BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Wellington Palestine Group and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1995-048

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • W J Fraser
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • Wellington Palestine Group
Number
1995-048
Programme
One Network News
Channel/Station
TV One


Summary

British Prime Minister John Major was shown on One Network News laying a wreath

at the memorial for the victims of the Holocaust during a trip to Israel.

On behalf of the Wellington Palestine Group, Ms Nadia el Maaroufi complained to

Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item breached the broadcasting

standards as it perpetuated the myth that Jerusalem was part of Israel. As many

viewers were aware, she wrote, the Yad Veshem monument was in Jerusalem.

On the basis that the item was factually correct in its report on Mr Major's activities

and as the emphasis was on what was done rather than on where it was done, TVNZ

declined to uphold the complaint. Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Ms el

Maaroufi on the Group's behalf referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards

Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the news item complained about – on 14

March – and in addition they have watched the item on 15 March which also referred

to Mr Major's trip. They have also read the correspondence which included a

transcript of each item (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the

Authority has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

On behalf of the Wellington Palestine Group, Ms Nadia el Maaroufi complained to

TVNZ about an item broadcast on One Network News on 15 March which reported

the British Prime Minister's (Mr Major) trip to Israel but showed the Yad Veshem

Memorial in Jerusalem. As TVNZ was perpetuating a media error by describing

Jerusalem as part of Israel, Ms el Maaroufi wrote, the item breached the broadcasting

standard requiring accuracy. She also expressed disappointment that, despite past

reassurances from TVNZ that it would not imply that the territories occupied by

Israel in 1967, including Jerusalem, were part of Israel, it continued to reinforce the

mythology.

Pointing out that Mr Major's trip was dealt with in news items on 14 and 15 March,

TVNZ included a transcript of each item and said the complaint should have referred

to the one of the 14th as that was the one which referred to the memorial for the Jews

killed in the Holocaust. It proceeded to assess the complaint under standard G14 of

the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice as if it had complained about a news item

on 14 March. Standard G14 reads:

G14 News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.


As the transcript of the item recorded, TVNZ stated, it was reported that Mr Major,

while on a trip to Israel, paid a tribute at the memorial for the six million Jews killed in

the Holocaust. The visuals showed him doing so. The item continued, TVNZ said,

by stating that Mr Major had then flown north to visit the occupied Golan Heights.


TVNZ wrote:

We do not share your view that many New Zealanders would immediately

associate the pictures of the wreath-laying with the city of Jerusalem. Attention

in the item is drawn to what is being done, rather than where it is being done.


The facts related in the item are strictly correct. Mr Major was on a visit to

Israel, and Mr Major did pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust while a

guest of the Israeli Government.

There had been a reference to Jerusalem in the item on 15 March, TVNZ observed,

when it was described as a "disputed city".

When she referred the Group's complaint to the Authority, Ms el Maaroufi

maintained that the 14 March item was inaccurate as, while referring to Mr Major's

trip to Israel, it had shown the Yad Veshem Memorial in Jerusalem. She argued:

TVNZ's response is not adequate. It states that it did not say what was being

shown was Israel. This is true, because, conveying information on television is

in large part through pictures, (or at least the idea). Showing pictures is to

surely represent the words spoken over the images and vice versa. The words

and the pictures should match and not contradict each other.


The correct reference to the "occupied" Golan Heights did not excuse TVNZ's

inaccuracy and, moreover, increased the inaccurate implication as it suggested, through

the absence of any reference, that Jerusalem was not occupied. Furthermore, Ms el

Maaroufi now complained about TVNZ's description of Jerusalem as "disputed" on

15 March, rather than "occupied", as the former was the preferred Israeli term and

was "very much the language of the violator of the law".

In its report to the Authority, TVNZ noted that the use of the term "disputed" was

not part of the original complaint and maintained that there was a distinction between

Western Jerusalem, in which the Yad Veshem Memorial was located, and Eastern

Jerusalem, occupied after the 1967 war. In response, the Group commented that just

because different parts of Jerusalem were occupied at different times, did not detract

from the fact that all of Jerusalem was occupied.

