Home Media Action Alerts2012 Quebec Press Council Ruling: Cyberpresse Headline Did Not Comply with Code of Ethics

Quebec Press Council Ruling: Cyberpresse Headline Did Not Comply with Code of Ethics

by Mike Fegelman

HonestReporting Canada brought a complaint to the Conseil de Presse, Quebec’s press council, regarding an August 10 article published by Cyberpresse (now LaPresse.ca) which wrongly presumed Israel guilty for a Gaza communications blackout. The Conseil de Presse upheld HRC’s complaint for bias concerning the article’s headline.

Quebec Press Council Ruling: Cyberpresse Headline Did Not Comply with Code of Ethics

By: Michelle Whiteman, Quebec Regional Director April 20, 2012

Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscribers,

Last August 23, HonestReporting Canada (HRC) brought a complaint to the Conseil de Presse, Quebec’s press council, regarding an August 10 article published by Cyberpresse (now LaPresse.ca). This article wrongly presumed Israel guilty for a Gaza communications blackout.

La Presse’s article began with a problematic headline titled “Gaza Strip Deprived of Internet due to Israeli Bulldozers,” which framed the news report in a way that led the reader to conclude that a power shortage in Gaza was due solely to Israeli bulldozers. In addition to the headline, an undated photograph of a bulldozer was appended to the article and an introductory paragraph stated: “One or more Israeli army bulldozers damaged a communications cable, causing mobile phone and internet networks to be cut throughout the Gaza Strip, said Palestinian officials Wednesday.” The addition of the photograph and introductory paragraph reinforced the narrative of Israeli malfeasance.

But Israeli authorities categorically denied responsibility for the power outage. This denial, however, could only be ascertained by reading the last line of the article. The rest of the article gave weight and prominence to Hamas, a recognized terror entity in Canada. The body of this La Presse article, which largely reprised an Agence France Presse newswire, emphasized Hamas’ version of events and minimized Israel’s denial of responsibility.

On March 23, the Conseil de Presse upheld HRC’s complaint regarding the headline of the article. The Conseil stated:

“(La Presse) only presented one version of the story and it was published without attribution or a qualifier. The title ‘Gaza Deprived of Internet Because of Israeli Bulldozers’ presented as fact that Israel is responsible for the loss of electricity, which the article goes on to deny. It therefore does not comply with the Conseil de Presse’s Code Of Ethics which must respect ‘the meaning, spirit et content of texts…’ The council therefore upholds the complaint for bias concerning the headline.

While HRC is appreciative of the Conseil de Presse’s ruling regarding the headline, we disagree with the Conseil de Presse’s conclusion that the article was otherwise balanced. The framing of a narrative to support one version of events, where this version is disputed, leads to distortion and sensationalism. With a subject as controversial as the Middle East, one would have expected more from Quebec’s major daily news source.

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Office:P.O. Box 6, Station Q Toronto, Ontario M4T 2L7

Phone: (416) 915-9157 E-mail: info@honestreporting.ca Web: www.honestreporting.ca

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