SBS sorry for headline

A file photo of the Temple Mount. Photo: EPA/Jim Hollander.

SBS has apologised to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) after the broadcaster breached its code for accuracy over a story entitled “Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa mosque”.

ECAJ had lodged a complaint with the SBS ombudsman in June, noting that the story, which appeared on SBS radio and online, “falsely claimed that ‘Israeli settlers’ had ‘stormed’ the Al-Aqsa mosque”.

“In fact, Jews around the world were celebrating Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the unification of the city in 1967,” ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said in his submission.

“The group were not ‘Israeli settlers’ but Jewish visitors under police supervision. They did not enter the Al-Aqsa mosque at all, let alone ‘storm’ it. They peacefully entered the Temple Mount area as permitted by the status quo agreement which allows for non-Muslim visitors at set visiting times. Subsequently, some Palestinians initiated a riot after being incited by false stories that the mosque had been ‘stormed’.'”

Section 2.2 of the SBS code states that “reasonable effort must be made to ensure that the factual content of news and current affairs programs is accurate, having regard to the circumstances, and facts known, at the time of preparing and broadcasting or publishing the content”.

Responding to ECAJ, SBS ombudsman Sally Begbie acknowledged that “the content was found to have breached the code requirements for accuracy”.

“This headline was an unattributed quote from an AFP Arabic report which was the source of the story by SBS Arabic24 on 3 June,” Begbie wrote.

“The unsourced and unqualified headline failed to meet the accuracy provisions of Code 2.2.”

She then turned to the accuracy of the word “settlers”, noting that they were in fact Israelis marching to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.

“This reference to ‘settlers’ was how the marchers were described by the Arab news media on the day, including by Al Jazeera,” Begbie said.

“Such a reference to the marchers was inaccurate. SBS apologises for this breach of the code.”

Begbie went on to say that SBS’s director of audio and language services, Mandi Wicks, has “reminded the Arabic Language Program of the need for accuracy in reporting, and for attribution in circumstances where a person of standing is providing their analysis of events”. 

The content has been removed from the SBS Arabic24 website.

EVAN ZLATKIS