In its assessment of the complaint, the Authority began by commending TVNZ for

ensuring that despite the inaccurate date contained in the complaint as to when the

item complained about was screened, it ensured that the correct item was considered in

its response to the complainant. The Authority agreed with TVNZ that the

description of Jerusalem as "disputed" or "occupied" was not an aspect of the original

complaint and, consequently, it was not a matter with which it was required to deal.

The Authority focussed on the issue of whether the broadcast on 14 March which

reported that, while on a trip to Israel, Mr Major visited the Yad Veshem Memorial

amounted to a breach of standard G14. Did the item imply, because the Yad Veshem

Memorial was in Jerusalem, that Jerusalem was part of Israel?

The Group acknowledged that the location of the Yad Veshem Memorial was not

given during the item but argued that "many New Zealanders would be aware of where

it is". TVNZ disagreed – many New Zealanders, it said, would not associate the

pictures of the wreath laying with the city of Jerusalem.

In its decision on this point, the Authority decided that TVNZ more accurately

reflected the state of knowledge of many, if not most, New Zealanders about the

location of the Yad Veshem Memorial – if they, in fact, had known it was the Yad

Veshem Memorial. The name was not mentioned in the item and the picture showed

only an area at the base. New Zealanders, the Authority believed, would not associate

the memorial with Jerusalem. There was nothing in the item – either verbally or

visually – to suggest that the memorial was in a part of Israel which was "occupied".

Thus, because of this lack of information, the alleged implication was not present.

Accordingly, the Authority decided that the item did not breach the requirements of

standard G14.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
15 June 1995


Appendix

Wellington Palestine Group's Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand

Limited - 17 March 1995

On behalf of the Wellington Palestine Group, Ms Nadia el Maaroufi complained to

Television New Zealand Ltd about an item on One Network News broadcast on 15

March between 6.00 - 7.00pm.

The Group reported that the item concerned the British Prime Minister's trip to Israel

and while the commentary referred to Israel, the accompanying pictures showed the

Yad Veshem Memorial in Jerusalem.

Pointing out that Jerusalem was not part of Israel and maintaining therefore that the

item was inaccurate, the complainant said that TVNZ was perpetuating a media error

which was damaging to the cause of the Palestinian people. Although TVNZ had not

captioned Yad Veshem as being in Jerusalem, it continued, many New Zealand viewers

would have known its location and consequently assumed that Jerusalem was in Israel.

The Group concluded by saying that it had pointed out the inaccuracy over Jerusalem

many times in the past and had received assurances that TVNZ would not again state

or imply that the Territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, were part of

Israel. It was disappointed that TVNZ continued to broadcast items from overseas

news suppliers which reinforced the mythology of Israeli territorial claims.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 22 March 1995

As the Group complained that the programme was inaccurate because the Yad Veshem

Memorial was in the "disputed" city of Jerusalem and not in Israel, TVNZ considered

the complaint in the context of standard G14 of the Television Programme standards.

TVNZ questioned whether the complaint had reported the date of the item incorrectly

as One Network News had carried a brief item about Mr Major's trip on the 15 March

but it had made no reference to the Memorial. His visit to the Memorial was reported

on the previous day. TVNZ then enclosed transcripts of the two items and stated

that for the purpose of determining the complaint, it had assumed that it referred to

the item on 14 March.

The broadcaster noted that the script had not identified the Memorial concerned, nor

made any specific reference either to it or to its location, referring only to the fact that

Mr Major had laid a wreath as a tribute to the six million Jews killed in the holocaust.

It did not share the complainant's view that many New Zealanders would associate

the pictures of the Memorial with the city of Jerusalem as the viewer's attention had

been drawn to what had been done rather than where it had been done. The facts

related in the item were strictly correct - that Mr Major had visited Israel and that he

had paid tribute to the victims of the holocaust while a guest of the Israeli government.

Drawing attention to the fact that both items made a point of reminding viewers about

the Israeli occupation, TVNZ noted that the 14 March item specifically referred to the

Golan Heights as "occupied" territory and in the 15 March item Jerusalem was

described as a "disputed" city.

