Honest Reporting Canada on the Front Lines (July 3 2009)

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 HonestReporting Canada on the Front Lines

July 3, 2009



By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director


Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber,
Along with the efforts of our 23,000 dedicated members, HonestReporting Canada’s staff, interns and volunteers work tirelessly on the front lines to keep Canada’s media honest.

On a daily basis we monitor and respond to news coverage in Canadian dailies, radio, television, magazines and online, in both English and in French, to ensure fair and accurate news coverage of Israel.

We are constantly reminded of the influence of the media in setting the agenda and in forming public opinion. With this in mind and for a sobering reminder of the task facing those of us concerned with promoting a balanced media, here is a brief glimpse at some of our recent efforts and accomplishments.

ENSURING ACCURACY: CBC Issues On-Air Corrective After HRC Intervention

On June 23, CBC Around the World featured a report about the “misery that is Gaza” in a “world focus” segment which saw anchor Harry Forestall erroneously stating the following: “The rubble that used to be homes still litters the streets. Months after a withering Israeli offensive killed thousands.Israel’s economic blockade prohibits importing cement and only a very pricey trickle is smuggled through Gaza’s infamous tunnels, a route the Israeli Air Force has tried to eliminate.”

To view this short segment online please click here or on the image below.

This statement is marred on many fronts. For starters, the Israeli offensive did not kill “thousands,” but instead only “hundreds” were killed. In fact, this imprecise language falsely implied that Israeli forces could have killed anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 and even more Palestinians. While the veracity of casualty statistics is indeed disputed, the broad consensus is that there were approximately 1,300 deaths. While the IDF contends that nearly two thirds of the casualties were Hamas members. In its official accounting of Gaza fatalities, the IDF reported that 709 out of 1004 fatalities were identified as militants. The other 295 have been identified as 89 children under the age of 16, 49 women and 157 adult civilian males. A further 162 fatalities are unclassified. Furthermore, even the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) allegesthat there were a total of 1,285 Palestinian deaths.

The CBC’s figures were sharply at odds with those documented by both the PCHR and the IDF and deserved to be corrected. After HRC staff shared these concerns with senior editors at the CBC, they commendably issued an on-air corrective on the June 26 edition of Around the World to remedy their error.

To view the on-air corrective please click here or on the image below.

Here is a transcript of the corrective: “On Tuesday in a story about life in Gaza, we said the Israeli offensive last winter killed thousands. While the actual number of dead isn’t known, the consensus is that there were about 1,300 people killed.”

In addition to our request for correction, HRC staff informed CBC editors that this report could have been more accurate and informative if the CBC had stated that Israel’s blockade and the recent war with Hamas, in and of itself, was designed to stop the transfer and firing of rockets at Israeli citizens and cities. Surprisingly, this report made no mention of this fact which would have brought much needed context to the reason for the Israeli blockade, Air Force efforts to stop the transfer of rockets through the tunnels, and for the war with Hamas this past January. To view the entire report online please click here.

This is the CBC’s second on-air corrective in the past couple of weeks about Middle East matters. To recall, HonestReporting Canada’s recent behind the scenes efforts also secured an important on-air clarification and apology from the CBC after the public broadcaster incorporated misleading file footage of Israeli tanks, helicopters, citizens and homes into a report about Hamas’ second anniversary since it wrested control of Gaza from Fatah. To view this Special Report click here.

Adding to the Marketplace of Ideas

Here are several letters to the editor that were printed in various Canadian dailies written by HRC staff and interns that were issued in order to add to the marketplace of ideas.

The first letter questions a Canadian columnist’s conclusion that there’s “no option but to engage the Iranian regime.” The second letter rebuts a local Ontario newspaper’s staff-ed which claimed that York University’s “One-State Solution” conference might not be “inherently bad” and may “offer constructive ideas” about Mideast peace making. The third letter comments on a Canadian Restaurant’s urging of a boycott of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the ROM. The restaurant owner’s “opinions” for a boycott as noted by a national Canadian newspaper, were derived from Wikipedia. Our intern, Vicky Tobianah, rightly challenged the practice of using Wikipedia as a credible source of information.

PROMOTING FAIRNESS:Clarifying Baseless Objections


A June 14 Toronto Star article about controversial artist Reena Katz carried the following inaccurate statement by visual arts reporter Murray Whyte: “What has followed has been an ever-escalating rhetorical war. Katz, who is politically active in various human-rights movements, describes herself as a conscientious objector to Israel’s military presence in Gaza;the Centre points – repeatedly, and publicly – to Katz’s association with the group Israel Apartheid Week as evidence that she “rejects the existence of Israel as a Jewish state” – a statement which Katz categorically rejects.”

While Mr. Whyte may be paraphrasing Ms. Katz’s views, her claim that Israel’s military has a presence in Gaza is quite erroneous given Israel’s “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip in 2005, wherein the Israeli government uprooted over 8,500 settlers and its entire military apparatus and personnel. In other words, we were quite baffled at how Ms. Katz could be a “conscientious objector” to something that doesn’t exist!

After conveying our concerns to the Toronto Star, editors there commendably issued the following clarification on June 17:

How You Can Make a Difference: HonestReporting Canada — the only organization dedicated exclusively to ensuring fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel and the Middle East — needs your support. As you can see for yourself our efforts do make a difference. Through your donations, you can help ensure that Canadian journalists are held to the highest standards of “honest reporting.”


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