Gaza flotilla incident

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

The review follows a complaint that a CBC.ca report November 14, 2011 was unfair in describing events aboard a Canadian-owned ship that was part of a flotilla heading for the Gaza. There was no violation of journalistic policy.

On November 5, 2011, CBC News carried several stories across its platforms involving allegations by protest organizers that Canadian activists were beaten by Israeli troops aboard the Tahrir, a Canadian-owned vessel trying to breach the naval blockade of Gaza.

One was from CBC.ca. The headline read: “Israel ‘roughed up' flotilla activists, Canadian group says.” It said that activists aboard the Tahrir were beaten by Israeli troops who had intercepted the vessel, according to protest organizers in Ottawa and Montreal. It noted that Israel disagreed with organizers.

A spokesman for the group, Dylan Penner, said a Canadian consulate official in Tel Aviv had told his group that people were being held and some had been beaten when they refused to voluntarily leave the ship. He called for their immediate release.

The story provided background on the Tahrir's earlier failed attempt in 2011 that ended with the ship being towed to an Israeli port and on the 2010 flotilla that ended with nine Turkish activists killed.

It said Israeli officials said action was taken when the vessels ignored repeated calls to turn around and that the ships were intercepted peacefully.

Penner was quoted as saying he had been told otherwise.

Among other things, the report also said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada was watching the situation carefully and encouraged those wishing to deliver aid to do so through “established channels.”

The complainant, Jack Chivo, wrote November 14 and said the activists' allegations were reported without any proof of their claims. The source of the material at the consulate was not identified, he noted. The result besmirched Israel's reputation with biased journalism, he said, arguing that CBC stood out in reporting this story alone.

Esther Enkin, the executive editor of CBC News, wrote back December 28. “When our reporters do not witness the events they tell us about, but hear about them from others, we expect that they will attribute that information. That way readers know the source of the information and can make their own judgment about its reliability.”

Enkin noted the conflicting versions of events were carried in the report.

Chivo wrote February 22, 2012 to request a review of the dispute.

CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices require even-handed, respectful handling of divergent views on matters of controversy and a range of perspectives over a reasonable period of time.

Conclusion

The account was balanced and fair, gave voice to different versions of events, attributed the sources of information properly to ensure accountability, and left the reader to judge.

While it would have helped to know the particular consulate official who provided the group with the information, I note that neither other media sources nor the consulate itself subsequently disputed the group's attributed account.

There was no violation of CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Kirk LaPointe
CBC Ombudsman