Press council raps Gaza story headline

MONTREAL — The Quebec Press Council has upheld a complaint by a pro-Israel group about the headline of a story published on last summer that it felt was biased.

HonestReporting Canada (HRC) told the council it felt the headline on an Aug. 10 article on the website, which is managed by the newspaper La Presse, wrongly presumed Israel was responsible for a communications blackout throughout Gaza.

The headline was “Gaza Strip deprived of Internet due to Israeli bulldozers.” HRC also complained about the tone of the article, pointing out that most of the information was attributed to Hamas and Israeli authorities’ denial of responsibility was reported at the very end of the story.

HRC said the headline and ordering of the report led readers to believe that the power outage was due solely to an Israeli army vehicle damaging a communications cable and gave the impression that the harm was deliberate.

The council concluded that the headline does not comply with its code of ethics for journalism.

On March 23, the council ruled that “only presented one version of the story and it was published without attribution or a qualifier.”

The headline, it continued, “presented as fact that Israel is responsible for the loss of electricity, which the article goes on to deny.”

HRC Quebec regional director Michelle Whiteman said that while the organization appreciates the judgment, it disagrees with the council’s conclusion that the article was otherwise balanced.

“The framing of a narrative to support one version of events, where this version is disputed, leads to distortion and sensationalism,” she said, noting that the report was accompanied by an undated photo of a bulldozer.