CBC Radio-Canada correspondent rapped for alleged biased reporting

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Another CBC Middle East correspondent has come under the critical microscope of a pro-Israel group that implies she's guilty of biased reporting about the Jewish state.

The latest target is Ginette Lamarche of Radio-Canada, the public broadcaster's French-language service, according to the National Post.

A group called Honest Reporting Canada got Radio-Canada to issue a correction this week to an April 7 story Lamarche filed earlier this month that termed Israel's 2010 interception and boarding of a blockade-running Turkish ship as an "attack." An international review later deemed Israel's action legitimate.

Lamarche's story was about Israel's recent apology to Turkey for the incident, which resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish activists aboard the M/V Mavi Marmara.

According to Honest Reporting Canada, Radio-Canada has had to correct several previous reports by Lamarche and Radio-Canada's ombudsman, Pierre Tourangeau, had upheld 10 complaints against the reporter since the fall of 2011.

A story last February in the Jerusalem Post reported Lamarche's files from Israel had been declared biased and inaccurate by the ombudsman after complaints by Honest Reporting Canada.

Tourangeau said Lamarche's work lacked a "diversity of opinion" required for covering controversial stories, the use of unverified facts and a failure to challenge claims that led to "at least an appearance of bias," according to the Israeli newspaper.

The ombudsman in February 2012 overturned a decision by Radio-Canada's complaints department that dismissed the allegations, according to a Toronto Sun story at the time.

One of Lamarche's corrected stories originally said "many Palestinians spend a good part of their youth in jail for participating in a demonstration or throwing stones," without backing up the claim. Honest Reporting Canada contended stone-throwers were jailed an average of seven months, the Sun reported.

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David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs welcomed the 2012 ruling, noting Lamarche had been citied for her reports since 2008.

"However, we do not notice any improvement," he told the Sun.

Ouellette had also previously complained about a Lamarche story on a speech by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal that inaccurately defined the word "Palestine," the National Post said. Tourangeau apparently agreed, saying the report had a "lack of clarity." The ombudsman also accepted another of Oullette's complaints about a 2011 story that omitted a description of violence by pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the moments before Israeli soldiers shot them.

In his February 2012 report, Tourangeau said he believed the problems with Lamarche's stories were "involuntary and accidental," the Post said.

“I recognize the difficulties that are often faced reporters on the ground, particularly in conflict zones: Lengthy assignments, unavailable spokespeople, unverifiable facts, language barriers that put us at the mercy of interpreters and guides,” Tourangeau said in his report.

Lamarche isn't the first CBC Mid-East correspondent whose reports were parsed for anti-Israeli bias.

Neil Macdonald, now the CBC TV's senior Washington correspondent, came under attack during his five-year stint reporting from the region between 1998 and 2003.

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A 2005 article in the Ryerson Review of Journalism traced his shifting views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Macdonald told a friend that in the first six months in Jerusalem, his sympathies were with the Israelis, but later he told his friend "'I realize that the Israelis are such bastards. They're so oppressive." A year after that, he'd thrown up his hands, calling the conflict "an impossible situation."

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essentially a nasty ethno-religious conflict between two peoples who loathe one another and want the same piece of land. Period," Macdonald told a 2002 Canadian Association of Journalists conference, according to the Review.

Honest Reporting Canada still doesn't trust Macdonald, complaining in 2011 that while covering the revolution in Libya, used a quote from a Libyan civilian to make a comparison between the actions of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and those of Israel.

"It is clear and well-established by now that, wherever MacDonald is posted – be it Jerusalem, Washington, or Libya – he will continue to denigrate Israel using sources and handpicked 'experts' who gratuitously involve Israel in stories it has nothing to do with," the self-appointed watchdog group said. "Macdonald is guilty not only of the appearance of bias, but of bias itself."