By Esther Enkin for the CBC
In a story about conflict at a Montreal community college, the complainant, David Murrell, noted that another media outlet identified the religion of one of the students alleged to be involved. The college has been associated with students accused of attempting to join Islamic State. He thought those details were critical and that CBC had deliberately left them out. I found that in the context of this story, it was not critical or in line with a policy to avoid ethnicity or religion unless essential to the story.
You were concerned about an article posted on the CBC Montreal news site on February 19, 2016. The article, entitled “College de Maisonneuve teachers’ union wants action over alleged library threats”, is about the request made by the teachers’ union that management deal with students who were alleged to have been abusive to library staff. You believe that the CBC reporters and editors responsible for the story “censored key facts.” You added that the story was deliberately sanitized and left out some critical information which had appeared in an article in La Presse, a French language daily in Montreal.
You cited information from the La Presse piece you thought should have been included in the CBC News piece:
— that five Maisonneuve college students were stopped at the Montreal airport, and arrested, for attempting to join the Islamic State;
— that one of the Muslim students arrested was involved with the recent fight mentioned in the CBC article, and that the fight was between Muslim and non-Muslim students;
— that it was Muslim students which have taken over a floor in the library and who are harassing library staff.
You thought the absence of this information “deliberately refused to answer” who was involved and why it was happening. You cited the critical five “Ws” essential for good journalism. You concluded:
In fact, one would think that the CBC took the morning La Presse story, hastily rewrote it and published it at 2 pm, and purged the Muslim involvement for propaganda purposes.
The Managing Director for CBC Quebec, Helen Evans, replied to your concerns. She explained that CBC staff prepared the story based on information provided by a spokesperson of the College’s administration and the president of the teachers’ union. She acknowledged that the story detailed the threats, but did not identify the students who were involved. She explained to you why that was the case: