The Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, Mike Fegelman, complained that CBC reported the shelling of the Gaza power plant by Israeli forces as a proven fact. He pointed to Israeli military statements denying responsibility. One online story was edited to reflect that fact, but another one, published some time later, was not. The inconsistency is not acceptable.

 By Esther Enkin, CBC ombudsman

The Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, Mike Fegelman, complained that CBC reported the shelling of the Gaza power plant by Israeli forces as a proven fact. He pointed to Israeli military statements denying responsibility. One online story was edited to reflect that fact, but another one, published some time later, was not. The inconsistency is not acceptable.

COMPLAINT

In your role as Executive Director of Honest Reporting, you wrote to complain about a story originally published July 29, 2014, about the bombing of the sole power plant in Gaza. The story was headlined: “Gaza conflict: Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule as UN finds rockets in school”. The sub-headline was “Gaza’s only power plant shut down by shelling, residents brace for prolonged power outage.”

You were concerned that this implied Israel was responsible for the shelling of the plant, even though an Israeli military spokesman said that Israel had not hit the plant deliberately but it may have happened by accident. You provided part of an article from The Times of Israel reporting on the Israeli denial, and pointed out that on the July 29 edition of CBC News Network’s Power and Politics, another Israeli spokesperson denied Israeli targeting of the power plant.


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You wrote again on August 6 because of a brief reference to the attempts to repair Gaza’s sole power plant, “badly damaged by an Israeli attack.” The reference was in a much longer article about the ongoing attempts at reaching a ceasefire. You asked that this article be corrected to reflect the Israeli position as well.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Bob Campbell, a senior manager with CBC News, acknowledged your concern the same day he received your email and told you he would look into the article. As a result, the article was amended to reflect the Israeli position on the shelling of the power plant. It quoted from an interview with Yigal Palmor, a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Power and Politics.

When you wrote again to ask that the story on August 6 also be amended to reflect the Israeli position, he replied that the news team did review the article but they were “not planning to include the Israeli denial in this story.” He explained that the shelling and the denial were fresh a week ago, but that the story had developed further:

Yesterday's AP/CP story is about the negotiations and the aftermath of the fighting. The power plant reference is included in a couple of sentences at the end about power shortages. At this point that Israeli tank shells hit the plant (perhaps inadvertently) has been widely reported including in the Israeli media.

He indicated that when the results of the Israeli Defence Force investigation are made public, CBC News will report the findings.

REVIEW

CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices demands that CBC reporting be accurate and balanced. In a breaking news story, the facts and what is the complete story are not always apparent at the outset, and that is why stories are amended and rewritten over a period of time. In a war situation it is even more chaotic and difficult to get the facts. But CBC policy is clear about stating that “we will sometimes receive conflicting information from credible sources. We may choose to report this, making clear the circumstances of the situation and citing the sources while we work to reconcile the information in light of the reality on the ground.”

When the story was first published, in the early hours of July 29, the story quoted Palestinian officials stating that Israeli tank shells had shut down the territory’s only power station.

To continue reading this review, please go the CBC ombudsman's website where this was originally published.


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