AIJAC complains to ABC on Hamas description; Wins complaint on SBS Arabic story

Media Release

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has written to the ABC Office of Audience and Consumer Affairs to complain about an online report on July 21, “What is terrorism? The controversial label that is used and abused around the world” by Tracey Shelton.

AIJAC noted that in a sidebar to the report in question entitled “The 26 terrorist organisations on Australia’s watch list, the article had the following description of Australia’s designation of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorist groups: “Palestine’s Hamas Two Palestinian groups, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been designated for their continued resistance against Israeli occupation.”

AIJAC noted that this description of the designation of the two groups is incorrect and “The Australian National Security website does not state anywhere that ‘occupation’ is the reason for their listing. It explains that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are designated as terrorist organisations because they are against the existence of the State of Israel and use terrorism to achieve this goal.”

AIJAC went on to note that:

“The description of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad being designated because of ‘their continued resistance against Israeli occupation’ frankly seems an expression of the views of the author of the article regarding these two groups, not Australian law. This appears to be part of a larger pattern with the article… which repeatedly makes claims about terrorism as a phenomenon which are disputed or contested in the relevant literature and public debate but treats them as factual and uncontested. Yet the article is labelled as neither opinion nor analysis on the ABC website.”

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein stated regarding the ABC report in question, “This story seems to be a classic example of biased advocacy journalism – where a journalist pushes their ideological views on a controversial subject very strongly, treats those views as if they were uncontested truths, and finds an expert known to share the journalist’s views to confirm that the journalist is right… No hint that these views are contested or disputed by other experts is permitted to appear.”

“We call on the ABC to correct the absurd and false description of the reason Australia has designated Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorist groups in this story, and also to clearly label this one-sided article as opinion, not news, if not remove it entirely from the ABC website,” Dr. Rubenstein concluded.

Meanwhile, SBS has upheld a complaint made by AIJAC concerning a segment on Gaza border clashes broadcast on SBS Arabic 24 “Good Morning Australia” program on 2 April 2018 – especially comments by Gaza-based SBS correspondent Sharief Nearab.

The SBS Ombudsman found that the segment breached the SBS Codes of Practice “for accuracy, impartiality and balance” in several respects.

Her report regarding the segment found:

  • “The report did not include the range of estimated injury figures, and no mention was made that Israel disputed the figures that were included. There was no balancing material about Israel’s actions or views in relation to events on the Gaza border in the SBS Arabic 24 news service immediately prior to the report. Therefore the material as broadcast on 2 April on SBS Arabic 24 lacked the level of balance required.”
  • A claim in the report that “’Israeli officials’ had ‘spoken officially today that they feel ashamed of the actions of the Israeli border guards and the killing of unarmed Palestinians’ was also inaccurate and misleading, as the comments related to a controversial Facebook post by the Israeli Army radio host Kobi Meidan and not an ‘Israeli official’.”
  • “When describing the death of the protestor Abdel-Fattah Abdel-Nabi the correspondent displayed a partiality when he said ‘On Friday this young man became a martyr…’”

SBS also said it apologised for the breaches of the code and said “the Director of Audio and Language Services, Ms Mandi Wicks, has reminded the SBS Arabic 24 editorial team of the need for accuracy, impartiality and balance in news and current affairs reporting, including within programs which are required to service the Arabic community in Australia.”

In response to the findings by the SBS Ombudsman, AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein stated, “We are grateful that SBS was able to correct several obvious examples of unprofessional and biased commentary in its Arabic radio coverage of events in Gaza. We believe SBS has an important role to play in bringing professional and impartial commentary to Arabic-speaking Australians, and while it was disappointing that on this occasion it failed to live up to that role, we thank the SBS Ombudsman for acting promptly and correctly when the issue was brought to her attention.”

For additional information, contact AIJAC on (03)-9681-6660.