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Justin Milne 'never sent' email calling for journalists' sacking

Justin Milne resigns from ABC chairman role

Allegations ABC chairman Justin Milne asked former managing director Michelle Guthrie to fire journalists after speaking with the government have been described as the actions of a "tin-pot dictatorship" by the federal opposition.

The board held an urgent meeting on Wednesday afternoon and afterwards Mr Milne said he meant to stay on as chairman.

On Wednesday morning Fairfax Media published details of emails it claimed showed Mr Milne directed Ms Guthrie to sack senior ABC reporter Emma Alberici following a complaint from the Government.

"Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC". "Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody, or anything else".

"I would hope that media organisations in Australia take equally seriously questions of fact that are raised regardless of who raises them", he said.

An interim chairman is expected to be appointed by the board, before Prime Minister Scott Morrison selects Milne's successor.

"Clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation, and as always, my interests have been to look after the interests of the corporation", he said.

"I feel that the interests of the ABC have always been uppermost in my mind".

In an exclusive interview with 7.30's Leigh Sales, Mr Milne described the week's events as a "firestorm" and said he "wanted to provide a release valve".

The ABC's former chairman, Justin Milne, has propelled himself from obscurity to infamy in just four days.

As Marcus Strom, president of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, told ABC News, the staff deserve better and are sick of being treated like "political footballs".

Both the Greens and Labor have placed their support behind a Senate inquiry into political interference at the ABC, saying that it's important that any investigation into potential government interference at the ABC must be independent.

Another report in News Limited publications claimed Mr Milne had ordered the sacking of the ABC's political editor, Andrew Probyn.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (L) and then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C) in a 2016 file photo.

The government has announced an inquiry into the allegations of improper intervention by Mr Milne, who is a former business partner of Australia's ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

This week, Michelle Guthrie was sacked from her $891,000-a-year position as managing director, halfway through her five-year term.

"My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of news reporting".

Turnbull, who has been living in NY since being forced to resign as prime minister, said he had complained about the two journalists, but never asked for their dismissal, according to The Associated Press. "We need to save the ABC - not Emma".

Powerful factions in the Liberal Party, the dominant partner in the coalition government, are openly hostile to the ABC and are now actively campaigning to have it sold off on the grounds public funds should not be used to support a news organization in a free market economy.

Milne and Turnbull are old friends, dating back to Turnbull's early 2000s internet venture OzEmail.