HonestReporting Canada has asked the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) to arbitrate our concerns with CTV News due to the network’s reluctance to
issue an on-air correction to remedy its erroneously reporting that a Palestinian hunger striker died in an Israeli jail.
In the afternoon of February 25, CTV News twice reported the following to its viewing audience: “Thousands of mourners marched today in a funeral procession for a Palestinian detainee who died in an Israeli jail. The death has caused widespread clashes and is stoking concern in Israel that a new uprising could erupt. The prisoner died while taking part in a hunger strike.”
Contrary to what CTV reported, the Palestinian inmate who died, Mr. Arafat Jadarat, WAS NOT taking part in a hunger strike. He was just simply an inmate who died of what Israeli authorities suspect may have been a heart attack, while Palestinians accuse (without evidence) that he was “tortured”.
Within hours of viewing this report, we notified CTV’s President, Ms. Wendy Freeman of this error calling for corrective measures to be taken in the form of an on-air correction. In our correspondence, we noted “it would be insufficient for CTV to simply contend that it took immediate measures to ensure the correct information was being reported as the story progressed… in keeping with CBSC standards, an unequivocal on-air correction is required…”
On March 12, we received a reply from Mark Sikstrom, CTV’s Editor of Journalistic Policy and Practices who acknowledged that CTV communicated an error to its audience, but who tried to pass the buck to NBC News for having made the error in the first place even though CTV ultimate bears responsibility for all content broadcast over its national airwaves.
Mr. Sikstrom said: “We later learned that he (Jaradat) was not among several Palestinian prisoners that were participating in a hunger strike. The source of the error was copy contained in an NBC report. Although we did not air further reports on Mr. Jaradat other than the two instances that played in that hour, when we discovered the error, we promptly took steps to ensure an accurate account was posted on our web site, CTVNews.ca.” Mr. Sikstrom then went on to claim “Our policy is to quickly correct errors when they are discovered and we did that in this instance.” That an article was posted to the CTV website (time stamped the day after receiving our complaint) does not redress CTV News Channel’s erroneously reporting that a Palestinian hunger striker died in Israeli jails. CTV has not respected CBSC standards by issuing an unequivocal on-air correction.
Any fair-minded person would expect that if a serious error was broadcast on TV, it should also be corrected on TV – not the internet. CTV’s reluctance to properly correct their error shows not only a failure to be an accountable and responsible broadcaster, it shows a flaunting of its obligations as a CBSC member to act in ethical accordance with the Council’s standards.
Not satisfied with CTV’s reply, we asked the CBSC to arbitrate our concerns and have reiterated our request that CTV News must air an unequivocal on-air correction to set the record straight.
This latest incident illustrates a troubling pattern where CTV acknowledges having made errors in private correspondence, but fails to atone for them publically through on-air correctives. Such was the case a couple months ago when CTV failed to issue an on-air correction to atone for its incorrectly referring to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital city.
We will keep you updated on the results of the CBSC’s arbitration.