CBC Whitewashes Palestinian Prisoners (October 29 2007)

October 29, 2007



CBC Whitewashes Palestinian Prisoners

October 29, 2007

By: Mike Fegelman

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:

When news organizations borrow and feature reports from other media outlets, they are responsible to vet that content to ensure that it is editorially fit for broadcast, fair and balanced, and void of erroneous information.

The October 24 broadcast of CBC Around the World featured a one-sided report by Al Jazeera English’s Jacky Rowland, where she covered the aftermath of a Palestinian riot in Israel’s Ketziot Prison. Her report featured a broader discussion about Palestinian prisoners where she whitewashed the inmates by describing them as “widely respected fighters against the occupation.” Absent from Ms. Rowland’s report, the fact that many of these prisoners have “blood on their hands”, Israel’s term for people involved in fatal attacks against Israelis.

Background: Al Jazeera on Canadian Networks:

Al Jazeera’s presence on Canadian airwaves has been hotly contested by various Jewish groups in the past which said that the network disseminates “anti-Semitic hate speech” and “anti-Israel content”. The CRTC ruled that any cable T.V. company that wanted to carry Al Jazeera had to have someone monitoring the service 24/7. Not surprisingly, no cable networks have agreed to these conditions.

Yet despite the uproar and vocal opposition, the CBC agreed to air content from the Qatar-based network. According to Tony Burman, CBC’s former editor-in-chief in an interview with Now Magazine last December:

  • “Nothing I have seen takes away from my original impression that this is a worthwhile, pioneering and important service,” says Burman, who’s been monitoring the station.”

The Broader Question: Did Canadian taxpayer dollars go to fund Al Jazeera?

CBC’S Palestinian Point-Of-View on Prisoners:

Ms. Rowland’s report made no reference to the fact that many of these prisoners were jailed for conducting terror attacks against Israelis, and therefore many of them have, in the parlance of the Israeli-Arab conflict, “blood on their hands.” As a result of Rowland presenting only the Palestinian perspective, CBC viewers were left with the impression that most Palestinianprisoners are political prisoners, not gunmen, bombers, etc., who have been unjustly detained by Israeli prison authorities. Prior to its broadcast, CBC editors viewed this report, judged that it was editorially sound, and were content in airing its contents to a Canadian audience.

In the past we have brought similar concerns to the attention of CBC editors in regards to an April 17 Peter Armstrong report also on Around the World. In his report on “Palestinian Prisoners’ Day,” dubbed an “annual event to demand the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails,” Armstrong referenced the Palestinianprisoners numerous times, mentioning that Palestinians consider them to be “political prisoners and “heroes”, but failed to mention that many of the prisoners were held for security offences ranging from membership in “militant” organizations, to planning and carrying out attacks against Israelis.

Rowland and Armstrong’s report’s also failed to put any Israeli officials on camera to provide an alternative perspective on the nefarious backgrounds of some of the Palestinian prisoners. Such a failure was a violation of the CBC’s own standards of journalism which requires that individual reports must provide a “range of opinion”.

According to the CBC’s own principles for balance: “CBC programs dealing with matters of public interest on which differing views are held must supplement the exposition of one point of view with an equitable treatment of other relevant points of view.

While some might contend that past reports have referenced the terror resumes and rap sheets of these prisoners and have “achieved balance over time,” the CBC should aim to achieve fairness and balance within individual reports, especially when all it would take to ensure proper contextualization of such a story would be to say that “Israel contends that many of these prisoners were jailed for attacks on Israel.” But once again, in CBC reports referencing Palestinian prisoners, CBC has neglected to do the very minimum necessary to provide this minimal context.

How You Can Make a Difference:

1. Ask the CBC to balance future reports on Palestinian prisoners by providing necessary context about their terror resumes and rap sheets.

2. Ask the CBC to closely monitor content emanating from Al Jazeera and then reproduced on CBC programs, to ensure that it adheres to the Corporation’s journalistic standards and practices. Remind the CBC that they are responsible for vetting outside coverage.

To contact the CBC send letters tothe CBC’s Audience Relations department at audience_relations@cbc.ca and reference Jacky Rowland’s Oct. 24 report on CBC Around the World.

Pointers for contacting the media: State your position clearly in your own words, remain rational and polite, and contact us at action@honestreporting.ca to tell us you took action. To be considered for publication, letters should include sender’s name and contact information for verification purposes.




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