Ombudsman Rebukes CBC Radio-Canada’s Mideast Reporting

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This article is republished courtesy of HonestReporting Canada. We are proud to share this success of our Canadian affiliate with our readership. 

In a pointed rebuke of Canadian public broadcaster CBC Radio-Canada and its Mideast correspondent Ginette Lamarche’s recent reporting on Israel, Radio-Canada’s Ombudsman, Pierre Tourangeau, this week upheld a series of five complaints filed by HonestReporting Canada about the network’s Mideast coverage.

Ginnette Lamarche

In the Ombudsman’s 12-page review of reports that aired between December 19- 23, 2011, Tourangeau concluded that Lamarche’s reports violated Radio-Canada’s standards for balance, impartiality and accuracy (one of these reports was corrected by Radio-Canada prior to the Ombudsman’s review). Significantly, Tourangeau found a lack of “diversity of opinion” as required for news coverage of controversial subjects, use of unverified facts and failure to challenge claims which led to “at least an appearance of bias”. Tourangeau recommended, given the scope of the review, that the management of Radio-Canada engage in substantive discussions over its methodology.

HonestReporting Canada objected to a December 19 radio report where journalist Lamarche interviewed two recently released Palestinian youths, one of whom claimed to have spent three years in jail for throwing stones. In this report, Lamarche reported that “many Palestinians spend a good part of their youth in jail for participating in a demonstration or throwing stones” without corroborating this information with a credible source. HRC obtained the list of released Palestinian prisoners which revealed that no ‘youths’ (Palestinians under 24 years of age) had been incarcerated for three years solely for throwing stones. Rather, convicted stone throwers were incarcerated for an average of seven months, the longest sentence consisting of 15 months. HRC asserted that this did not constitute “a good part of one’s youth”.  HRC also objected to the suggestion that the act of participating in peaceful demonstrations leads to incarceration. The Ombudsman concluded that this report was inaccurate as the journalist should have corroborated the length of stay in prison with official sources, brought an Israeli perspective into the story, and attributed the claims to the interviewees.

HRC also objected to a December 20 radio report about the arrests of Palestinians following the Shalit exchange. In this report, the narrator declared: “Since the exchange of prisoners following the release of Gilad Shalit in October, Israel imprisoned practically the same number of people it released”. HRC disputed this claim which was unverified by the reporter and has been denied by a spokesperson for the Israel Prison Authority. As well, HRC objected to Radio-Canada’s reliance on the statistics of Adameer (or Al-Dameer), a well-known pro-Palestinian NGO which has been accused of anti-Israel demonization. The Ombudsman agreed that this report breached Radio-Canada’s guidelines for accuracy as the statement was not attributed to Adameer, that this reporter did not properly describe this group as an NGO, a pro-Palestinian group or a Palestinian organization and, in reporting that Adameer “condemns the brutal and arbitrary arrests”, the reporter failed to attribute these statements to Adameer, instead leading the listener to assume these statements were necessarily correct.

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