Israeli blockade

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

Report by Nahlah Ayed about Israel allowing some previously banned items into Gaza

You wrote initially in June, 2010, to complain about an item done by Nahlah Ayed and aired on The National. The report said that Israel was thinking about some changes to the blockade it has been imposing on shipments to Gaza. It said that some items previously banned, such as potato chips and pop, might be allowed in.

You said that the report “said nothing about the fact that Israel has allowed food and any necessary items to sustain life for the people in Gaza, and offered this alternative to the recent ships, or that Egypt is also a sponsor of the blockade…” You noted that the report showed a clip of “Israeli soldiers sliding down ropes onto the ONE ship (the Mavi Marmara) where they were attacked by ‘peace activists' who happened to be armed with knives and metal bars. No, that information and information about the terrorist group sponsoring the ship and their terrorist history wasn't mentioned. It never is mentioned. I wonder why that is?”

You went on to mention your view of the “history” about Middle Eastern refugees, saying that “Ms. Ayed has her own agenda in her reporting…”

A week later you wrote to say that a report, also by Ms. Ayed, was “much more balanced” and that “I would like to think that perhaps my first letter to you resulted in this turnaround in style of reporting of Ms. Ayed.”

Mark Harrison, the Executive Producer of The National, responded. He pointed out that the item was not about the blockade generally, or even those items prohibited, but very specifically about an Israeli initiative to lift restrictions on certain snack foods; a move quickly rejected by Hamas. He noted that Ms. Ayed quoted the Israeli foreign minister as saying that the blockade would stay in place, at a minimum, until a Red Cross representative can see captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

He also took issue with your suggestion that ships could dock at Ashdod and have their supplies transshipped to Gaza. He said that, of course, only goods not on the banned list would be shipped.

You asked for a review.


CBC journalism must reflect some established journalistic principles:

Accuracy
The information conforms with reality and is not in any way misleading or false. This demands not only careful and thorough research but a disciplined use of language and production techniques, including visuals.

Integrity
The information is truthful, not distorted to justify a conclusion. Broadcasters do not take advantage of their power to present a personal bias.

Fairness
T he information reports or reflects equitably the relevant facts and significant points of view; it deals fairly and ethically with persons, institutions, issues and events.

Application of these principles will achieve the optimum objectivity and balance that must characterize the CBC's information programs.

Of course crucial to the notion of fairness is the concept of balance, which means the equitable exposition of various points of view. However, this does not mean that all relevant points of view are covered in any single item on a continuing news program such as The National.

It must be presumed that the audience brings some basic knowledge to any evening's edition of the program and therefore it is not incumbent on the producers to repeat all information that might be applicable to the topic.

In this instance, the story was clearly about the reaction to the proposal made that day by the Israeli government. Commentators, both Israeli and non-Israeli, linked the proposal to the various reactions around the world to the storming of the Mavi Marmara and the subsequent deaths of 9 people. It was not about the history of refugees in the Middle East or about the events surrounding the creation of the State of Israel.

It should be noted that CBC Television and CBC Radio, not to mention CBCNews.ca, carried extensive coverage of the Mavi Marmara situation with statements and reaction from official spokesmen in Israel as well as commentators elsewhere. You may choose to believe that the sponsors of the ships were “terrorists”; however, I trust you realize that not everyone shares that view.

The other issues that you mention have been discussed in various ways on various programs over the years. No single item can be made to carry the burden of recounting the history of the Middle East.

I have had occasion to review extensively Ms. Ayed's work over the last few years. I have to say that I found no evidence to support your imputation of private motives in her reporting. Her work has been fair and balanced within the demands of story length and deadline.

Conclusion

The specific item complained of was well within the bounds of CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices and it is well outside the bounds of fairness to impute personal motives to Ms. Ayed's work.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman