threats.

Despite standing with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he called a royal commission into the NT's child protection and youth justice systems the day after the episode aired three weeks ago, for the past week Mr Giles has alleged that the story was designed to give NT Labor a leg up at the August 27 election.

Four Corners has denied this claim; Executive Producer Sally Neighbour said the allegations the story was deliberately timed to do political damage were "false, outrageous and desperate", and on Monday Ms Meldrum-Hanna told ABC local radio in Darwin that Mr Elferink received a fair hearing in the story.

That same day, Chief Minister Adam Giles said he would formally complain to the ABC, saying: "We're all well aware now that Four Corners ran a one-sided biased opinion piece when they put that story to air".

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