Thursday, March 06, 2008


Last week I followed up on a story about an AM report from David Hardaker on claims by Palestinian drug workers that a major reason for the increase in use by Palestinians is that Israeli authorities are turning a blind eye to the trafficking of drugs. It was alleged in the report an effort was being made to destroy the fabric of Palestinian life and this involved a plot to force Arabs to sell their land Jews as part of a fantastic conspiracy theory. A listener lodged a complaint and, after being jerked around for a time remarkably close to the mandatory time limit for a response, he received an apology of sorts from the ABC's internal watchdog. The response was set out in this article from Israellycool and it revealed inaccuracies had taken place in the broadcast which breached the standards outlined in the ABC's Code of Practice and Editorial Policies (despite earlier claims that a 90-page document coming from the Palestinian equivalent of the Bureau of Statistics supported the claims made in the report).

Among the points made were the following:-

3. You raise concerns that no facts were provided to support the statement from Hosni Shahin that “Some of them try to sell their houses to the Jews in their own city”. Please note that the reporter has advised ACA that the transcription is not accurate, it should read: “Some of them try to sell their houses to the Jews in the old city”. For the purposes of review against our editorial guidelines, I should explain that this statement is not considered factual content; it is an opinion or view put forward by an interviewee. Opinions put forward by story participants are not required to be factually accurate, or be supported by factual content.

Rather, as outlined in 3.5 of the Code, ABC editorial standards require the presentation of principal relevant viewpoints on matters of importance. ACA is satisfied that the views of Hosni Shahin were relevant for inclusion in the story and do not, in themselves, constitute a breach of ABC editorial guidelines. However, as acknowledged, the inclusion of such views requires a clear counter to the claims made, and the omission of a substantive Israeli viewpoint constitutes a breach of the Code.


5. As stated above, ACA is satisfied that the views of Hosni Shahin were relevant for inclusion in a report looking at drug use in the Palestinian community. The opinion expressed by Hosni Shahin that; ”… So the occupation, if he can keeps the youth calming down all thetime, the occupation will be, avoid a lot of problems, they will avoid it.” …” was given some context by the preceding statement by David Hardaker, who explained: “Israeli authorities have flatly denied using drugs as a tool of occupation. Drug workers on the ground can’t prove it, but they are convinced that the inaction of Israeli police is deliberate and that it’s aimed at pacifying angry young Palestinians.”.

However, as stated above, the inclusion of such allegations required that the Israeli position be explained more prominently in the report.

So in effect, reporters on the ABC can get away with more when they broadcast someone's opinion than if they were to state something as fact in the course of their reporting. What is suggested here is that Hardaker was let off the hook for broadcasting an opinion that suggests an evil purpose even if it's abundantly plain that there is no truth for the proposition made by the person giving the opinion.

But when the boot was on the other foot and the ABC lodged a complaint with the Australian Press Council in relation to the contents of an opinion column these were the key findings of Press Council adjudication 1257, located at (with thanks to correspondent Nathan)

Adjudication No. 1257 (adjudicated October 2004; re-issued December 2004)
The Press Council has upheld a complaint by an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) correspondent against the Sydney Daily Telegraph over a bylined opinion column dealing with the aftermath of the killing of an Australian-born 15-year-old girl by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. [Note that this complaint by the ABC is in relation to an OPINION column]
And the finding? The key portion is as follows (highlighing added)

However, the Akerman commentary went further and singled out Mr Palmer for criticism. In the Council's view material clearly labelled as opinion has a wider licence than, for example, news reports. However, this is not an unfettered licence and columnists are still bound by the ethical requirement that they not publish what they could reasonably know is false, nor fail to take reasonable steps to check the accuracy of what they report.

"Hypocrisy" is the only way to describe the ABC's conduct in handly this whole, very sorry story.

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