TVNZ spanked by BSA for fake news story calling Gaza blockade illegal

Fake News: TVNZ caught misleading about Gaza blockade status

TVNZ has copped a spanking from the Broadcasting Standards Authority for describing the blockade of Gaza as illegal…when it is not.

Shalom.Kiwi explains:

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has upheld a complaint concerning TVNZ’s coverage of the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza, on the basis that it breached the required standard of accuracy by stating the blockade of Gaza is “illegal”. In doing so it set out some important expectations:

Broadcasters should refrain from making unequivocal statements of fact on issues that are the subject of international dispute, to ensure viewers are not misled. This is particularly so in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where a broadcaster’s use of labels and descriptions can have a significant impact on the audience’s understanding, and views on, the conflict.NZ Broadcasting Standards Authority Ruling 2016-087

In September 2016, Green Party MP Marama Davidson participated in the “Women’s Peace Boat” to Gaza, whose purported aim was to break the blockade and highlight Gaza’s humanitarian issues. Ms Davidson and her Kia Ora Gaza-facilitated mission was covered on at least three occasions by Te Karere, a Maori language news and current affairs programme broadcast by New Zealand’s state-owned television broadcaster TVNZ. Her subsequent detention by Israel, in anticipation of which Ms Davidson had pre-recorded an emotionally-charged statement about the “Israeli oppression forces” taking the group “hostage” and “kidnapping” it, garnered political reactions and extensive media attention. 

Juliet Moses complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) that the first and second items aired by Te Karere breached the standards of “balance” and “accuracy”. There were no views expressed in either broadcast contrary to Ms Davidson’s and the Green Party position. Further, Te Karere reported on “the illegal blockade of Gaza” and referred to Gaza as being a “daily war zone”, with unexplained wallpaper footage of buildings being bombed.

On the basis that the third item – broadcast 19 days after the first and 5 days after the second – was deemed to be within the period of current interest and provided a pro-Israel viewpoint for some of the report, the balance complaint was not upheld by the BSA. However, the BSA upheld the accuracy complaint, because the legality or otherwise of the blockade was a material point of fact and “it was misleading for the reporter to assert that the blockade was “illegal”, without explaining that this was in dispute, or referring to a source for this assertion”.

The BSA referred to the “Palmer report”, prepared for the UN Secretary General and authored by Sir Geoffrey Palmer. After months of examination of the laws of blockade the Panel deemed Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza legal and a necessary step to protect its citizens from the onslaught of rocket attacks from Gaza:

Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.Geoffrey Palmer Report to the UN

The complainant submitted that this was the leading authority on the issue.

However, the BSA also cited a UN Human Rights Council report, in respect of which TVNZ purported to justify its reporter’s statement that the blockade is illegal. The portfolios of this “group of independent UN experts”, as described by TVNZ, were one relating to human rights in the “occupied Palestinian territory”, one relating to food, one relating to physical and mental health, and one relating to safe drinking water and sanitation. On the basis that the terms of this inquiry were “clearly prejudicial”, Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation. Palmer also chose not to engage with it.

In her reply, the complainant submitted that

it is not the role of the broadcaster to determine the legality or otherwise of the blockade, which it has acknowledged that it did. Surely, it is not the role of a news broadcaster to reach an “opinion” and insidiously communicate that to the audience as if it were fact. It is the role of the broadcaster to present the facts and allow the audience to reach its own opinion, or research the matter further if inclined to do so. It cannot be right that a news broadcaster can purport to be the arbiter of controversial matters, such as whether something is legal…Juliet Moses’ complaint to BSA 2016-087

The BSA concluded that “more care ought to have been taken to accurately describe a contentious issue” and that:

Where there are conflicting views on international issues broadcasters should take care to highlight where there is debate or contention to avoid viewers being misled by statements asserting that either position is definitively correct. In relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, precision is important when making statements of fact.NZ Broadcasting Standards Authority Ruling 2016-087

Once again our media have been caught misleading and producing alternative facts that have no relation to the real world.

The blockade is legal and sensible people like Sir Geoffrey Palmer have said so. TVNZ should not be disseminating lies and they’ve been held to account.


– Shalom.Kiwi

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.