The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has welcomed SBS’s apology and acknowledgment that an SBS TV “World News” story on July 10 “erroneously” implied Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened military action in response to increased uranium enrichment by Iran.
Ombudsman Sally Begbie agreed with AIJAC’s formal complaint that TV reporter Hannah Sinclair’s story breached the broadcaster’s Code of Practice by “inaccurately stat[ing]” that “regional foes – like the Israeli Prime Minister – have issued military threats in response” to the enrichment.
Ms Sinclair’s statement was followed by footage of Netanyahu standing in front of an F35 fighter jet saying, “Iran should remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran, and certainly Syria.”
AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said, “This was a gross misrepresentation of the context in which Netanyahu made his remarks.” He explained that, as AIJAC’s complaint demonstrated, Netanyahu was at the Nevatim airbase, and was responding to recent threats by Iranian officials and lawmakers to destroy Israel, not Iran’s increased uranium enrichment.
Dr Rubenstein added, “Netanyahu actually said, and I quote, ‘I am on an impressive tour of the air force base… Here behind me is the ‘Adir’, the F-35. Recently, Iran has been threatening the destruction of Israel. It would do well to remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria.’
“If SBS had included Netanyahu’s comments preceding those that were broadcast, viewers would have understood the context. Instead, the segment created a direct link that was clearly not justified by the context or the evidence.”
Dr Rubenstein explained that SBS’s website had actually reported Netanyahu’s response to Iran’s decision to increase uranium enrichment levels – which took place a few days before the visit to the airbase.
“In his remarks at the start of the cabinet meeting on July 7, Netanyahu had called on the signatories to the Iran nuclear deal to re-impose sanctions on Iran as they had promised to do when they signed the deal. He made no military threats, nor did he call for any outside military action,” he said.
Ombudsman Begbie said the interview clip with PM Netanyahu “was edited too tightly”.
Ms Begbie acknowledged that SBS-TV “World News” use of “only the last sentence of the clip, removing the essential information that ‘Iran recently has been threatening Israel’s destruction,’” had “changed the context of the Prime Minister’s comment to erroneously imply that the military threat came from Israel and not Iran.”
In response to the breach, she said, Director of News and Current Affairs, Jim Carroll, “has reminded his editorial staff of the need to ensure accuracy is maintained even when editing material to fit tight time requirements. He has asked that I assure you that such errors in the production process are rare and that this has caused his news team to reflect on their professional practices.”
Dr Rubenstein commended SBS for their professional response to AIJAC’s complaint. “The SBS Ombudsman’s office is usually pretty fair when it comes to investigating complaints and acknowledging not only factual errors but when reports have omitted vital context. While we welcome SBS’s assurance that it has counselled staff to pay closer attention to the details, of course, in many ways the damage is done and viewers have been left with the false impression that Israel’s only proposal for dealing with Iran’s breaches of the nuclear deal is a military strike. In fact, Netanyahu has been arguing since before the deal was signed, that Israel is not seeking war, but would like to see Iran commit to a better deal achieved through the negotiating table.”
“Nonetheless, we are grateful to SBS for correcting the record on this important point,” he concluded.