CBC Ombudsman: Deadline vs. Duty—Taking the time to get all sides of the story
The complainant objected to a cbcnews.ca story about a Toronto-area teacher being investigated for part of an address she made at an Al Quds rally.
By Esther Enkin for the CBC
The complainant, Annette Lengyel, objected to a cbcnews.ca story about a Toronto-area teacher being investigated for part of an address she made at an Al Quds rally. She thought CBC News was repeating a smear campaign and had falsely associated her with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She thought CBC news had no business basing the story on a B’nai Brith news release about the complaint to the teacher’s school board. A teacher being investigated for public statements is a legitimate story in the public interest. I found that there was no merit to the accusation that the story condemned her. I did find that there was not sufficient effort to present her position, given the stakes.
You contacted CBC News directly to express your concerns about an article published July 13, 2016 on the CBCnews.ca site. The article concerned an investigation that had started into the activities of a teacher for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board in Mississauga, Ontario. The teacher, Nadia Shoufani, had been a speaker at an Al-Quds rally held in Toronto earlier in the month, and the Board was investigating her based on some of her remarks at that event. One of your concerns was the source of the complaint, and the impetus for CBC News to cover the story. B’nai Brith Canada had put out a news release which led CBC to publish a news article about it. You thought the CBC story misrepresented what she had to say, merely repeated the accusations of the B’nai Brith news release, and that should have been made clear in the article:
Ms. Shoufani was a speaker at an annual public event that bears witness to long standing injustices, and was not acting in her capacity as a school teacher. Thus the nature of the attack against her–to go after her job by accusing her of being connected to terrorism–struck me as hateful and Islamophobic in the extreme, and the fact that the CBC was presenting a one-sided, uncontextualized story by repeating accusations against her by lobbyists for a foreign government who want to see her punished was shocking.
You also said that the article made it appear that Ms. Shoufani had “glorified terrorism” and had supported the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group the Canadian government has deemed a terrorist organization. You said that reading the article left the impression that Ms. Shoufani highlighted the PFLP, and this misrepresented the facts:
The teacher did not once talk about the PFLP in her speech, yet based on the inferences you make in your article, the reader would think that’s all she talked about! This paragraph is very problematic and contains factual errors:
Nadia Shoufani, a teacher at St. Catherine of Siena Separate School in Mississauga, called Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian writer killed in 1972, a “martyr,” and criticized the detention of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a Lebanese militant imprisoned in France for killing two U.S. and Israeli officials.
Both are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
“Palestine will be liberated. Glory to the martyrs,” she said to a crowd at the International Al-Quds Day rally on July 2 behind Queen’s Park in Toronto. “We have the right to fight back. We have the right to resist,” she said.
You pointed out that “all Palestinians killed by Israelis are considered martyrs, and this is a fact that should have been provided, along with the information that “the Israelis have murdered thousands of Palestinian civilians”:
It was the misrepresentation of what Ms. Shoufani said, along with a lack of context that made this article so unfair, unbalanced and a smear campaign against an individual who was exercising her free speech rights.
The CBC has acted shamefully in indulging in clear bias, failing to tell the real story in a balanced way, alleging that somehow this teacher is connected to an “extremist group” by echoing those that accuse her, and joining this pack of wolves in attacking her. I would say that the teacher would have a case against the CBC for this unprofessional behaviour.
Continue reading this on the CBC website, where it was first published.