Dieter Barkhoff (VIC) responds to another letter from the ABC’s Kieran Doyle re the BBC’s “Death in the Med” 8Oct10 October 8, 2010

Dear Mr Doyle

I guess I find your reply even more preposterous than Lauren Crozier’s. Can I answer some of you points at the end of your points in a different colour?

I also intend to take this up with very senior ABC management.

Dieter Barkhoff

Dear Mr Barkhoff

Thank you for your email.

Under no circumstances will the ABC provide you with details about Audience and Consumer Affairs staff members.  All staff are required to declare any conflict of interest that may effect their work.  I can confirm that no member of the Audience and Consumer Affairs unit has any conflict of interest related to the broadcast of this BBC documentary or the investigation of your complaint.

The ABC did not produce this program, it was produced by the BBC. However, I am advised by ABC News management that Foreign Correspondent did assess the program to ensure that it was in keeping with the Corporation’s editorial standards, prior to broadcast.
In regard to your specific concerns;

-         Nowhere in the broadcast does the reporter state that the IHH is a terrorist organisation, as you have claimed.  She accurately notes that is Israel’s view.

The fact that Israel holds that view was highly relevant within the context of this report. This is a very specious point in that Israeli propaganda  deems anyone who opposes its aims and claims as ‘a terrorist organisation’.  For Ms Corbin to include the accusation without highlighting that no-one else in the world has that opinion implicitly condones the outrageous Israeli claim.

We have not been able to identify a single example in the broadcast were the reporter “made very light” of the Gaza blockade being in breach of international law. Surely implicit in making the point of the programme thus: ‘At the end of the day the bid to break the naval blockage wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza. It was a political move designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community’ she is painting the people on board the Mavi M  as mischief makers who were not attempting to bring aid to the people of Gaza at all. This is outrageous in the context that nine of them were murdered and many were shot and injured. We won’t even go into the humiliating circumstances they were subjected to when they were taken to Israel and charged with various bogus offences, witness the account of Fairfax correspondent Paul McGeogh.And this is my point, that it isn’t the illegal blockade that’s her problem, it’s that the blockade wanted to put pressure on Israel.

The report included detailed accounts of people on board the ship describing the behaviour of the Israeli commandos and the reasons why makeshift weapons were used as defence against them.  We cannot agree that the reporter favoured any one view over another on this issue. Then why go to such lengths to show the people on board the Mavi M manufacturing makeshift so-called weapons and not describe the arsenal of the most sophisticated armaments the Israelis used?

-         As advised in our previous response, all sides were afforded the opportunity to state their recollections, allowing the audience to draw its own conclusions.  It is not a matter of “accepting assertions” by one side or another.  There was considerable confusion and debate over what actually occurred on the Mavi Marmara and the program afforded those involved the opportunity to state their views and recollections.
The debate over what actually occurred was not even entered into, as witness by the UN enquiry which delivered its findings last week or the week before. Instead we had assertions by the Israeli spokespeople about wounded soldiers being shot and having to jump into the sea to save their lives, assertions, like I say, akin to Soviets making assertions about what the Germans did in Katyn.

-         We cannot agree that informing the audience that the head of the IHH lives in a heavily Muslim populated part of Istanbul is in breach of the ABC Editorial Policies.
Since Turkey is a Muslim country any area of Istanbul is heavily Muslim populated. Why is this even mentioned? If a report about an alleged Terrorist organisation – and this was the context in Corbin’s statement – said “ the headquarters of this group is the heavily Jewish quarter of Tel Aviv …Surely you get the point???

-         There is no editorial requirement for the ABC to note that Ken O’Keefe was unhappy with what the BBC did, or did not, include in the report.  The report’s focus was the events on board the Mavi Marmara, not the subsequent debate created by the BBC’s broadcast. O’Keefe’s indignant reply to Corbin was on the public record long before the ABC chose to air the programme. Once again, implicit in this is that Corbin’s constant focus on the ‘Terrorist’ nature of the people on board and behind  the Marvi M and her insistence that the medicine was out of date and therefore useless paints a picture sympathetic to the people who blockade Gaza  who feel free to intercept any ship which offers to help the people in Gaza who are, according to the UN, the Red Cross and Amnesty International, in desperate need of aid.

-         The Israeli commandos, like every other person in the report, were entitled to state their version of events.  The fact that you believe they were telling lies does not preclude the ABC from broadcasting their comments.
I don’t see the ABC showing many programmes where murderers are able to state their version of events and expect to be believed. There is something about Corbin’s reaction which sticks in the craw. I can’t see her recording and presenting sympathetically the version of events of a so-called Muslim Terrorist.

-         In regard to the reporter’s statement about the out of date medicines, she clearly was making the point that the flotilla wasn’t really about delivering medicine, but putting pressure on Israel and the international community to act.  We regret that you appear to have misunderstood the point she was making;

CORBIN: So what about the aid the IHH said was the reason for their mission? Some of it’s arrived in Gaza from Israel and it’s sitting in a warehouse. Mobility scooters, hospital beds and drugs. But I found that two thirds of the medicines are out of date and useless.

At the end of the day the bid to break the naval blockage wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza. It was a political move designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community.

Having reviewed the broadcast, we cannot agree that this comment was in any way “pompous”.
You missed my point that United Nations Relief Agencies have stated that the Use By date for many of these medicines is a nominal one, in the first place, and secondly, how the hell can she have checked all the dates anyhow – which she claims she did. What if I used the word SMUG?

You are of course entitled to have Audience and Consumer Affairs’ decision reviewed, and I have attached a link to the ABC Code of Practice, which sets out the internal and external review options available to you in section 7;

Your further comments have been noted.

Yours sincerely

Kieran Doyle
Audience and Consumer Affairs

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