Complaints to media outlets

KESHEV to Channel 10:

Coverage of violence in SILWAN clearly violets basic journalism ethics

October 2010

 

An item by Shir Sagi, broadcast on October 18, 2010, on the main news edition of Channel 10, showed serious inconsistencies between the film evidence and how it was interpreted: Leftist activists and Palestinian residents of Silwan were depicted as responsible for the violence, while settlers and security forces were depicted as victims.

* Keshev has also referred this matter to Giora Rosen, the ombudsman of the Second Authority for Television and Radio.

Reudor Benziman, Director-General

Channel 10 News

Re: Item on Silwan on Channel 10 News on October 18, 2010

Dear Sir,

I wish to bring to your attention that this item, dealing with recent violent events in Silwan, in East Jerusalem, exhibits severe flaws that violate the values of professional journalism and acceptable journalism ethics.

The item was based on two pieces of footage that were filmed during clashes in Silwan on that day, which were turned over to reporter Shir Sagi. In one of the films, policemen from the Border Guard are seen joining settlers in throwing rocks at the neighborhood's Palestinian residents. In the second film, leftist activist Dr. Amiel Vardi is shown conversing with a Palestinian child.

The participation of Border Guard policemen, alongside settlers, in throwing stone at Palestinians, is a serious incident, from public, criminal and journalistic points of view, and the item's headline indeed reflected the news value of this footage: THE TABLES HAVE TURNED IN SILWAN – THE BORDER GUARD THROWS STONES.

But from this point forward the item led viewers in another direction.

Sagi opened her report with video footage in which Dr. Amiel Vardi is seen conversing with a Palestinian child in Silwan. The reporter's voiceover explains:

Silwan, yesterday. In this picture, Dr. Amiel Vardi, chair of the Classics department at the Hebrew University and a known leftist activist, is shown conversing with an Arab boy, a resident of Silwan. According to those who filmed this clip, the child holds a rock in his hand. Vardi goads him onto the warpath. Here is Vardi, apparently dispatching the boy, who looks at him with concern, and Vardi dismisses him with a hand motion.

The approach taken in this item is outrageous: There is no evidence about the contents of the conversation between the two and there is no evidence that the boy holds a rock in his hand. The intense discrepancy between the pictures and the claim that Dr. Vardi is goading the boy onto the warpath simply cries out to heaven. Even if the reporter notes that this was a claim by those who filmed the footage, her use of the word "apparently" is an insufficient hedge. Sagi does not bother identifying those who filmed the footage (most likely, settlers in the neighborhood).

The item turns to the most serious episode only in its second part, which shows Border Guard policemen joining in with settlers, firing and throwing stones at Palestinians from within Beit Meyuchas. But, unbelievably, the reporter frames the events transpiring on screen with a voiceover which, on the one hand, blames leftist activists and Palestinian residents for committing provocations, and on the other hand, explains the severe conduct of the soldiers and settlers as no more than a response to their aggression:

And these are other leftist activists under whose protection and with whose encouragement Arab children are throwing stones at Beit Meyuchas, where Jews live. On the other side, from within the house, the Jews fight back. The Border Guard fighters surrender to the pressure and join the party, by shooting and by throwing stones.

Toward the end, the reporter summarizes the problem by pointing a finger of blame at the Palestinian residents and leftist activists, shown on screen, about whom she determines: "The adults, instead of maintaining order, only inflame the children".

Though Dr. Vardi's response – a denial of the charges made against him in the report – was presented at the end of the item, the item leaves a clear impression on viewers: In Silwan, Palestinian residents are attacking Jewish settlers with the encouragement of leftist activists, while the Jewish settlers, under attack, fight back, with help from Border Guard policemen who give in to the pressure.

I believe that this item demonstrates serious failings and violates the most basic professional values known to journalists around the world as well as the basic ethics of the profession with respect to fairness, adherence to the truth, avoiding deception and slander, fact checking and separating opinion from facts.

Precisely at this time, when attacks on human rights activists are increasing and civic protest is regarded by many as treason, Channel 10 should exercise greater caution and show more professionalism in describing the complex and combustible reality that exists in our region.

I therefore request that in an upcoming edition of the main news broadcast you air an appropriate and prominent correction that will rectify the journalistic failings of this broadcast item and will register disagreement with how the news information was presented.

Sincerely Yours

Yizhar Be'er,

Executive Director

cc: Asaf Zohar, editor

 

 


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