From: Peter Wertheim
Sent: Monday, 26 June 2017 9:19 AM
To: ‘codecomplaints@sbs.com.au’ <codecomplaints@sbs.com.au>
Subject: Code complaint re SBS TV news report
Importance: High

To SBS TV
Code Complaints
codecomplaints@sbs.com.au

We refer to a news item which aired on SBS TV News on Saturday 17 June 2017, at 6.30pm. The news item covered two incidents in Jerusalem on Friday 16 June.

The report of the incidents included the following narrative: (transcript):
“Israeli security forces have shot dead three Palestinians accused of carrying out shooting and stabbing attacks in Jerusalem.
Two Israeli officers were injured in the attacks. The incidents occurred near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
Israeli authorities say two men were shot and killed after opening fire at police officers. And another attacker was shot dead after stabbing a border police officer.”

There is clearly no mention of the fact that the shooting of the three Palestinians occurred not simply after the “stabbing” of a 23 year old female police officer, Hadas Malka, but after she was fatally stabbed. (She died of her wounds a short time later the same day). In fact the horrific murder of this woman was not reported in the item at all, even though this fact had been widely reported by other media for many hours before the SBS story went to air.

This was an appalling omission of a crucial fact that was relevant to the story. Nor does it appear that the omission was inadvertent, as it is entirely in keeping with the whole tenor of the report, which is to highlight only the deaths of those who instigated the attack, as if they were the only people killed in the incident.

This is not only sloppy reporting, but also biased reporting. The equivalent in Australia would have been to report the terrorist murder of Curtis Cheng by Farhad Jabar in October 2015 with the headline: “Muslim teenager shot dead by police”, and without mentioning the fact that Jabar was shot dead after murdering Curtis Cheng.

Other media on Saturday morning reported the Jerusalem story accurately and included reference to the murder of the Israeli woman. For example, The Guardian headline at 10.35 am on 17 June was “Israeli police officer stabbed to death in Jerusalem attack”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/16/jerusalem-attack-female-police-officer-seriously-injured-israel

Even the SBS website made mention of the young woman’s death at least two hours before the 6.30pm News. In fact, this was included in the title of the article.
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/17/claims-responsibility-fatal-stabbing-israeli-policewoman

Please consider this to be a formal complaint under Code 2.2 of the SBS Code of Practice. In particular:

  1. The report in question did not make a “”reasonable effort … to ensure that the factual content was accurate”, inasmuch as it completely omitted all mention of the fact that the knifing of Hadas Malka was fatal, which was a fact that was of critical relevance to the event; and
  2. By virtue of that omission, and the emphasis on the deaths of the attackers, the report in question was biased.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely
Peter Wertheim
Peter Wertheim AM | Executive Director
phone: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904 | fax 02 9361 5888 e: pwertheim@ecaj.org.au | www.ecaj.org.au
Executive Council of Australian Jewry


From: Alison Angles [mailto:Alison.Angles@sbs.com.au]
Sent: Wednesday, 28 June 2017 10:25 AM
To: Peter Wertheim <pwertheim@ecaj.org.au>
Subject: Acknowledgement of code complaint about a report on SBS World News, 17/06/2017

Mr Peter Wertheim
Executive Director
Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Dear Mr Wertheim

Thank you for your correspondence about SBS World News broadcast on 17 June 2017 at 6.30pm, which SBS received on 26/06/2017.

SBS is required to adhere to its Codes of Practice which are designed to ensure high standards of public accountability. Your complaint raises an issue which is covered by the SBS Codes of Practice.

Therefore the SBS Ombudsman will now assess whether the SBS World News coverage of two incidents in Jerusalem, broadcast on 17/06/2017, meets the requirements of Code 2.2 (News and Current Affairs – Accuracy, Impartiality and Balance).

If you consider any other code is relevant to the assessment of the complaint please let me know as soon as possible. The Codes of Practice can be viewed on the SBS website at http://www.sbs.com.au by following the link at the bottom of the home page.

You will receive a final written response informing you of the outcome of this investigation within sixty days from the date of receipt of your complaint. If you have not received a response within the time period, or if you consider the response to be inadequate, you are entitled to take your complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

SBS appreciates you making your complaint known to us and will now formally investigate the matter.


Yours sincerely
Alison Angles
Alison Angles
Researcher for the SBS Ombudsman
Alison.Angles@sbs.com.au
SBS 14 Herbert Street
Artarmon NSW 2064 Australia
sbs.com.au


Peter Wertheim AM
Executive Director
Executive Council of Australian Jewry
By Email: pwertheim@ecaj.org.au

Dear Mr Wertheim

Re: SBS World News, 17/06/2017 – Reference Number: 2153

I have completed an investigation of the SBS World News report of 17 June about the fatal attacks on Israeli police near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

The report was assessed against Code 2.2 (News and Current Affairs – Accuracy, Impartiality and Balance) of the SBS Codes of Practice, in light of your complaint there was an “appalling omission of a crucial fact” and that the reporting was “biased”.

For the reasons provided below the report was found to have breached the code for accuracy and impartiality.

In relation to accuracy Code 2.2 states:

SBS is committed to achieving the highest standard of news and current affairs presentation. To this end, reasonable effort must be made to ensure that the factual content of news and current affairs programs is accurate, having regard to the circumstances, and facts known, at the time of preparing and broadcasting or
publishing the content.

The report was a short reader voice over of thirty five seconds duration. The script was as follows:

Israeli security forces have shot dead three Palestinians accused of carrying out shooting and stabbing attacks in Jerusalem.
Two Israeli officers were injured in the attacks. The incidents occurred near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
Israeli authorities say two men were shot and killed after opening fire at police officers. And another attacker was shot dead after stabbing a border police officer.

The report did not state that one of the police victims, female officer Hadas Malka, had died as a result of the attack. The fact was available prior to broadcast and should have been included in the SBS report.

In relation to balance and impartiality Code 2.2 states:

Reasonable effort should be made to ensure news and current affairs content is balanced and impartial, having regard to the circumstances at the time of reporting and broadcasting or publishing, the nature and immediacy of the material being reported, and public interest considerations.

On 17 June the SBS World News report began with the response of the Israeli security forces against the attackers, and not the actions of attackers themselves. As this was the first time these incidents were reported in the SBS World News 6.30pm television bulletin, and given the error in not reporting the police fatality, I consider that the way in which this report was constructed could unintentionally have left the average viewer with an unfair impression of the incidents.

Even taking into consideration that this was a brief voice over report, the manner in which the incidents were reported lessened the impact of the initial actions, which were organised attacks on Israeli police in which an officer died.

SBS apologises for this breach of Code 2.2. As a result of this breach the Director of News and Current Affairs, Jim Carroll, has reminded his staff of the need to for fact checking and fairness in reporting.

If you consider this response to be inadequate you are entitled to take your concerns to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. SBS appreciates you taking the time to make your concerns known to us and is pleased to have had the opportunity to respond to them.

Yours sincerely
Sally Begbie
SBS Ombudsman

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