Demonstrations near Israel-Gaza border

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

Report about two demonstrations near the border between Israel and Gaza

You wrote initially in September to complain about an item that appeared on The National on September 16, 2009. The item was a report by Margaret Evans describing two demonstrations that took place at approximately the same time near the border between Israel and Gaza. One group, Israelis, was trying to pass a care package into Gaza for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier being held by Hamas.

The other group, Palestinians, wanted packages delivered to some of the people being held in Israeli prisons.

You felt that the item drew “a completely false moral equivalence” between the two groups, and between Shalit and the prisoners in Israeli jails. You offered some information contrasting the conditions in which people are being held.

The Executive Producer of The National, Mark Harrison, responded, saying that the item was not about the conditions or the “equivalence” of the two situations, but about the simultaneous demonstrations. He said that “reporters must assume viewers bring with them some basic knowledge of continuing stories, like this one.”

You were not satisfied with his response and asked for a review.


I note that you do not appear to be finding fault with what was said in the report, but with what was not said. In your words, “the sole purpose of this story is to misrepresent the conditions in Israeli jails and to draw the false moral equivalence I originally objected to.”

It is unquestionably true that stories can be false or misleading even when the facts that are reported are reported accurately. This can happen when stories that are reported infrequently come to the fore at a certain point in time.

In this case, events in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and Gaza, have been reported extensively and continually. Margaret Evans, the reporter in this case, has filed hundreds of reports over the last several years covering virtually every aspect of the conflict.

From time to time I have received complaints that one particular story did not have sufficient background or analysis. In almost every case, the material at issue had either been reported previously, or was not pertinent to the issue at hand.

Ms. Evans's report concerned a single event happening that day. From my review of the item, it was accurately reported and drew no moral conclusions from the event. Before that event—and since—there has been further reporting and comment that has included reference to the crimes committed by some of those whose release is being demanded.

It would be virtually impossible to conduct normal journalistic operations if one were to believe that a viewer comes to an item about the Israel/Palestinian conflict with no background at all.

Conclusion

There was no violation of CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices. In fact, Ms. Evans continued her careful and nuanced reporting of events in the region.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman