Israeli field hospital in Haiti

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

Lack of coverage of the Israeli field hospital in Haiti

Sixty-eight people wrote to complain about the lack of coverage of the arrival and deployment of an Israeli emergency medical facility subsequent to the earthquake in Haiti in January, 2010. They felt that this lack of major coverage was a result of bias against Israel. Some complained that mention had been made of fundraising in Gaza in broadcasts that made brief mention of the Israeli facility.

Esther Enkin, the Executive Editor of CBC News, responded, saying that, in fact, the Israeli facility had been mentioned on some CBC newscasts, but that the attention of the journalists on the scene had been focused on the immediate effects on the Haitian population and the Canadian response.

A number of people asked for a review.


In a situation such as the Haitian earthquake, it is often difficult to parse exactly what is significant and how limited resources are to be deployed.

Several correspondents mentioned that the Israeli facility had been covered by other organizations, such as CNN and the BBC. While that is worth noting, it should also be remembered that these organizations have resources exponentially larger than CBC News.

In the case of the earthquake, appropriate note had to be made of the foreign assistance pouring into the country, but it is understandable that a relatively small organization like the CBC would concentrate its resources on telling the story from the Canadian perspective.

Frankly, it is somewhat disturbing to see that some are moved to insert international political agendas into a situation in which thousands of people lost their lives and a country was destroyed. I cannot conceive that that was in the minds of the IDF or its medical team in deploying so quickly to Haiti.

I also note that the language of many (but not all) of the notes to me was quite similar, suggesting a stimulated campaign from an individual or organization with an agenda unrelated to the relief of the people of Haiti. While many correspondents tried to paint Israel as a small country whose contribution was extraordinary, the reality is that Israel is a vibrant, healthy and increasingly wealthy and technologically advanced country. Its stunning success while surrounded by hostile neighbors is one of its glories.

Certainly, its contribution to relief should be noted in an appropriate way, but I cannot find that journalistic policy mandates that a feature must be done because a British or American service did one. Nor does the absence connote some underlying bias.

From a review of the sweep of coverage of the earthquake and its aftermath, it appears that CBC News provided, within context, appropriate coverage of the events from a Canadian perspective.

Conclusion

While one is free to disagree with CBC's news priorities, the coverage given the various aspects of the Haiti disaster did not violate CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman