Ofcom dismissed complaints against Al Jazeera’s Israeli embassy documentary
Categories: Latest News
Monday October 16 2017
Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom, has cleared Al Jazeera of accusations of antisemitism and unfair bias related to its undercover investigation of Israeli embassy officials, the Guardian reports.
In January, Al Jazeera aired a four-part documentary “The Lobby” investigating the activities of the Israeli embassy in Britain. Filmed over six months, the series revealed the efforts of Israeli embassy staff to smear British politicians perceived as hostile towards Israel. In one scene, the embassy’s senior political officer, Shai Masot, plots to “take down” Sir Alan Duncan MP, an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights.
In response to the footage becoming public, the Israeli ambassador apologised for Masot’s comments, and Masot resigned.
After the series was aired, Ofcom received complaints that the documentary portrayed negative stereotypes about Jewish people and that it presented a biased perspective on the Israel-Palestine debate.
On 9 October, Ofcom dismissed both of these complaints made against Al Jazeera, stating that the network had breached neither rule 2.3 (related to offensive content) nor rule 5.5 (requiring “due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy”) of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code.
Regarding the charge of antisemitism, Ofcom officials stated: “The fact that the programmes uncovered evidence of inappropriate behaviour by those acting on behalf of the Israeli government, or by those belonging to a small number of organisations that promote Israeli policy, does not mean that they were anti-Semitic. In the same way, programmes that expose the violence associated with some black gang culture in Britain’s inner cities are not, by default, racist.”
Responding to the accusation of Al Jazeera violating impartiality rules, Ofcom noted that “the viewpoint of the Israeli government was included in the programme in a number of linked ways.”
Al Jazeera’s director of investigative journalism, Clayton Swisher, commented that the Ofcom ruling has “fully and completely vindicated” Al Jazeera’s work.
Ofcom’s ruling comes in the middle of a larger set of challenges facing Al Jazeera. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the network of inciting violence and endeavoured to shut down the Jerusalem office. In June, a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states demanded the closing of the Qatar-based media network as part of a larger economic and diplomatic blockade, based on claims that the Qatari government supports terrorism.
In response, human rights and press freedom advocates from around the world have condemned efforts to censor or shut down the network, and Al Jazeera has restated its commitments to journalistic excellence and independence.