AIJAC complaint upheld by SBS

July 19, 2017 by J-Wire News Service
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SBS has upheld a complaint made by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) concerning a radio news podcast, “50th Anniversary of Middle East’s Critical Six Day War”.

Dr Colin Rubenstein

Dated on June 8, 2017, the podcast’s original explanation of the chronology of the lead up to the war inaccurately stated:

“In late May of 1967, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the straits east of the Sinai Peninsula opening into the Red Sea would be closed to Israeli ships. Israel issued threats, and Egypt mobilised its military forces along the two countries’ border….” 

Following AIJAC’s complaint, SBS’s Ombudsman has acknowledged that this is “inaccurate as its timeline was not in the correct order”. It has replaced the section of the podcast in question with the following more accurate timeline of events:

“In May 1967, Egypt, reacting to false intelligence from the Soviet Union that Israel was massing troops on its borders, began massing its troops in the Sinai. Once aware of that, Israel then warned Egypt against further provocations but Egypt responded by closing the vital Straits of Tiran, and removing UN peacekeepers from the border. Tensions built further on May the 30th when Jordan signed a defence pact with Egypt, later joined by Iraq. But, on June the 5th …”

SBS also said it apologised for the error and that “Director of News and Current Affairs Jim Carroll has reminded the editorial staff of the need to ensure that material is accurate.”

The SBS Ombudsman failed to uphold additional aspects of the AIJAC complaint, such as allegations of a “several alarming omissions and a lack of context regarding the causes of the Six Day War and the events in its lead-up” and that the factually inaccurate content provided “the impression that Israel alone was a dishonest and irresponsible actor and was the sole aggressor in the Six Day War, and that the six Arab armies who had sworn to annihilate the Jewish state and its people were merely acting in self-defence.” In doing so, the Ombudsman relied in part on a new phrase in the SBS Codes of Practice, inserted in 2014, which states “The decision as to whether it is appropriate for a range of views or particular views to be included within a single program or story is a matter for editorial discretion.”

In response to the findings by the SBS Ombudsman, AIJAC Editorial Dr. Colin Rubenstein stated, “We are pleased that SBS was able to correct an egregious and obvious factual error in this case, and express our thanks to the Ombudsman. However, AIJAC remain concerned that both the SBS Codes of Practice and the complaint procedures remain inadequate to meet its obligations as a publicly-funded broadcaster. In particular, we believe that the new phrase in the Codes of Conduct, essentially providing producers and reporters unlimited “editorial discretion” in any story, as long as it does not include blatant factual errors, essentially provides a license to minimize, or even ignore, SBS’s obligations as a public broadcaster, to provide balance, fairness, and ethical journalistic professionalism.”


One Response to “AIJAC complaint upheld by SBS”
  1. Erica Edelman says:

    Unfortunately SBS (and the ABC for that matter) has
    A different view of “balance, fairness and ethical journalistic
    More often than not their stories reek of bias and
    Blantant sensationalism. More often than not we are
    Seeing the kind of anti-Israel sentiment (read : antisemitism)
    Which is dressed as “fairness and balance”
    And one that seriously
    Erodes the credibility of the reporter/narrator.
    The Forth Estate is also being further eroded by a
    New breed of (graduate) journalists who are largely
    “Left” – these ppl are not proficient nor educated in thorough
    Historical literature seeking nor are they being trained
    Sufficiently to have the commitment to “editorial discretion”
    The Codes of Ethical journalism in the form its in has clearly failed
    And needs a substantial over-haul
    The watch-dog needs training and a new collar !

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