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Ofcom unsound judgment on Press TV
Fri Aug 6, 2010 10:15AM
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Lauren Booth
UK media regulator, Ofcom, has lashed out at Press TV over a current affairs program discussing Israel's deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in late May.

The media authority says Remember Palestine, a Press TV program presented by Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, has breached impartiality rules.

Ofcom's initial complaint focuses on Booth and her guest's choice of words, stressing that expressions such as "barbarous attack" were an overstatement of Israel's May 31 attack on the Freedom Flotilla that killed nine activists.

Press TV maintains that it has complied with broadcast codes, arguing that the program's guests, which include a host of journalist and pro-Palestinian activist, were entitled to freedom of expression.

Press TV further adds that the "intensity of the descriptions in the program merely reflected the general atmosphere around the world."

However, the UK media authority has concluded that the program is solely from the pro-Palestinian point of view, noting that broadcast codes on "due impartiality" were open to interpretation.

"We considered the broadcaster did not provide sufficient evidence of alternative views within the program. Overall the program gave a one-sided view on this matter of political controversy."

The media regulator says it launched the investigation after receiving 'one' complaint.

A Game of Words

Throughout its five-page investigation report, titled "In Breach: Remember Palestine," Ofcom most notably evades referring to any "attack" on the part of Israel, relegating the massacre to the level of a mere incident.

When referring to the May 31 attack, Ofcom uses "incident," "the Israeli government's actions" and an "interception by Israeli military." The activists are referred to as "people onboard the ship."

With regards to the "impartial presentation" of its case, Ofcom seems to suggest that the acceptable way of describing the attack is that an interception led to an incident in which nine people were killed.

International organizations, the European Union, and world leaders have strongly criticized the Israeli attack on ships, and even mainstream media has used the terms "assault", "raid," and "stormed ships."

Greta Berlin from the Free Gaza Movement was quick to correct a France 24 presenter, during an interview immediately after the attack. "This is not a confrontation. This is a massacre."

Misleading the public

Israeli navy commandoes boarded the ill-fated Turkish flagship of the Freedom Flotilla, Mavi Maramara, and five other ships overnight.

Live satellite broadcasts from the vessel were cut. Soon afterwards, it was revealed that nine activists had been killed during the attack.

As Israeli forces tried to intercept the flotilla in international waters, 65 km off the Gaza coast, an "attack" is the more accepted term, especially since Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman talks of Israel's right "to defend" itself against the ships, which were seeking to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Press TV also rejects the claims that the program is seeking to mislead the public, noting that the program, as apparent from its title, is dedicated to investigating the sympathetic viewpoints on the plight of the Palestinians.

In March, Ofcom rejected 50 complaints about a Channel 4 program, Dispatches, over an episode attacking the "powerful influence" of the Israeli lobby in Britain.

Ofcom ruled that the Dispatches program was not breaching the Code, as "it included views from the organizations and individuals highlighted in the program as being active as lobbying in sympathy" to Israel.

"In Ofcom's view, this was a legitimate investigation into the activities of lobby groups, which approached the subject with 'due impartiality.'"
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