CBC Ombud Acknowledges HRC Subscriber’s Complaint About Gaza Hospital Explosion Coverage, Saying Headline “Did Not Live Up To The High Standards” Expected

In a review published February 27 entited: “Big Breaking News Creates Big Challenges,” CBC’s Ombudsman, Jack Nagler, acknowledged complaints made by an HonestReporting Canada subscriber, Jeremy Diamond, regarding the broadcaster’s coverage of the Hamas-Israel war.

Diamond took issue with CBC’s coverage of the October 17 explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab Hospital, where Hamas claimed that more than 500 people had died in an Israeli strike. Israel denied it was responsible and it was later confirmed that the explosion was the result of an errant rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and that the death toll was significantly lower than what was claimed by Hamas, while the explosion hit the parking lot of the hospital and not the hospital itself.

That ambiguity did not stop multiple CBC reports from pinning the blame on Israel. In an article from that day, CBC reported as fact that “hundreds (were) reported killed in airstrike on Gaza City hospital,” rather than pointing out that the source of that claim was none other than Hamas, via its so-called “Gaza Ministry of Health.”

Following HonestReporting Canada’s filing a complaint, CBC amended the article to include Israeli claims that PIJ was responsible, as was later confirmed.

In his report, Nagler acknowledged that the initial headline of the article, “Hundreds killed in Israeli airstrike on Gaza City hospital, Palestinian Health Ministry says,” was not factually false, given that the Hamas-affiliated group did make that claim.

However, Nagler agreed that the headline “did not live up to the high standards that CBC’s journalistic policy demands for understanding and clearly explaining the facts to the audience.”

Nagler defended the need to be timely in reporting breaking news, but also conceded that “CBC could have done more to live up to the JSP’s (Journalistic Standards and Practices) obligation to ‘be aware of the impact of our work,’” given the central role that the publicly-funded broadcaster has in Canadian society.

In summarizing the standards that CBC did not necessarily meet in its initial coverage of the explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab hospital, Nagler wrote that “If there is a takeaway for reporters and editors, it is to remain skeptical about unverified information coming from either side of this conflict. If a breaking news story begins with assertions from only one side, the way you phrase your report should make that reality crystal clear to the audience.”

More recently, this challenge was repeated once again. On February 29, news media outlets, including CBC News, reported Hamas propaganda that Israel had killed more than 100 Gazan civilians, even as video footage showed a stampede, and not Israel, was responsible for the mayhem.

Given Hamas’ proclivity toward lying, news media organizations must remain vigilant and skeptical. Breaking news does not eliminate the need for news media outlets to report the full facts to the best of their ability, and to avoid mindlessly repeating Hamas propaganda, and passing it off as if it were factually true.

We commend HRC subscriber Jeremy Diamond for taking action and for holding the CBC accountable for its reporting of Israel.

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