CBC Acknowledges Its Reporting Didn't Feature Israeli Perspective (February 15, 2011)

By Mike Fegelman

February 15, 2011



CBC Acknowledges Its Reporting Didn’t Feature
Israeli Perspective




View this Article Online and Discuss on Headlines and Deadlines February 15, 2011

By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber,

Asymmetrical journalism is antithetical to the basic precepts of fair and accurate reporting.

Media outlets should strive for journalistic balance by giving equal weight to conflicting claims within an individual report or over a period of time. An important indicator of media bias is usually when one side of an issue is given preferential treatment and when equal time, a rebuttal opportunity, or a buried last word of reply aren’t afforded. The result, asymmetrical news coverage lends more credibility to one side’s position over the other, thereby misinforming and misleading news consumers.

Case in point, on December 19, Jerusalem correspondent Irris Makler filed a report for CBC Radio on a recently released 166-page study by Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Separate but Unequal.” In that report, which can be heard online by clicking here or on the image to the right, Ms. Makler gave a soapbox to HRW’s claims without any critical analysis and without a voice of opposition to this report; whether from the Israeli government, an Israeli think tank, Israeli scholars and experts, etc. (CBC Radio also failed to produce a follow up report to take the Israeli point of view into account). The radio report only attributed HRW’s claims that Israel is:

Discriminating against Palestinians in areas of the West Bank it controls”

“Calls on Israel to end, what it describes as a ‘two-tiered system'” in area C of the West Bank

Systematic violation of Palestinian rights is visible in housing, freedom of movement, health, education and access to water”

Palestinians have to apply for permits for everyday activities

The report only quoted HRW’s Bill Van Esveldand & Carroll Bogert and altogether failed to provide an Israeli perspective. Given that this CBC report echoed egregious charges which accuse the Israeli government of “discrimination,” “violating” Palestinian rights, and enforcing a “two-tiered system,” we felt that it was a significant error on Ms. Makler’s and the CBC’s behalf to not include the Israeli point of view in their news coverage. HonestReporting Canada filed our concerns with senior editors at the CBC to ensure that our grievances were properly addressed.

From our perspective, it was totally appropriate for the CBC to do a story on this HRW study, but that report should offer some critical element of investigative journalism, instead of just accepting the veracity of HRW’s claims at face value. This was lazy and sloppy journalism on the part of CBC Radio.

In contrast, AFP, for example, provided necessary context and quotes from an Israeli government spokesperson and Israel’s Prime Minister to properly report on all aspects of the story. Here are some choice quotes from this AFP report:

We must expose the hypocrisy of human rights organisations that turn a blind eye to the most repressive regimes in the world — regimes that stone women and hang gays — and instead target the only liberal, democracy in the Middle East,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Government spokesman Mark Regev charged that Human Rights Watch has allowed an anti-Israel agenda to pollute its objectivity.

He also denied the report’s accusations, saying there had been “unprecedented levels of growth and development on the part of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bankover the past two years.

Anyone who looks at objective data can see this. The government of Israel is committed to working with the Palestinian Authority upon this path that is beneficial to all,” he told AFP.”

NGO Monitor, an Israeli non-profit organization that monitors anti-Israel NGO’s, issued a report which detailed significant flaws with HRW’s study, describing their allegations of Israeli “racism” as being “manufactured” with false claims which “ignor(ed) the legitimate security needs of Israel.”

According to NGO monitor’s report, HRW’s study was flawed as it:

Featured faulty methodology: The report was primarily based on unverified secondary sources from politicized advocacy groups that lack credibility. It also misrepresented data from the NGO reports and relied heavily on anecdotal interviews.

Misrepresented international law: “Significant portions of HRW’s indictment are based on a tendentious version of human rights norms and international law… Exploiting language that invokes the U.S. civil rights movement, “Separate and Unequal” accuses Israel of “different treatment, on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin and not narrowly tailored to meet security or other justifiable goals,” and condemns the violation of “the fundamental prohibition against discrimination under human rights law.” HRW provides no basis for these claims which seek to portray the Arab-Israeli conflict as a dispute motivated by alleged Jewish race-hatred of Arabs, rather than one based on competing national and territorial claims. Many of these charges are based on propaganda originating from the PLO’s Negotiation Affairs Department…”

Promoted the BDS agenda: “The report is another step in HRW’s support for the BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaign, which specifically calls for the destruction of Israel, as stated in the 2001 NGO Durban declaration. (HRW was a major supporter of the NGO Forum and has supported BDS in the past.)…”

NGO Monitor described HRW’s study as a “distortion of the Arab-Israeli conflict” stating that “‘Separate but Unequal’ is further evidence of HRW’s ongoing focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict and on advancing allegations of Israeli violations. By adopting the language and tactics of the BDS movement, and masking them in the façade of human rights and international law, HRW contributes to the global campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel.”

Bringing this matter to a fore, just days ago we received a reply from the CBC which stated the following:

“… CBC journalistic policy emphasizes the importance of reflecting a diversity of opinion, it does not require that every story reflect a range of views. A story critical of Israeli policy does not necessarily have to include an equally strong voice supporting that policy. CBC policy acknowledges that balance can be achieved over a period of time.

In this instance, while Ms. Makler was asked to report only on the contents of the HRW study, we anticipated subsequent stories would include the Israeli government’s views. As Ms. Makler noted, the HRW was expected to present the study to Israeli government officials some hours later that day. Despite that intention, we did not return to the story.

I agree with you to the extent that either the report that morning or a subsequent story should have included the Israeli view.”

While we appreciate that CBC has acknowledged that it didn’t include “the Israeli view” in their news coverage, our public broadcaster has altogether failed to indicate how they will remedy this serious oversight. An appropriate remedy could have been to simply air an editor’s note to explain the Israeli perspective or better yet, broadcast an additional full length report which would focus on the Israeli point of view to ensure that their reporting was balanced and that it reflected a “diversity of opinion.”

Despite our formal request calling for the CBC to atone for their oversights, they have instead opted for “separate and unequal” asymmetrical coverage of Israel. Sadly, instead of conducting investigative reporting, the CBC has ended up doing partisan supporting.

View this Article Online and Discuss on Headlines and Deadlines


Toronto Office: P.O. Box 6, Station Q Toronto, Ontario M4T 2L7
Montreal Office: P.O. Box 42508, Succursale Snowdon Montreal, Quebec H3W 3H7
Office: (416) 915-9157 E-mail: info@honestreporting.ca Web: www.honestreporting.ca


You may also like