TVNZ concluded that it was sorry that fault was found with the news item on 14

March but believed that it had been strictly accurate and had not contained the

implications ascribed to it. Accordingly, G14 had not been breached and the

complaint was not upheld.

Wellington Palestine Group's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards

Authority - 13 April 1995

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, on the Group's behalf Ms el Maaroufi referred

the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989.

Referring to the 15 March item, the complainant said that it continued to be concerned

with TVNZ's persistence in describing Jerusalem as a "disputed" city. It noted that it

had written to the Authority on 26 May 1994, a copy of which would have been sent

to TVNZ, pointing out that under international law Jerusalem was considered to be

"occupied". The word "disputed", it continued, was used by Israel and sometimes by

the United States to describe Jerusalem and was very much the language of the violator

of the law.

The Group insisted that by describing a trip by Prime Minister John Major to Israel

and by showing the Yad Veshem Memorial in Jerusalem, which is not part of Israel,

the 14 March item illustrated TVNZ's propensity for portraying the "occupied

territories" as part of Israel.

TVNZ's response was not adequate, continued the complainant, because what had

been shown on the screen did not accurately reflect or match what had been conveyed

by the commentary. It stated:

TVNZ does not show pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge when talking

about the River Thames.

In this particular instance, the Group argued that the item conveyed the impression

that Yad Veshem was in Israel. Just because Yad Veshem was less well known than

the Sydney Harbour Bridge did not excuse TVNZ's having placed the memorial

somewhere other than in its rightful location.

Furthermore, by introducing the "occupied" Golan Heights immediately afterwards,

TVNZ contrasted Israel and Jerusalem/Yad Veshem with that "occupied" territory and

consequently it had compounded its error. The reporter could have been accurate and

stated that both Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were "occupied".

In conclusion, the Wellington Palestine Group maintained that the message from the

broadcast was that Israel and Yad Veshem were one place from which John Major

flew north to visit the "occupied" Golan Heights. That message was not satisfactory.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 28 April 1995

TVNZ responded to the Authority by first noting that there had been some confusion

regarding the date of screening of the item complained about. The complainant had

originally claimed the item was screened on 15 March but, TVNZ stated, a study of

the complaint revealed that it had referred to an item screened the previous evening.

TVNZ maintained that the reference to the "disputed city" was not in the item which

was the subject of the original complaint and said that it had provided the Wellington

Palestine Group with a transcript which confirmed that the item complained about

was shown on 14 March.

Stating that the Wellington Palestine Group had misled the Authority when it

indicated that the status of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights was the same, TVNZ

submitted that the status of Eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights was identical as

both had been seized and occupied by Israel in an act of war but Western Jerusalem,

which contained the Yad Veshem Memorial, was part of the State of Israel which had

been established at the end of World War II. Acknowledging that the Palestinian

people saw the whole of Jerusalem as being "occupied", TVNZ said that it could not

accept that the Western sectors of the city had the same "occupied" status as the

Golan Heights and Eastern Jerusalem.

TVNZ believed that the 14 March item reported an event in the Middle East

truthfully and fairly without having suggested any of the implications detected by the

Wellington Palestine Group. It concluded by saying that it was acutely conscious of

the volatile nature of politics in that region and took its responsibilities for accurately

reporting them very seriously.

The Group's Final Comment - 12 May 1995

Arguing that the complaint should deal with both items, Nadia el Maaroufi, on the

Group's behalf, maintained that Jerusalem was "occupied" - it was not merely

"disputed".

Questioning TVNZ's historical discussion, she stated that Eastern Jerusalem and

Western Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were all seized and occupied by Israel in an

act of war - the second piece of territory in 1948 and the first and third in 1967.

TVNZ was correct, she added, to state that Palestinians believe all Jerusalem was

occupied but its legal status was also quite clear. While the UN did not require Israel's

withdrawal from all the occupied territories, she concluded, they were, nevertheless,

occupied.