The terms of Clause 1 (i) of the Code make clear that newspapers “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”, and the terms of Clause 1 (ii) state that “a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected promptly and with due prominence”.
In this instance, the Commission noted that the correction published had been a clarification of the newspaper’s earlier claim that Jerusalem was the Israeli capital. The Commission was mindful that while it is correct to say that Israel classes Jerusalem as her capital city, this is not recognised by many countries and those nations enjoying diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in Tel Aviv. As such, the Commission was of the view that the newspaper was entitled to refer to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. There was no breach of the Code in this instance.
This is astonishing and outrageous. Aside from a sovereign state’s right to determine its own capital, international convention maintains that a capital city is usually where a state’s central political institutions reside. The UK Foreign Office itself states:
Capital City: Israel maintains that Jerusalem is its capital city, a claim not recognised by the UK and the international community. The UK locates its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Unlike The Guardian and the PCC, it does not designate Tel Aviv as the capital.
Related content: BBC Sorry For Calling Jerusalem Israel’s Capital
We believe that this flawed ruling has the potential to further delegitimize Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, giving the British media a carte blanche to follow The Guardian’s lead. And furthermore, the PCC accepts no appeals or complaints on the substance of its rulings, effectively slamming the door in our face. HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams said in response:
64 years after the end of the British Mandate, it appears that imperialism is alive and well. This ruling is an absolute outrage. The PCC’s role is to maintain standards of media accuracy, not to make political and politicized rulings. That this has been released on Jerusalem Day adds insult to injury and is yet another example of how contaminated with anti-Israel bias, British officialdom has become.
Convention has it that the location of national legislatures, judiciaries and other formal institutions of state make a capital city. What mandate does the PCC, or Britain for that matter, have in deciding that the location of foreign embassies determines a host nation’s capital status?
We will continue to work behind the scenes to bring pressure to bear on this issue. This is certainly not the end of the matter as far as HonestReporting is concerned.
Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/playingwithpsp