Canadian ombudsman declares journalist’s Israel reporting biased

By Marcy Oster, JTA

TORONTO — A Canadian journalist’s reports from Israel have been declared biased and inaccurate by her own news outlet’s standards watchdog.

In a pointed rebuke, the ombudsman for Radio-Canada, the French-language arm of Canada’s state broadcaster, said reporter Ginette Lamarche was biased, used unverified facts and was inaccurate in her recent reporting on Israel.


Ombudsman Pierre Tourangeau late last week overturned Radio-Canada’s earlier dismissal of complaints from Honest Reporting Canada over five reports by Lamarche from the Middle East which aired in December.

Tourangeau found the reports failed to show balance, impartiality, and accuracy as required by Radio-Canada’s journalistic standards.

In a Dec. 19, 2010 radio report, Lamarche claimed “many Palestinians spend a good part of their youth in jail for participating in a demonstration or throwing stones,” without citing a source. According to Honest Reporting Canada, convicted stone throwers in fact spend an average of seven months behind bars, with the longest sentence consisting of 15 months.

Tourangeau also found a lack of “diversity of opinion” required for news coverage of controversial subjects; use of unverified facts; and failure to challenge claims which led to “at least an appearance of bias.”

He stated that the reports offered only a Palestinian viewpoint, and that the reporter did not verify or challenge claims or data submitted to her.

“I am very happy with the decision obtained by Honest Reporting,” said David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which regularly collaborates with Honest Reporting Canada.

Ouellette added they had received similar decisions about this journalist since 2008.

He said officials from Radio-Canada assured him last September that they took complaints related to Mideast affairs seriously. “However,” Ouellette told Sun Media, “we do not notice any improvement.”