On April 4, several CBC Radio and Television news programs reported on protests and violence that flared up in areas of the West Bank subsequent to the death of a Palestinian prisoner from cancer in an Israeli jail.
For example, CBC Radio’s “World Report” news program carried a report by CBC Mideast bureau chief Derek Stoffel (pictured) who when referring to the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a Palestinian prisoner who died of throat cancer in an Israeli jail, stated only the following: “Officials in the West Bank accuse Israel of not providing him adequate medical care. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has blamed Israel for his death.”
We were troubled that in Mr. Stoffel’s close to 2-minute report, nowhere did he acknowledge that Israel disputes these charges saying that the prisoner received proper medical care by specialized doctors in Israeli hospitals. Indeed, Israel’s health ministry said an autopsy it performed found a cancerous growth in Abu Hamdiyeh’s throat and secondary cancerous growths in his neck, chest, lungs, liver, and spinal cord. It said hospital records showed he was a heavy smoker. The head of the Palestinian pathological institute also participated in the autopsy.
In a complaint we sent to the CBC that day, we argued that such context should have been included in this report, even if it was a simple “Israel disputes these allegations” comment. We also noted that CBC.ca included this context in an article that very day, whereas World Report ignored this information.
This pattern of broadcasting Palestinian allegations of alleged Israeli medical malfeasance, while ignoring the Israeli rebuttal to these charges was also prevalent on CBC News Montreal (Watch Clip Here), CKSA CBC (Watch Clip Here), and CBC Prince Edward Island (Watch Clip Here).
Some of these programs also falsely reported that three Palestinians, not two, were killed by Israeli soldiers in the violence that had ensued. Some even failed to tell CBC viewers that these Palestinians were killed while throwing firebombs at Israeli soldiers and were not merely peaceful protestors.
We asked CBC to undertake immediate corrective action to remedy the errors and oversights inherent in these reports.
On April 11, CBC General Manager and Editor-in-Chief, Jennifer McGuire, acknowledged that its reporting lacked the Israeli point-of-view and committed to remind its journalists of the need to provide equitable balance in its reporting:
“You highlight a radio report by our correspondent Derek Stoffel, complaining that while he reported Palestinian allegations about Israeli authorities handling of the prisoner’s medical condition, Mr. Stoffel did not include Israel’s denial of wrongdoing. You also sent some examples of coverage of the story on some of our local television programs.
CBC News is committed to accurate and balanced reporting. Our practice in dealing with incidents like the one portrayed in Mr. Stoffel’s report is that when serious allegations are made by one side against the other in any conflict, we seek and include the opposing view. This is the case even when there is an obvious or implied denial. In light of the absence of that information in some of our recent reporting, we will reinforce this practice with our journalists.”
While we’re appreciative that the CBC will remind its staff of the need to provide a balanced perspective to sensitive and controversial news stories about Israel, it’s unfortunate that CBC has not put the aforementioned context to air to remedy its own journalist’s oversights and shortcomings.