NPR’s Self-Examination

According to National Public Radio’s statement of principles: “Our coverage must be fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest. At NPR we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our independence and fairness.”

This is not always the case concerning NPR’s coverage of Israel and the Mideast. Commendably, however, NPR allows for independent quarterly critiques. Amongst some of the latest observations and criticisms is the issue of reporting Palestinian casualty figures from Operation Cast Lead:

Rob Gifford’s piece for ATC on December 15 reported on a threat by British authorities to arrest former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. It failed to attribute Palestinian casualty figures during the Israeli-Gaza war. Gifford said “more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the offensive, 13 Israelis lost their lives.” There is no question about the Israeli casualties. But Palestinian and Israeli sources dispute the number of Palestinians who died (as well as how many were civilians).

The Hamas government in Gaza and most Palestinian groups appear to have agreed on a figure of about 1,400 Palestinian deaths (most of them civilians). But Israel stands by its post-war assertion that 1,166 Palestinians died (most of them “terrorists.”) War-time casualty counts should always be attributed. This is especially true when the figures are in dispute and cannot be independently verified.

Granted, there may be much to disagree with the overall conclusions that NPR’s Mideast coverage is balanced and fair. But contrast this with another public service broadcaster, the BBC, which also claims to be objective and impartial.

The BBC’s independent survey of its Mideast coverage, carried out by Malcolm Balen and believed to contain damning evidence of bias, has been hidden at great expense by the BBC to this very day.

Unlike the BBC, we hope that NPR will take note of the criticisms and strive to improve its output.

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