THE ABC has corrected two errors it made in a report on Palestinians crossing from Gaza into Egypt and Israel, following a complaint by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).
Two complaints were lodged by AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein on June 28 in relation to the June 15 7.30 Sophie McNeill report, “Rafah border crossing opens to sick Gazans seeking medical treatment in Egypt”, and a PM radio companion piece.
ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Kieran Doyle conceded the broadcaster was wrong to refer to Gaza as part of the “occupied territories” and that 7.30’s introduction was inaccurate.
“7.30 has agreed with your concern about the inaccurate reference to the ‘occupied territories’ in the online subheading of the report’s transcript, which has been removed,” Doyle said.
“The program also accepts the presenter’s claim in her introduction, that it is ‘almost impossible’ for anybody to get out of Gaza for ‘urgent medical treatment’, is inaccurate. ABC News management has explained that reference in the report’s introduction was written in Sydney, and was not written by the reporter Sophie McNeill.
“An editor’s note has been posted on the program’s website acknowledging these errors, and they have also been identified on the Corporation’s corrections and clarifications page.”
Rubenstein welcomed the corrections, but added, “Regrettably neither of the points that were conceded related to McNeill’s actual reports.
“We are obviously disappointed and concerned that McNeill’s reporting – which we maintain was partial, sloppy with the facts and lacking in context – was given a clean bill of health,” he said.
The broadcaster dismissed several other issues that were outlined in AIJAC’s feedback, while AIJAC’s complaint relating to the ABC Radio PM broadcast was dismissed.
Rubenstein said: “Particularly concerning is the department’s summary dismissal of AIJAC’s complaint that there was scant investigation of Egypt’s enforcement of the [Gaza] blockade and that Cairo was essentially absolved of any responsibility, while the program strongly implied to the viewer that Israel was legally and morally culpable for Gaza’s welfare.
“The fact that no accusation or attribution of responsibility for Gaza’s situation was made against either Egypt or Hamas was the essence of the bias of the story and part of a larger pattern with McNeill’s reporting.
“In the 16 months or so since McNeill started as Middle East correspondent, she has filed many stories that look at Palestinian suffering in Gaza, where her coverage focuses on the ‘blockade’ or, indeed, on the West Bank, where the focus switches to ‘occupation’. Individually and over time, her body of stories do not deviate from reflecting the attitude and bias that Israel is predominantly responsible for Palestinian -suffering.”