First, I know that we have previous threads on complaints about the CBC, but I think their coverage of the Gaza flotilla deserves a new thread. (If the moderators disagree I'm sure I'll hear about it!)
Has anyone else noticed the poor coverage the CBC in particular has been giving to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla? If you follow me on Twitter you'll have noticed that it was making me crazy yesterday. I know a lot of great people who work for the CBC, especially locally in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, so this is no comment on them, but a question about what is going on with the national coverage there. This is an issue that I'm close to, and feel strongly about, having travelled to Gaza twice last year with some of the people who were on last week's flotilla (as part of another international humanitarian delegation that was trying to put pressure on governments to end the illegal siege of Gaza.)
I was very troubled by their treatment of Kevin Neish, the Canadian who was on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship that was attacked by sea and air in the night, and where 9 people were killed by the IDF. He only gave two interviews after he was freed. One was to rabble. The other to the CBC. Carol MacNeil interviewed him, and it was painful. Here is this man, just released from three days of torture - what he described as being 'brutalized' in Israeli prison, and there was no respect. She interrupted him, put him on the defensive. Compare, for instance, to the style of interview Peter Mansbridge gave Netanyahu the night before the attack.
And this troubling style of reporting - in this public media organization that, in its TV commercials, constantly claims it is where Canadians should tune in for "unbiased" coverage - has continued in the coverage of the Rachel Corrie. In their reports on the Rachel Corrie ship, both radio and TV commentators set up dynamic of 'good protestors' (those whose ship was boarded in daylight, and who, with the threat of violence, were kidnapped by Israel without a fight) vs 'bad' (those who defended themselves on the Mavi Marmara) - though of course they don't add that kind of context. They seem to have accepted at face value that those killed were "Islamic fighters", as the IDF now claims. However, Kevin Neish, in his interview with rabble, explains that he was a witness to those who fought and died. He says they were aid workers, and describes the compassion they showed to the Israeli soldiers captured on the ship. But does the CBC explore this? Not in the least. Do they worry that describing people who self-identified as Turkish aid workers ,"Islamic fighters" (based on what exactly?) is potentiallly racist and feeds Islamophobia? Seemingly not. They seem to be reading from IDF talking points. Do they point out the difference between the two experiences? That the first ship was attacked in the middle of the night, in the dark, from the sea with flash grenades and then with tear gas, and from the sky with helicopters and commandos shooting machine guns. No mention. Do they question why the 9 killed were shot at least 30 times in close range. Some in the head, others in the back? Not at all.
Last night I had the opportunity to watch coverage on the National, Radio Canada and Global (I don't usually have a tv). Both Radio Canada and Global included a report of Neish's arrival, and both used a quote from him where he described how he was "brutalized" in Israeli detention. The CBC glossed over Neish's return to Canada, showing a few images as he arrived in Toronto. Here is a Canadian, kidnapped in international waters, claiming that he was brutalized by another state while in detention... and the CBC...? In fact Global's report was far more informative and balanced.
I started this thread at the request of one of our readers, Don Weitz, who asked us to publish the letter he sent to the CBC ombudsperson to complain about how Neish was treated. (I explained that he should post it on babble, but he asked me to do for him, because he is "very low tech".)
I don't normally do this, but given my own frustration with the coverage, I realized I should have been posting here myself anyway.
So below please find Don's email to the CBC ombudsperson.
CBC Ombudsman Vince Carlin and Newsworld Producers:
I am again writing to lodge a complaint against what I believe was pro-Israel bias and insensitive interviewing evident in CBC Newsworld reporter Carol MacNeill's questioning of Canadian peace activist Kevin Neish today. Neish is one of many courageous activists on one of the boats or flotilla illegally raided by Israeli commandos while it was bringing humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza. I generally respect MacNeill's intelligent and concerned reporting-and-interviewing style, but today was different. While interviewing Neish, MacMeill frequently interrupted him and put him on the defensive while Neish was giving graphic details about what he observed and experienced during the recent Israel commandos' armed assault (tear gas, grenades, bullets.) used against many peace activists, several killed by the commandos. The tone and type of a few of MacNeill's questions were so accusatory that at one point Mr. Neish asked her point blank, "Whose side are you on?" I felt Neish's annoyance with MacNeill was perfectly justified. This was not professional journalism - it was incompetent, insensitive and biased interviewing with a pro-Israel spin. I urge the CBC Newsworld producers to remind MacNeill and other CBC reporters not to interrupt interviewees while they give personal testimony, not take sides while pretending to be 'objective' or 'factual', and to show interviewees respect - particularly when they have recently survived a life-threatening assault, crisis or trauma. Maybe a crash course in Interviewing 101 is necessary. I shouldn't have to write this, I assumed - wrongly it turns out - that all CBC Newsworld reporters are professional journalists.
I look forward to your reply.
Attention: Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman
I've just called the CBC 'Audience Relations" and told the operator today's Newsworld coverage (e.g., reporter Carol McNeill) of the Israeli soldiers' assault on passengers in the 'flotilla' enroute to Gaza communicated a definite pro-Israel bias or anti-Palistinian bias - this is unacceptable and unprofessional
virtually all of MacNeill's questions and tone during interviews implied the unarmed passengers-protesters in the flotilla were to blame for the violence caused by the Israeli soldiers
btw, the flotilla was reportedly in 'international waters' when the Israeli soldiers used violence, killing 'at least 10 passengers' and wounding many more passengers - 600+ passengers are currently imprisoned and interrogated - the UN has called an emergency session
Israel is currently blacking out news reports of what some Turkish representatives call 'a massacre'- the Israeli attack on the flotilla clearly violated international law including piracy - so much for CBC's alleged "balance, objectivity and fairness". Please forward my comments to Newsworld producers