Wellington Palestine Group and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2015-101 (12 May 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Wellington Palestine Group
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An item on ONE News reported on incidents of violence in Israel and Palestine. The newsreader said, ‘Road blocks are in place and thousands of police and soldiers are patrolling across Israel as it tries to stop a wave of violence’, and then crossed to a correspondent reporting from East Jerusalem. The item also went on to report on other incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, including in Gaza. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item was inaccurate because East Jerusalem is internationally recognised as being part of Palestine, not Israel, and viewers would have been misled into thinking that much of the violence took place in Israel.
 An item on ONE News reported on incidents of violence in Israel and Palestine. The newsreader said:
Road blocks are in place and thousands of police and soldiers are patrolling across Israel as it tries to stop a wave of violence. In the latest attack a Palestinian stabbed a 70-year-old woman before he was shot dead. [Reporter] is in Jerusalem.
 The item crossed to the reporter and showed footage of a man being shot by police. The footage was captioned ‘Jerusalem’.
 The Wellington Palestine Group complained that the item was misleading because the shooting took place in ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ and not Israel, but the combination of the introduction and the caption which followed left the viewer with the impression that East Jerusalem was in Israel.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 15 October 2015. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?
 The accuracy standard (Standard 5) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1
 The WPG said that the item was introduced ‘with a statement about what was purportedly happening in Israel and then showed immediately afterwards a scene captioned “Jerusalem”, indicating that the scene was in Israel. [TVNZ] failed at any time in the item to mention that the scenes described were occupied territory’.
 It also said that it could not ‘accept the story was accurate in describing the deployment on the scale which TVNZ stated it was to “in Israel” nor that it was an Israeli government response to a “wave of violence” occurring in Israel as different from the West Bank and East Jerusalem... TVNZ has for decades been frequently mistaken about its Palestinian/Israeli geography’. The WPG provided previous decisions by TVNZ upholding the WPG’s complaints about its inaccurate descriptions of geography in the Israel and Palestine regions, including one as recent as April 2015. The WPG argued, ‘The inability of TVNZ... to get simple geography on this matter correct so often means viewers are led to believe the Israeli version that East Jerusalem is a legitimate part of Israel and thus any resistance to the occupation cannot be legitimate’.
 TVNZ pointed out that ‘the deployment of soldiers across Israel by the Israelis did happen and was discussed in international media’, and argued that ‘[t]he shooting in Jerusalem is a separate issue. There was no intention... to state, and no implication, that East Jerusalem is part of Israel’. It maintained that ‘the item clearly discussed two separate events and viewers would not have been misled by this’.
 Issues of geography in Israel and Palestine are particularly fraught, and we accept that geographical descriptions can have significant implications. In this context, broadcasters’ descriptions have the ability to influence the audience’s understanding of, and views on, the Israel-Palestine conflict, so precision is very important, as the Authority has noted in previous decisions.2 For this reason we find that the geographical references in the introduction and the caption which followed were material for the purposes of the accuracy standard.
 It is clear, both from the historic correspondence provided by the WPG and from the Authority’s past decisions,3 that this issue is one that broadcasters continue to struggle with. It appears that TVNZ has strong internal instructions in place, yet in this case it used ‘Israel’ in the introduction to an item which discussed both Israel and Palestine (and as the WPG has pointed out, mostly Palestine).
 From the information we have before us, it appears that the first incident of violence discussed took place in East Jerusalem, which is internationally recognised as not being part of Israel. TVNZ has not disputed the complainant’s assertion that this event took place in East Jerusalem, and publicly available images also seem to confirm that the incident took place at the Damascus Gate, which is in East Jerusalem.
 We therefore think it was careless to refer to ‘Israel’ in the newsreader’s introduction, especially since it did not subsequently refer to ‘Palestine’ or ‘occupied areas’ in the rest of the item, even though much of the violence discussed apparently took place outside of Israel. We are not convinced by TVNZ’s argument that it was clear that two distinct events (ie, the deployment of troops across Israel and the violence in East Jerusalem) were being discussed. An introduction to a news item frames the item for the audience, and in this case viewers would have been led to think that the incidents, including the shooting in East Jerusalem, took place in Israel (particularly since the report from East Jerusalem immediately followed the introduction referencing Israel), which was not the case.
 We therefore uphold the Standard 5 complaint. We are satisfied that upholding the complaint would not unreasonably restrict the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. We are not saying that the item ought not to have been broadcast; it would have been a relatively simple adjustment to say ‘Israel and Palestine’ in the introduction rather than just ‘Israel’. Further, as we have mentioned above at paragraph , there is high public interest in ensuring geographical descriptions are correct when discussing events and the conflict in this region.
For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of an item on ONE News on 15 October 2015 breached Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. We do not intend to do so on this occasion, and think our decision serves as a reminder to broadcasters of the need for care and precision when reporting on events and conflict in the Israel and Palestine regions.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
12 May 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Wellington Palestine Group’s formal complaint – 27 October 2015
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 30 November 2015
3 WPG’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2015
4 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 24 February 2016
5 WPG’s final comment – 6 March 2016
6 TVNZ’s final comment – 24 March 2016
1 Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036
2 Wellington Palestine Group and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 1996-186
3 For example, Wakim on behalf of Palestine Human Rights Campaign and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2003-052 and Zarifeh, on behalf on the Wellington Palestine Group, and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2000-084