ALEX RICE AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3466
Council Meeting: December 2023
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Discrimination and Diversity
Ruling Categories: Distortion
Alex Rice complained about a Stuff live blog on 18 October 2023 about the Israel/Hamas conflict. A story in the blog was headlined Live: Blast kills hundreds at Gaza hospital and the first paragraph said the Israel Defence Force (IDF) said the explosion was caused by a misfired Hamas rocket.
Alex Rice said it was incorrect to describe an Israeli air attack on a hospital as a "blast" caused by misfired Hamas rocket, adding over 500 innocent civilians died in the attack, yet Stuff led with the IDF’s opinion on what happened. This was a war crime, but no mention was made of this.
Stuff said its blog that day contained multiple live updates. It initially led with the comments from Hamas and the Gaza Ministry of Health and later reported on the IDF comments. The headline was changed again later the same day to reflect Hamas’ statement and the IDF’s.
Stuff said this was a reasonable and balanced way to handle breaking news, particularly during a time of great uncertainty,
Stuff said it had published a range of articles on the incident at a time of significant uncertainty around the cause of the explosion and even the death toll. It could not assert in the middle of a specific breaking news event like this whether Israel or Hamas was being truthful. “We simply strive to accurately report on what is happening and what the key players are saying.”
The Media Council notes that the story complained of by the complainant was a report of what the Israeli Defence Force was saying. Other stories on the blog published by Stuff also reported what Hamas was saying.
In the absence of immediate and verifiable information as to where the truth lies in a breaking news event the media can only report what the protagonists are saying, even though their claims may be contestable or ultimately proven to be false.
No case has been made in this case to show that Stuff’s reportage breached any Media Council principles.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.