Dieter Barkhoff (VIC) responds to letter from ABC Corporate Affairs re BBC documentary “Death in the Med” October 7, 2010

Dear Lauren Crozier

I received your reply last Friday and I must say it left me speechless.

I wish to take this further.  I’d like to know the make-up of the Audience and Consumer Affairs Unit, member by member because for reasons which I’ll briefly outline below I cannot see that anyone could construe this so-called Documentary as fair to both sides unless he or she cames from a position known in the classics as ‘having a vested interest’.

For a start, as you’re probably aware, an independent United Nations Inquiry into this matter which was published in the past 2 weeks found that the Israelis committed some serious offences, among them substantiated autopsy reports which showed that many of the casualties were shot repeatedly at close range, including an American Citizen who held nothing more lethal than a camera.

You claim below that the programme pointed out that the Mavi Marmara was in International waters but from my viewing of the programme this hardly mattered to the intrepid Ms Corbin. She also made very light of the simple fact that the blockade of Gaza is in itself a very serious breach of International Law. It seemed that according to Ms Corbin the issue was not that the Israelis blockade Gaza ensuring the calamitous Human Rights breaches implicit in this, nor is it that the Israelis deem they have the right to land heavily –armed troops onto ships from helicopters in International waters, the issue for Ms Garbin seems to be that some people on board the Mavi M chose to defend themselves with an assortment of hastily manufactured ‘weapons’, weapons which surely she herself would deem as hardly appropriate to defend herself with against soldiers armed with the most sophisticated weaponry going around these days.

Then she simply repeats the Israeli assertion – it is nowhere substantiated – that the organization behind the attempt to break the blockade of Gaza is a Terrorist organization. ( I might add that if you make a programme which accepts assertions such as the Head of the Israeli Defence Force inquiry made without asking for proof or substantiation then it would be like making a documentary about the Katyn Massacre and only allowing the Soviets to make allegations.)

You state below that the people on board the Mavi M and their organizers were allowed to present their case but you take no account of the loaded language used when introducing some of these people, for example, the head of the Relief Organisation lives in a ‘heavily Muslim populated part of Istanbul’ ( for God’s sake, about 97.5% of Istanbul is ‘Muslim’ populated!) and you chose to ignore that Ken O’Keefe has published a vehement denunciation of the way Corbin broke her promise about what she would include and not include in the programme.

You also allow Ms Corbin to use footage of so-called – so-called because they are anonymous- Israeli soldiers who tell bare faced lies about bring wounded and having to jump into the sea to save their lives. As the UN report states, some Israeli soldiers were disarmed and thrown overboard but the wounded Israelis soldiers were cared for, had their wounds tended and were handed over to what can only be described as Israeli Pirates, to call a spade a spade.

Most galling probably is that Ms Corbin claims to have examined all the confiscated medicine in the Israeli warehouse – where else, after all, only Israelis have the right to dispense medicine to Gazans – and she pompously pronounces that most of it is out of date. Now, how can she possibly have examined all this medicine in the first place – the programme shows only one opened package for a start – and how can she be ignorant of another UN relief Agency report which states that the Use By date on much medicine is only a Nominal date, that most of it would still be useful in most cases.

As I state above, could you please furnish details of the make-up of the panel which has come to the outrageous conclusion that Corbin’s BBC programme was/is not biased.


Dear Mr Barkhoff

Thank you for your email regarding the BBC report Gaza – Collision Course, broadcast by Foreign Correspondent on 7 September.

Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC.  We have reviewed the broadcast, assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards and sought and considered material provided by ABC News.

The report set out to examine the confusion and debate over what actually occurred on the Mavi Marmara by presenting both sides of the issue.  The report was scrupulously balanced through the presentation of a range of principal relevant perspectives including three Israeli commandos who boarded the boat; the Head of the Israeli Defence Force inquiry into the events; the Free Gaza coordinator, Lubna Masarwa; the Head of the IHH, Bulent Yildrum as well as IHH volunteers and other activists on board the boat, including former US marine, Ken O’Keefe.

The report included the accusation that Israel had broken international law by seizing a Turkish ship in international waters and that it had fired first at those aboard the ship.  The report also included the counter accusation that some of the protestors aboard the Mavi Marmara were actually terrorists and that it was they who had instigated the violence by wielding metal bars and stabbing the Israeli commandos landing on the ship with knives.

The report made it clear that the flotilla was still in international waters when seized, ninety miles from Gaza. The program also made it clear that a number of inquiries into the incident were ongoing. The report was balanced and impartial, providing both sides the opportunity to state their views, and no one view was unduly favoured over another.

The broadcast included footage from a variety of different sources, including from the Israeli Defence Force, some from the IHH, Cultures of Resistance and others from individuals who were on board the Marvi Marmara.  The BBC has issued a statement that all of the footage featured in the broadcast was meticulously double- and cross-checked to verify its accuracy and that any footage of uncertain events during the raid were clearly labelled as such.

Audience and Consumer Affairs believe the report is in keeping with sections 3.4 and 3.5 of the ABC Code of Practice.  Balance was achieved through the presentation of a range of principal relevant perspectives, none of which were unduly favoured over another, and the issues raised in the report are based on news values. Your comments regarding Hope in a Slingshot have been noted; however, as set out above, the report Gaza – Collision Course achieved balance within the program, the clear focus of which was the Israeli seizure of the Mavi Marmara, and not the deep and continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians dealt with in Hope in a Slingshot. A copy of the Code of Practice is available online at the attached link:

Thank you for allowing the ABC the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Yours sincerely

Lauren Crozier
ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs

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