Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the ABC rushed to believe accusations from asylum seekers that weren’t based in fact and were damaging to the navy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has questioned why the ABC hasn’t apologised for a controversial report on the treatment of asylum seekers on a Royal Australian Navy boat.

Mr Abbott said the national broadcaster had rushed to report claims that asylum seekers had burnt their hands when forced to hold hot engine parts by navy personnel.

The ABC has issued a statement saying it made “no apologies for covering” the story, but the wording in the original reporting could have been more precise.

Mr Abbott said the accusations had been “extremely damaging” to the navy and questioned ABC’s decision to report them.

“I wonder why sorry seems to be the hardest word for them,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.

“I just found myself very disappointed, as I think many Australians did, with that story.”

He said the ABC’s own media ethics program had concluded the broadcaster had not been fair, balanced or accurate when they rushed to “believe accusations that had little if any foundation in fact”.

The federal government strenuously denied the asylum seekers’ allegations, with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison describing the claims as “baseless and unsubstantiated”.

The ABC said it had not attempted to play judge and jury on the matter, and its journalists will continue to investigate and cover the story.