ABC program on water in Israel and Palestine found to be biased

ABC RN’s program Saturday Extra presented two programs on water in Israel and Palestine in January and February this year which were the subjects of a formal complaint to the ABC’s independent complaints unit.
Neither program  presented a Palestinian perspective or speaker and did not mention key facts about the 50 year Occupation and the huge water theft that’s gone on for decades nor the 12 year  blockade and bombardment of Gaza which has destroyed water infrastructure.

The ABC complaints unit has upheld the complaints regarding both these programs which is summarized here:

‘For the reasons set out above, Audience and Consumer Affairs have concluded that the program Israeli experts on drought management of 26 January 2019 was in breach of the ABC’s accuracy provisions (2.1) due to a material lack of context; and that the edition Water situation in Palestine reaches crisis point of 2 February 2019  was in breach of the ABC’s impartiality provisions (4.5) because it unduly favoured the Israeli perspective on water management.’

The program’s presenter, Geraldine Doogue gave a long and formal apology and acknowledgement on air on Sat April 13 in response to the ruling of the breach of editorial guidelines .

This program then aired an interview with Dr Abdelrahman Tamimi, General Director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group in order to provide balance. 

You can hear this Saturday Extra program Water in the Palestinian Territories here 
The full complaint from 14 Palestine advocacy groups is below:

The complaint asked for the following resolution:

We ask that the ABC provide balanced reporting on Palestine and Palestinian matters and seeks to rectify the bias shown in these two programs by broadcasting and publishing content on the Israel Palestine water issue by Palestinian speakers and internationally recognized water experts on the situation in Palestine who are not aligned with Israel.

We also ask that the ABC clarifies and explains via the Saturday Extra website and on air, the nature and funding of the water ‘initiative’ which was presented as an Australian government initiative but seems to have been organised and funded by the Israeli Embassy, the Jewish National Fund and Mr David Gonski.

The original webpages for the two water programs have had Editor’s notes added to the pages to indicate that both were subject to a complaint which was upheld.

  1. The Saturday Extra program on Israeli Experts on Drought Management

Editor’s note: This story was the subject of a complaint, which has been upheld by the ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs unit.

Although the intent was to focus only on the technical water management knowledge that two visiting water experts could share with Australia, this discussion referred to the Israeli National Water Carrier and the importance of water to Israel’s national security. However, the program failed to put this into the broader context of the high-degree of contention around Israel’s management of water.

The ABC acknowledges that international agencies – including the UN and humanitarian bodies – have criticised Israel’s water management policies, particularly in relation to the Palestinian Territories. 

       2. The Saturday Extra program on Palestine Water Crisis

Editor’s note: This story was the subject of a complaint, which has been upheld by the ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs unit.

While the intent of this interview was to provide insight into water crisis in Palestine and while the interviewee had expertise in water issues in Gaza, some highly contentious statements were not challenged and the program failed to provide a Palestinian perspective or response.

Saturday Extra deeply regrets this omission.