CBC Ombudsman: The Story of José – A Documentary Through One Person’s Eyes
The complainant, Henry Heller, objected to a radio documentary recounting the experience of a Venezuelan doctor who fled the country. He said it represented a particular political view of a particular class and lacked wider context. It was the personal experience of a particular person whose background is mentioned against the backdrop of the current situation in Venezuela. There was no violation of policy.
You objected to a documentary broadcast on “The Doc Project” on CBC Radio, about a Venezuelan doctor who had fled his country because he feared for his life. You said it was “incredibly one-sided and decontextualized reporting.”
Everyone knows that a social conflict is going on in Venezuela. Your responsibility is to supply the public with the information and background necessary to making a responsible judgement. Instead you deliver blatant propaganda in defense of the privileged classes. This is shameful journalism.
You said the documentary presented the physician as someone who is a professional trying to do his work, but that there is a clear underlying message. You thought the producer was either ignorant or deliberately biased:
… the sub-text of what he says makes it plain that he is a politically conscious member of the opposition to the Maduro government…deliberately or out of ignorance you try to cover this up…it would actually have helped your credibility as journalists if you had clearly specified his political orientation…
The acting Senior Producer of The Doc Project, Jennifer Warren, replied to your concerns. She told you that she did not agree with your assessment that the documentary was propaganda presenting the view of the privileged class. She noted that this is a personal story of a doctor who attempted to help injured protesters demonstrating against the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro.
Our intention with this piece was and remains to shine a light on one man’s experience in Venezuela – a man whose work as a doctor and whose patients’ lives have been greatly affected by the political turmoil in the country.
CBC journalistic policy allows for the presentation of a variety of perspectives over time. It also allows journalists to “provide professional judgment based on facts and expertise.” This documentary was indeed from the point of view of a physician who had run afoul of the government of his country. That is a reasonable journalistic choice. The story told in the particular is consistent with reporting about conditions in the country at large, and with documentation from such human rights groups as Amnesty International. The documentary recounts how José ran afoul of authorities when he accepted foreign donations of basic drugs that were no longer available in his country.
Continue reading this on the CBC website, where it was first published.