SBS corrects article but misreporting remains

December 19, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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SBS has partly corrected an article on its website called “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict explained” in response to an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) complaint.

AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein welcomed the response by the SBS Ombudsman, saying, “to its credit, SBS has made many amendments to the article.”

Dr Colin Rubenstein

The original article from November 7, “made many incorrect assertions of historical fact and was heavily skewed to validating the Palestinian narrative, whilst overlooking the Israeli or Jewish narrative,” he said.

The complaint listed “the seven most glaring points in the article that breached SBS’ statutory responsibility to be fair and balanced or were factually incorrect,” he added.

The goal in trying to effect change, he said, is not to “censor one side’s viewpoint but rather to give the target audience a chance to hear all points of view and judge for themselves. Too many media professionals and commentators today pay lip service to this sacred rule of journalism, but do not follow it in practice.”

Problems in the original article according to Dr Rubenstein included giving readers “the false impression that Palestine was an independent country with set boundaries before the British arrived in 1917”, mistakes with respect to the timing of the Balfour declaration, an erroneous description of the 1947 UN partition plan, a one-sided discussion of the causes of the 1948 Arab refugee exodus, and a mischaracterisation of what the US Trump Administration said in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Statements that are still “problematic” according to Dr Rubenstein include omitting the responsibility of the Arab leadership for the outbreak of war in 1948 and in 1967.

He also highlighted the original article’s claim that a visit by Israeli Opposition Leader Ariel Sharon’s to the Temple Mount “‘brought about’” the Second Intifada.

The section now reads the visit “was seen by Palestinians as an assertion of Israel’s sovereignty over the Al-Aqṣa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and was one of the main reasons which lead to the second intifada (violent uprising) of Palestinians.”

Dr Rubenstein said this is an improvement but an article that “honestly wanted to include all sides would not ignore the evidence by many senior Palestinian officials over the years boasting that the violence was premeditated” well before Sharon announced his plans to visit the holy site.

Dr Rubenstein said AIJAC was grateful to SBS for the seriousness with which they took complaints such as this one, and their overall good track record of correcting errors when they were pointed out. He contrasted this record with that of the ABC.

“Of course, not all of the changes go far enough in our opinion but if this had been a complaint submitted to the ABC, we would most likely have been totally stonewalled. The critical difference here is that SBS appears to have a more genuinely independent complaints ombudsman. In contrast, complaints to the ABC Audience and Consumer affairs division are often simply forwarded to the program’s producers to decide the merits of the complaint, leading to the ABC’s journalists and editors essentially being allowed to interpret the ABC’s statutory and editorial obligations in whatever way suits them.”


4 Responses to “SBS corrects article but misreporting remains”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    You need to keep your wits about you to keep on top of it. To date, public shaming alone has done little to overcome inaction whoever they are.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    The SBS correction is appropriate and Colin Rubinstein and AIJAC are to be congratulated.

    SBS broadcast the “Palestinian” narrative, i.e. it broadcast a malicious, anti-Semitic, mohammedan fabrication.

    It was however, wrong to complain that SBS broadcast the “Palestinian” narrative, but not the Israeli one. It is wrong to describe Israel’s history as a narrative and wrong too to imply that the two narratives are comparable.

    The Arab/mohammedan narrative is a jihadi falsehood masquerading as a human rights issue for a people seeking justice. But there is no Palestinian people and there never was. Lies must be exposed and denounced! And liars must be defeated and punished. Diplomacy which accepts lies is self-defeating and utterly foolish.

  3. Liat Kirby says:

    This is a fine victory by AIJAC, however I see no reason to be grateful to SBS for taking complaints seriously. They have a Charter to look to and should be as professional as possible at all times in what they produce, so it behoves them to take complaints seriously.

    • David Schulberg says:

      Unlike the ABC who have responded glibly (see below) to the following complaint I have raised:

      “Subject: Totally irresponsible reporting of an international situation
      Your Comments: I refer to two articles
      that have been written about how the ABC’s Adam Harvey has reported from Israel’s northern border wall with Lebanon (refer
      I concur with the sentiments expressed in the two articles I have mentioned which clearly demonstrate the ABC’s failure to report with
      a) Impartiality and diversity of perspectives
      b) Independence, integrity and responsibility
      c) Accuracy
      with the seriousness of the ABC’s failure to comply with the above aspects of its stated editorial policies having been exacerbated by the fact that since the discovery of 3 attack tunnels penetrating into Israel there has been no reportage on the ABC of this significant news.”

      Response from ABC International News editor Dee Porter:
      We believe the story was comprehensive and accurate.

      “The Israeli position is represented in the story. An Israeli army spokesman was interviewed for this story and the information from the interview was used throughout. The details about the wall used in the report were double checked before publication in a second telephone call to Israeli authorities made by an ABC producer based in Jerusalem.”

      I have escalated my complaint which has been directed on to ABC journalist Matt Brown since Dee Porter has gone on holidays:

      Thanks for your quick but unfortunately inadequate response in which you have failed to address many particulars of the story that have been found by both AIJAC and Honest Reporting to be devoid of proper context, inaccurate, one-sided and reflecting bias.

      There was
      • No comment from the Israeli side whatsoever
      • No mention of the imminent threat from Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon
      • False assertion that Israel has been equally responsible for a violent border incident where the wrong claim was made that shooting had occurred from both sides
      • No context provided for the discussion of the complex issues to do with the village of Ghajar

      Finally you have not addressed my point that the ABC, as a consequence of its total lack of coverage of the discovery of now 4 attack tunnels penetrating into Israel, has continued to fail in its obligations as our national news provider. There has been no reportage by the ABC of this significant news, which demonstrates the on-going failure of the ABC to be reporting comprehensively about this hotspot, thus failing to keep ABC listeners aware of the dangerous, volatile situation developing in the area.

      Clearly your response is inadequate and as the AIJAC asserts, “Lately, it sometimes seems the network (ABC) cannot be bothered to provide anything more than the flimsiest pretext of balance, despite their charter obligations.”

      If the ABC is unwilling to recognise and act on its responsibilities then it gives me little choice but to take this matter further. I request that you address my concerns with the appropriate level of attention, addressing the specific information I have mentioned and not glossing over the details as you have done.

      Please advise if the ABC will respond further in an honest effort to deal with the substance of my complaint in order to genuinely resolve it. If not I will be forced to take my grievance to ACMA to be investigated there.

      David Schulberg

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