MONTREAL — The Radio-Canada ombudsman has upheld a series of complaints made by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) about the network’s Middle East coverage.
Most of the complaints concerned reporting by the French-language public broadcaster’s Middle East correspondent, Ginette Lamarche, between June 5 and 7 on the deadly clash at the Syrian border between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli army.
Ombudsman Pierre Tourangeau concluded that two reports by Lamarche did not respect the network’s standards for impartiality and accuracy.
Most significantly to CIJA, she failed to report that the Israeli army had issued several warnings before opening fire and that the demonstrators were violent and attempting to force their way across the Israeli border.
CIJA’s predecessor organization, the Quebec-Israel Committee, objected to Lamarche’s reference to the Qalandia checkpoint as a “symbol of [the Palestinians’] daily humiliation,” not making clear that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is also considered a terrorist organization, that Ahmad Saadate was convicted of ordering the murder of an Israeli government minister, and that some information was from a non-corroborated Syrian source.
CIJA also objected to Lamarche’s reference that the Palestinians “tried to claim their right of return.” The ombudsman agreed that this “right,” while central to the conflict, has not been confirmed by the United Nations Security Council.
“On an issue as controversial as that of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the choice of words, the precision of the information given and the identification of its source takes on particular importance,” wrote Tourangeau, who became ombudsman on Nov. 14, replacing Julie Miville-Duchêne, who left in July.
Even though some of Lamarche’s reporting was live, which made it more difficult for her to verify the information, the journalist is still obligated to ensure “in a reasonable manner” that it is accurate.
The ombudsman also agreed with CIJA that a June 7 broadcast entitled “Des Juifs du Golan appuient l’attaque d’Israël contre les manifestants pacifiques” (“Golan Jews support Israel’s attack on the peaceful demonstrators”) didn’t meet Radio-Canada’s standards.
Specifically, Lamarche paraphrased an Israeli, identified only as Maurice, as saying: “The army maybe shot live bullets on the civilians who were demonstrating peacefully. If that is the case, it is only doing its duty.”
An audio recording of her interview with the man showed that her paraphrasing was not faithful to what he actually said, Tourangeau wrote.
The ombudsman also found that “this morally questionable attitude” was presented without sufficient grounds as being representative of the Jews of the Golan.
Finally, the ombudsman concluded that RDI, Radio-Canada’s news speciality channel, used erroneous maps March 19 on the program 24 heures en 60 minutes to illustrate the Arab-Israeli conflict. CIJA had termed the maps “propagandist.”
The maps were used to show what a guest described as the loss of Palestinian land between 1945 and 2000.
Tourangeau describes the maps as “erroneous, confusing and incomplete, whose source was not identified.”
RDI’s management admitted that the maps should never have been used, while the ombudsman recommended that a correction be made.