'Human error' wipes Israel off the map  

Australia’s national news broadcaster ABC belatedly admits that “human error” wiped Israel off a displayed map, but it is not that simple.

David Singer,

David Singer
David Singer

Australia’s national news broadcaster (ABC) has belatedly admitted that “human error” wiped Israel off this map:  http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4729053.htm (Link instead of photo due to copywriting limitations) 

This admission came during the investigation of a complaint lodged by me concerning a segment aired on Media Watch featuring the above map and titled “Misplaced map outrage” 

Audience and Consumer Affairs (AACA) - a unit separate to and independent of the content making areas of the ABC – dealt with my complaint in which I alleged that Media Watch had breached the ABC's editorial standards of accuracy. 

Media Watch had focused on negating a Daily Mail story dated 19 August which accused the ABC of wiping Israel off the map. 

Media Watch sought to exonerate ABC by providing the context missing from the Daily Mail article – namely, that the ABC report was about repealing a law which allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims, that Israel had never had that law whereas such laws had been applied in Palestinian Arab territories.

The ABC had responded to the Daily Mail on 21 August, claiming:

 “[t]he graphic did not represent a map of the Middle East but a visual representation of the countries relevant to the story”. 

Media Watch presenter Paul Barry then justified Israel’s omission from the map: 

“But two days is obviously an age in the [Daily] Mail’s hectic newsroom. And clearly no one bothered to watch the ABC report. Because if they had they would have known that the nations in blue are where this law has been abolished. And the nations in yellow are those that still have it on their books.And Israel was not on the map because it never had the offending statute."

AACA’s investigation found otherwise:

“With regard to the original image used on The World, we have sought additional information from ABC News who have advised that unfortunately due to human error the yellow shading covered a larger area than where the laws are applicable. But as marry-your-rapist laws have never been enacted in Israel, Israel was not labelled on the map so as not to mislead viewers that Israel had or has any such laws. However, this was not an implicit political comment or any attempt to delegitimise Israel.”

AACA then determined:

“Within the context of the Media Watch segment which especially sought to provide context to the Daily Mail’s article, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that viewers would not be materially misled by the inclusion of the graphic from The World. Nevertheless, we have noted your concerns and made them available to the program, ABC Television and ABC News for their consideration.”

That would be fine, except for one major fact that puts the omission of Israel into another category entirely. It wasn't just omission, it was replacement. 

Challenging AACA’s determination as “perplexing” – I responded:

“The yellow shading in covering a larger area than where the laws are applicable was not accurate because:
(i) the yellow shaded area mistakenly included Israel and 
(ii) the yellow shaded area mistakenly identified and clearly labelled "Israel" as "Palestine"
Surely this admitted "human error" needs to be publicly acknowledged by the ABC and a public correction or clarification issued.
I would further submit that this human error comes within part 2.1 of the ABC's editorial standards - which you do not appear to have even considered:
2.1 Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context"

AACA replied:

“We have nothing further to add to our substantive response.”

This dismissive response coming from the annual $1 billion taxpayer-funded ABC is not acceptable.
Reprimanding those responsible for this “human error” and those who sought to publicly justify Israel’s exclusion from the map using artificially-contrived reasons is surely warranted – particularly as the ABC has been recently accused of anti-Israel bias.

Media Watch certainly needs to issue a clarification and apology.

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