SBS apologises

March 21, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has welcomed SBS’s apology and acknowledgement that an SBS TV “World News” report on February 1, 2018 was “imbalanced and appeared to display a partiality.”

Head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniyeh (right) and senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmed (left) raise their hands together at a news conference that announced a unity agreement between the rival Palestinian factions in Gaza City on April 23, 2014. Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

Ombudsman Sally Begbie agreed with AIJAC’s formal complaint that TV reporter Omar Dabbagh’s story on the United States’ decision to add Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to its list of proscribed terrorists breached the broadcaster’s Codes of Practice by claiming that Haniyeh is “seen as pragmatic and flexible in his attitude towards Israel.”

The finding also acknowledged that Dabbagh’s statement asserting that “Hamas had ruled Gaza since 2007 in a de facto capacity until handing power to the Palestinian Authority in December” was incorrect.

In her letter to AIJAC, Ms Begbie noted that, “As Hamas still controls Gaza, and Ismail Haniyeh consistently refuses to recognise the state of Israel, the report was inaccurate. These inaccuracies created a false impression that Ismail Haniyeh had a flexible attitude towards Israel and that Hamas is more co-operative in Palestine than it has shown itself to be.”

The statement added that “these are key descriptions in the report and as a result, regardless of other balancing material in the story, the report was imbalanced and appeared to display a partiality.”

Dr Colin Rubenstein

In response to the breach, the SBS Ombudsman said, “the Director of News and Current Affairs, Jim Carroll, has reminded the relevant staff of their obligations under the code for accurate, balanced and impartial reporting.”

AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein commended SBS’s upholding of the complaint.

“We are pleased that SBS has shown a willingness to acknowledge when breaches of its Codes of Practice have taken place and take action to correct any errors. The report in question clearly failed to uphold the basic standards of balance and factual accuracy expected, especially for a taxpayer funded public broadcaster.”

“We also welcome SBS’s assurance that staff have been reminded of their statutory obligation to ensure reports are grounded in reality and based only on the confirmed facts. We are grateful to the SBS Ombudsman for her thorough efforts in the investigation in response to AIJAC’s complaint.”

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