Frustrated by decades of pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian bias in media newsrooms, some 2,170 journalists and media people have signed an open letter to the CBC and other major Canadian media outlets demanding change to coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
These are not fringe media journalists; they represent such leading media outlets in Canada as the CBC, Global New, CTV, Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and a host of others.
Titled, “An open letter to Canadian newsrooms,” the letter starts with highlighting some of the excuses advanced by editors to prevent fair treatment of Palestinian suffering.
“The Middle East is complicated.”
“We need to hear both sides.”
“Everyone has a lot of emotions about this.”
The open letter dated May 14 then refers to how the lack of nuanced media coverage of “forced expulsions of Palestinians and indiscriminate Israeli airstrikes” has resulted in huge casualties in the latest Israeli onslaught.
It called it “extremely disappointing” that newsroom editors did not report these casualties accurately and without nuance.
“As journalists we cannot selectively choose which human rights violations to report on,” the letter said.
It referred to how the media rallied to report on the Black Lives Matter movement and the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on marginalized communities.
This led to the nuanced way in reporting how Indigenous communities have been impacted by the long legacy of colonialism.
“Why shouldn’t Palestinians be afforded the same nuance?” it asked.
The journalists’ letter then goes on to state how the United Nations as well as countless human rights organizations around the world including those based within Israel have categorized Israeli attacks on Palestinians.
These are referred to as a “grave breach of international law.”
“Some groups believe the attacks amount to ‘ethnic cleansing’.”
The journalists insist, “it should be covered as such”.
Rejecting the excuses offered by editors, the journalists boldly state:
“Dispossession is not complicated.
“Violence against civilians and children is not complicated.
“Police aggression and state violence is not complicated.
“Journalists cover these issues all the time.
“So why do we tip toe around coverage of Israel and Palestine?
“It’s time for Canadian newsrooms to carry out the necessary due diligence and report on this region with nuance and context. For that to happen, Canadian newsrooms have to first acknowledge their failings.
“Anyone who has worked in a Canadian newsroom has encountered the reluctance or resistance to covering Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Canadian style guides still ban the use of the word ‘Palestine’ in coverage. This has led to many corrections over the years…”
The letter then points out how racialized journalists are over-scrutinized or even censured when they pitch stories about this region, calling it an unfair standard.
It identifies the reason why newsroom editors are reluctant to provide fair coverage of the region: deluge of complaints from pro-Israel groups.
The deep reluctance to cover the ongoing nature of the Israeli occupation leads to urgent breaking news that never includes context.
The content always centres around Israeli politicians and organizations, or representatives of the Israeli government and military.
Palestinian voices are seldom, if ever, included.
The Human Rights Watch 213-page report about Israeli oppression of Palestinians was ignored by all major media outlets in Canada.
Only the Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail reported it.
Derek Stoffel, CBC’s world news editor, offered the lame excuse of lack of reporters that day to cover the HRW story.
Yet, as Andrew Mitrovica pointed out, “For CBC, a dog story is more important than Israel’s apartheid”, referring to the death of former US President Barack Obama’s dog that was given wide coverage!
The journalists’ letter emphasizes that the “deaths of innocent people anywhere in world let alone a highly contentious region where many Canadians have vested interest, merits in-depth, fair and balanced coverage.”
The letter concludes with the following:
“Our ask is simple: That all tenets of Canadian journalism should apply to the Occupied Palestinian Territories moving forward. Fair and balanced coverage should include historical and social context, reporters with knowledge of the region, and more crucially Palestinian voices.”
These are not allegations made by wild-eyed anti-West radicals.
These are the voices of mainstream Canadian journalists that are frustrated by lack of fairness in media coverage of a crucial issue of Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
These brave Canadian journalists deserve full support since they have exposed the abuse of trust many newsroom editors indulge in by refusing to listen to Palestinian voices and only projecting a one-sided Israeli view.