I have left the emails perfectly intact except for replacing the name of the complainant. After all, this is Canada and if you take an unfashionable view on politics well, could impact ones job and social status. Just like you would expect in a free country.
Complainant to CBC:
When CBC.ca first posted the report “Hamas, Fatah proclaim reconciliation deal” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/05/04/hama-fatah-cairo-agreement.html), it included the following two paragraphs:
“The Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., the EU, the United Nations and Russia — has long demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize the principle of Israel’s right to exist.
But Abbas aide Nabil Shaath told Israel Radio ahead of Wednesday’s signing that these demands “are unfair, unworkable and do not make sense.”
CBC has since removed these paragraphs from the report. The report was altered without publishing a notice of retraction or correction.
These two paragraphs are critical to the reported story, and to Canadians’ understanding of what just occurred in the Palestinian Authority.
Following a unification agreement, the aide to the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority proclaimed to the world that it’s “unfair, unworkable and does not make sense” to recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect past agreements.
This remarkable comment comes from the office of the so-called moderate Palestinian leader, who is purportedly engaged in peace negotiations with Israel.
The deleted comment provides a valuable insight into the Palestinian Authority’s attitude towards Israel, and the possible reasons why peace negotiations have been so prolonged.
The lack of visible results in the middle eastern peace process is commonly blamed on Israel. This comment, which has been stealthily removed by CBC staff, clearly implicates the PA as partly responsible for the failure of the talks. Furthermore, it portrays them as supportive of Hamas terrorism, contrary to their stated claims of desiring a non-violent solution. Lastly, these are their words, their attitude.
Why was this statement removed from the story?
Why was a retraction or correction notice not published on CBC.ca?
Thank you for your attention
The CBC responds:
Dear Mr. (Complainant):
Thank you for your e-mail of May 5, and subsequent enquiry of June 11, addressed to Kirk LaPointe, CBC Ombudsman. Since CBC News falls in my remit, I would like to reply. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in doing so.
You wrote to draw our attention to what you feel is “questionable reporting” in a CBC News.ca story posted on May 4 under the headline, “Hamas, Fatah proclaim reconciliation deal”. Specifically, you wrote that the first version of the story contained two paragraphs that had been “stealthily removed” from the version posted later in the day. You suggested the earlier version “implicates” the Palestinian authority for the failure of the peace talks which is “commonly blamed” on Israel. You added, the story was “altered” without a notice of “retraction or correction”.
While I regret you are disappointed in CBC, in this case – and I say this with respect – your view is one with which I strongly disagree.
Wire service stories – and this one is clearly identified as coming from The Associated Press – are routinely revised through the day. As new information comes in or fresh comments from those involved become available, the story is revised to reflect them. The first paragraphs are re-written, new paragraphs with fresh quotes are added and out-dated ones deleted.
It is not at all a “stealth[y]” process, but the routine evolution seen by all developing stories. When we post a story, we indicate the date and the time it was posted immediately under the headline. If we subsequently post a revised or updated version of the story under the same headline, we indicate that too, as we did here.
We posted the first story at 7:18 am (ET) shortly after the reconciliation agreement was announced in Cairo and just minutes after the story moved on The Associated Press wire. As background to the agreement, it included, as you noted, a paragraph describing the Quartet, saying it has long demanded Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. The following paragraph quoted an aide to the Palestinian leader from a statement made earlier on Israeli radio as saying that these demands are “unfair, unworkable and do not make sense.”
It was a landmark agreement and as the day wore on world leaders offered their views.
We posted a revised version of the story at 10:11 pm (ET) that evening, some 15 hours later. A paragraph in that story quoted Tony Blair, former British prime minister and long time envoy for the Quartet as insisting the new Hamas/Fatah government recognize Israel, “a step Hamas has always rejected”, the story said. The following paragraph quoted, not an aide, but the Palestinian president himself as delivering a “scathing attack on Israel, saying ‘we reject blackmail and it is no longer possible for us to accept the [Israeli] occupation of Palestinian land’”.
The second story included more detailed information on the agreement, reaction from Germany, where the Palestinian president was scheduled to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and especially from the Israeli prime minister, and officials with Hamas and Fatah. The story included their views, leaving readers to reach their own conclusions about their relative merits.
Thank you again for your e-mail. I hope my reply has reassured you of the continuing integrity of our news service.
It is also my responsibility to tell you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at Box 500, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at
Box 500, Station “A”,
cc. Kirk LaPointe, CBC Ombudsman
Response to the CBC from the complainant:
Dear Ms. Enkin
Thank you for your response to my email regarding what I consider to be questionable practices in the CBC’s reporting of the Hamas/Fatah reconciliation deal.
Your explanation (attached below) did nothing to convince me of the legitimacy of your actions in this story. In fact, I’m somewhat shocked that you’d support those actions.
The fact remains that:
1. the senior aide to Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that asking Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist was “unfair, unworkable and do not make sense.”
2. CBC journalistic integrity and judgment made the decision to remove that statement from the CBC report of the event.
Your revision of the story deliberately removed clear evidence that the Palestinian Authority’s outlook on the peace process precludes (or considers optional) the prime criteria that allowed those negotiations to occur in the first place.
This single paragraph that you removed is as important as your later revisions (i.e., the reaction from world leaders, or “the Palestinian president himself”).
As a matter of fact, it’s not news when Abbas delivers “a scathing attack on Israel”.
It is, however, news when his most senior aide confirms that violence and recognizing Israel’s right to exist aren’t required in order to establish peace. It is also news when the PA lets slip that they aren’t operating in good faith in peace negotiations with Israel.
So, frankly, I’m not satisfied with your response. I’m shocked by it, because I view it as a rationalization: As the story evolved and the report was revised, the CBC’s journalistic decision-making resulted in suppressing information, rather than clarifying or extending the readers’ understanding of the event.
That kind of decision making encourages CBC readers to think of Israel in a consistently negative light: You had no problem leaving readers with the impression that Israel was “blackmailing” the Palestinian people.
Yet you removed a paragraph that demonstrated that the PA was not dealing openly with Israel, and was in fact disputing the very core principles under which the PA was formed, and through which it purportedly negotiates for peace.