Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,
What happens when a movie crew drops into a conflict zone for three years and produces an 80-minute, narrowly-focused documentary lacking context or narration?
The CBC occupies a unique position of trust. Not only is it the most substantial and broadly-based broadcast journalism organization in Canada, it is funded, through Parliament, by the people of Canada. The CBC therefore considers it a duty to provide consistent, high-quality information upon which all citizens may rely.
These standards were not in evidence, however, on November 20, when CBC Newsworld presented the film "CHECKPOINT" on the documentary program "The Passionate Eye." Shot between 2001 and 2003 by Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir, Checkpoint shows poignant and disturbing images of Israelis with weapons controlling the movements of unarmed Palestinians. Without context or narration, the film leaves viewers to draw their own conclusions: Are checkpoint restrictions prompted by legitimate security concerns, the arbitrary whim of individual soldiers, or the cruelty of a military bent on inflicting misery and humiliation?
A Movie in a Vacuum
The story of Israel’s security checkpoints is one of competing narratives. The Israeli consensus holds that checkpoints are a necessary and effective tool to impede terrorists’ movement and prevent their infiltration into Israel. The Palestinian position is that checkpoints are designed to humiliate and oppress Palestinians.
Filmmaker Yoav Shamir, who described the movie as "my part in the struggle against the injustices of occupation," steered away from the political and historical context in which the checkpoints exist. The resulting film is a narrowly focused documentary that conveys the Palestinian narrative while ignoring the existence of other perspectives. The film never touches upon the terror attacks that lead to the checkpoints, never explores the intelligence warnings that lead to their closure, and never reveals their effectiveness in preventing terror attacks.
The Truth about Checkpoints
While the movie was being filmed between 2001 and 2003, over 800 Israelis were killed and nearly 5,000 were wounded in terror attacks, including more than 100 suicide attacks (see statistics)
Security forces regularly stop suicide bombers and weapons smugglers at checkpoints; in the past two months alone, 14 Palestinian minors were stopped while attempting to detonate or smuggle weapons or explosives through checkpoints
While the movie implies that women and children do not engage in terror, women carry out suicide bombings and mentally handicapped children have been exploited for that purpose
Many checkpoint encounters are entirely mundane, as these pictures snapped by an Israeli reserve soldier show.
CBC: Responsible Journalism?
As a public broadcasting agency accountable to the Parliament and people of Canada, did the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation meet its obligation to be "fair, accurate, thorough, comprehensive and balanced"?
Section III of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices states:
5. – BALANCE: There are two sources of balance and fairness in information programming, one provided by the journalist and the other provided by the CBC as a journalistic organization… The CBC, as a journalistic organization, must ensure that its programming is fair and balanced. Program balance should be achieved, where appropriate, within a single program or otherwise within an identifiable series of programs.
5.1 – SINGLE PROGRAM: Single programs dealing with a major controversial issue should give adequate recognition to the range of opinion on the subject. Fairness must be the guiding principle in presentation, so that the audience is enabled to make a judgment on the matter in question based on the facts.
Yet CBC did not provide the context that would enable viewers to understand the checkpoints. CBC’s introductory voice-over and closing note failed to mention the deadly violence that brought about the checkpoints. And CBC’s online description of the film — 317 words long — never informed viewers that the checkpoints were intended to stop suicide bombings. Instead, it spoke of Israelis’ “almost unlimited position of power” and “the corruption of the conqueror brought about by extended occupation.”
Letters to CBC: firstname.lastname@example.org
With thanks to our affiliate, HonestReporting Canada for producing this communique.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.