Golden Dawn party

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

The complainant thought a story about the Greek Golden Dawn party setting up in Montreal was biased and unfair. The review finds the representation of the party and its beliefs was fair and adequately represented. The complaint was unfounded.

On November 12, 2012, The National aired a piece presented by reporter Ioanna Roumeliotis about an ultra-nationalist Greek political party which had established a presence in Canada. The party, the Golden Dawn, (Chrysi Avgi in Greek), advocates the forcible removal of immigrants from the country and has aligned itself with neo-Nazi parties elsewhere in Europe. The piece referenced the ongoing economic difficulty in Greece, and the fact that Greece is the entry point into Europe for a large number of asylum seekers and refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

You [Dan Murray] felt the piece did not link Greece’s economic problems to immigration. You wrote: “Unbelievably, the big Greek issue that this CBC broadcast made no connection to is the dire economic condition that Greece has faced for several years. Anyone with any common sense can see that the last thing that Greece needs is to be compelled to take care of economic migrants.” Underlying it all, you felt the piece was biased and had a broader message: “The stated purpose of this segment”, you asserted, “is to make Canadians aware that a quasi-Nazi party has formed in Greece, that it is persecuting illegal immigrants in Greece, and that it has a branch in Canada. The CBC’s real purpose is to denounce as quasi-Nazis all those who advocate controls on immigration to Canada, Greece or any other country.” You felt the fact that Peter Mansbridge introduced the piece by saying that “in their despair and anger, some Greeks are blaming foreigners for their problems, giving rise to racist violence and a neo-Nazi political party called Golden Dawn which now has an office here in Canada” was evidence of name calling and bias.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Mark Harrison, the executive producer of The National, responded by pointing out that the piece did in fact give the context of the serious economic challenges Greece has been facing. He said it also stated that the party’s popularity has grown since the economic crisis developed. In the body of the piece, he said, the reporter also pointed out that “Greece is struggling to stem a flood of illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle East who use the country as a gateway to the European Union.” He pointed out that the party’s deputy leader in Montreal explained the point of view of his party.

CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices demand balance, fairness and impartiality. What is meant by those terms is spelled out.

Fairness
In our information gathering and reporting, we treat individuals and organizations with openness and respect. We are mindful of their rights. We treat them even-handedly.

Balance
We contribute to informed debate on issues that matter to Canadians by reflecting a diversity of opinion. Our content on all platforms presents a wide range of subject matter and views.

On issues of controversy, we ensure that divergent views are reflected respectfully, taking into account their relevance to the debate and how widely held these views are. We also ensure that they are represented over a reasonable period of time.

Impartiality
We provide professional judgment based on facts and expertise. We do not promote any particular point of view on matters of public debate.

It is reasonably clear what this means: the goal of the work is to present facts and views so that Canadians can make up their own minds. But as noted in “Impartiality,” journalists provide “professional judgment based on facts and expertise.” Journalists at CBC are expected to provide context and to make inferences based on research and experience. So far from it being “name calling”, when Peter Mansbridge refers to racist violence and a neo-Nazi political party when referring to the Golden Dawn party, these are not arbitrary or loosely used words. It is based on facts and documentation. This is after all, a party that has adopted Nazi party imagery, and calls for an “ethnically pure nation.” It is entirely appropriate. And when he further says that some are blaming foreigners, that is also based on the facts.

In terms of balance, the spokesman of the party clearly spells out his position. He does not cite the economic strain of immigration on his country, which you see as critical. He goes in another direction: “We are losing our heritage, our history, our religion, with all these people they allow to come to our country with no permission….Over 3 million illegal immigrants, that they are not even Christians. And that sounds racist again, hey but don’t forget Greece is the Vatican of the Christian Orthodox and as Greeks we have all the rights to defend our religion and our national rights.”

I understand you felt the piece should have examined the impact and true cost of this illegal immigration. The focus of this piece was the presence of Golden Dawn in Canada. But even in this context there was mention of the six years of recession, the slashed budgets and the political turmoil Greeks are facing. I am no economist, but in the reading I have done, after the global recession of 2008, structural problems in the Greek economy and a crisis of public finances led to the dismal economic situation. The flow of illegal immigration has presented challenges, but the economic crisis has other causes. That the economic crisis has contributed to the success of Golden Dawn is also a reasonable point made in the piece. The party has been around since the eighties, but only achieved electoral success in 2012.

In terms of accuracy, your assertion that the piece made no link to the “dire economic condition” is not true. It did so in the introduction and in the piece.

And finally, after repeated readings of a transcript of the report, I find no basis to assert that somehow there is a hidden message about all those who question immigration policy. It narrowly focuses on one organization and the circumstances in one country. I can find no basis for that claim, nor any violation of CBC policy.

Esther Enkin CBC Ombudsman