On November 20, HRC sent the following complaint to CTV President Wendy Freeman and David Hughes, Executive Producer of CTV National News, in regards to problematic coverage it aired of the recent terror attack in Jerusalem. Please find our complaint immediately below, followed by CTV’s reply which can also be read by clicking here.
Dear Ms. Freeman and Mr. Hughes,
We are writing to bring our concerns to your attention regarding a November 18 CTV National News report by Danielle Hamamdjian which aired at 11pm EST. You can watch this report by clicking here (or on the image below).
Anchor Lisa LaFlamme introduced the broadcast saying the following: “The turf war over one holy site in the Middle East turned another into a target today, a brutal act of terror carried out by two Palestinians against defenseless victims inside a Jerusalem synagogue. Five people were killed as well as the two attackers, cousins, who walked in waving a gun, axes, even a meat cleaver. Within minutes this place of worship became a crime scene. Tonight those who died praying were remembered with prayers…”
In making this statement, CTV News stated by some unknown veracity that the attack on the synagogue was spurred because of a “turf war over one holy site” which turned it into a target. And yet, the motivations of the attackers and the reasons they targeted this site, these people, and at this time are still unknown. Again, CTV is making this statement not in attribution, but presenting it as fact.
Midway through the segment, reporter Danielle Hamamdjian says that the “attackers are cousins from east Jerusalem said to have been motivated by what they saw as Israeli encroachments on Jerusalem’s holiest site. ‘When the youth see this, they react,’ said the father of one of the men.”
Here, CTV’s reporter includes attribution from the father of one of the attackers who claims that alleged Israeli encroachments (though it denies such charges saying the status quo remains) on a Jerusalem holy site incited the attack. But later on in the banter between reporter and anchor, the following contradiction appears:
Anchor Lisa Laflamme: “We’ve been covering these revenge attacks over the past few weeks and months, but what was it today, what drove these two cousins into committing such a gruesome attack?”
Reporter Hamamdjian: “Well there is one incident that has caused a lot anger and that is what happened to one Palestinian man, a driver who was found hanging in his vehicle, now Israeli authorities and officials who conducted the autopsy say there is no doubt here this was suicide, but few if any on the Palestinian side, even amongst Israelis believe that, they say there is no doubt in their mind, ‘this was murder’”.
In coming full circle, CTV opened its report saying that the Palestinian terrorist’s attack was due to the “turf war over a holy site” which then gets fundamentally contradicted by your reporter’s speculation that what drove these individuals to slaughter 4 Jewish rabbis and an Israeli police officer, and injure about a half dozen others, was the hanging of a Palestinian man. And this isn’t a case of conflicting narratives, as the driver, 32-year-old Youssef al-Ramouni, committed suicide by hanging himself in his bus. There is no evidence to suggest that a “murder” even occurred, a matter Israeli police have confirmed and which a Palestinian forensic examiner himself has agreed with. Palestinian claims that a “lynching” of this Palestinian driver had taken place are libellous.
Back to the main issue at hand. Did the conflict on the Temple Mount inspire the attackers to commit terror? Maybe, and maybe not. We and more importantly, CTV News, does not know at this point. As well, did the hanging (suicide) of the Palestinian driver play a role in inciting them to commit their attack? Maybe, and maybe not. Again, we don’t know. You can come up with dozens of theories and it may just simply boil down to a simple turf war over Israel’s and more importantly, the Jewish people’s very existence being incompatible in the minds of these deranged Palestinian cousins.
While we appreciate that this CTV report outright referred to this “savage” attack as “terror”, and as a “murderous rampage during prayers”, we believe that CTV News should address the shortcomings of this report.
We look forward to your reply.
November 25, 2014
Dear Mr. Fegelman:
We have received your complaint regarding our broadcast on the November 18th, 2014 edition of CTV News with Lisa LaFlamme. You outlined what you and your organization perceive as “shortcomings” in CTV’s reporting on the attack at the Jerusalem synagogue that left five dead, not including the two attackers. We respectfully disagree with this viewpoint.
We can agree the report in question covered a horrifying and terrible event in which Israelis worshipping in the sanctity of a house of God were brutally and savagely attacked and killed in a most shocking and frightening manner. The incident so grisly and disturbing most of our viewers would ask “how could this happen?” That’s what our report set out to tell our viewers.
Since most of them don’t follow each development in the Middle East with the same intensity as those Canadians with a familial, cultural or religious connection to the region, we generally need to introduce reports to complex stories by providing some context. So the introductory sentence “The turf war over one holy site in the Middle East turned another into a target today….” was a statement of fact about an earlier development and one of the reasons cited for the tragic killing. Further information and detail about the horrific incident followed in the report.
While you suggest that CTV News is not attributing this idea in the report, we would argue that is not the case. As you yourself indicate, CTV’s report includes attribution from the father of one of the attackers. This father told CTV “when youths see this, they react”. “See this” was a reference to a perception by some Palestinians, that the status quo access to Al Aqsa Mosque was under threat. Our reporter on the story spoke with some other Palestinians who voiced the same sentiment. While all those voices didn’t appear in the item due to time constraints, we were comfortable in presenting this idea as part of the context for the synagogue attack. Accordingly, CTV indicated in the report that the attackers were “said to have been motivated by what they saw as Israeli encroachments on Jerusalem’s holiest site.”
As for the talkback and what you suggest is a contradiction to “the turf war” explanation, we disagree. The recent hanging death of a Palestinian bus driver, was another incident that was causing much anger among the Palestinians and represented what our reporter was hearing on the ground in the region. The CTV reporter was suggesting that the death of the Palestinian bus driver appears to be the trip wire that allowed the two cousins to convert their anger over mosque access into a hate-fuelled killing spree.
“Well there’s one incident that has caused a lot of anger, and that is what happened to one Palestinian man, a driver who was found hanging in his vehicle. Now Israeli officials who conducted the autopsy say there is no doubt here this was suicide. But few if any on the Palestinian side, even amongst Israelis believe that. They say there’s no doubt in their mind, this was murder.”
While we can never be one hundred per cent sure about the motivation that drives people to do unconscionable acts, we at CTV News relied on information we were provided with from both Israelis and Palestinians.
While we regret that you were not satisfied with our reporting, we believe that our report about this “brutal act of terror carried out by two Palestinians against defenseless victims inside a Jerusalem synagogue” was fair and accurate and in accord with the various codes and guidelines administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. CTV is a member in good standing of the CBSC and complies with its guidelines.
Executive Producer, CTV National News
cc: Canadian Broadcast Standards Council