Case Number: 2494

Council Meeting: MARCH 2016

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Comment and Fact
Headlines and Captions
Unfair Coverage


  1. Damien Klavs complains against an article that appeared in Stuff online on 5 February 2016.He alleges the Press Council’s principles of discrimination and diversity; headlines and captions; comment and fact; and accuracy, fairness and balance are all breached.It can be seen this is a wide-ranging complaint, involving many of our principles.

The Article

2. The online story that led to this complaint dealt with the sentencing of two Israeli teenagers for the murder of a Palestinian teen.The two teenagers, along with a man who was said to have organised the murder, were found guilty in November last year of the abduction, bludgeoning, strangling and burning of 18 year old, Mohammed Abu Khudair, on 2 July 2014.

3. The headline to the story reads ‘Israeli teens jailed for burning Palestinian boy alive’.The opening sentence states:

A court has sentenced two young Israelis to life and 21 years in prison for burning a Palestinian teen alive, part of a cycle of violence that led up to the 2014 Gaza war.

4. The accused had confessed and said the murder was in revenge for the killing of three Israeli youths by Hamas in the occupied West Bank.The story goes on to say that tensions are intensifying again, with a wave of Palestinian street attacks against Israelis now in its fifth month.It was said that this was fuelled by Israel building on land the Palestinians want for an independent state.It reports that the deceased’s father said there should be an appeal, as the younger boy, who received the sentence of 21 years, should have been sentenced to life.It also notes that the State of Israel sought the same prison terms for both teenagers, but was satisfied with the outcome.The story then deals with the man who was found guilty of murder and who was said to have instigated the offence, and his claim of insanity, which is not relevant to the complaint.

The Complaint

5. Mr Klavs alleges that the “click bait” blurb was misleading and “could easily be seen as not reporting wholly the whole truth that surrounded the situation”.He said it was a sensationalist and inaccurate reporting of the facts, and it failed to follow the correct chronological order of events that he set out.He said it was a blatant manipulation of the chronological facts.He said the article by Stuff writing in such a format “could be seen as anti-Israeli propaganda by failure to equally account for all the actions that occurred prior to and after this incident.” Essentially he accuses Stuff of publishing a story that is anti-Israeli.

The Response

6. The editor, Patrick Crewdson, states that this is a straightforward report of court proceedings from Reuters, a respected news agency.

7. He does not accept the complaint from Mr Klavs, stating that the story does not suggest the fault lay “entirely with Israel”.He said the alleged tit-for-tat nature of the murder was set out.He goes on to note that the State of Israel itself was appalled at the crime and sought life sentences.He submitted that in those circumstances it could not be said the article was in any way attempting to blame Israel “as Israel did not kill this teenager?”He said three individuals did, and two of them were jailed while the other matter was adjourned.He said it is in no way discriminatory or an attack on diversity of any sort.

8. He goes on to address the blurb, and states the first two lines of a blurb are designed to promote stories to readers on the Stuff landing page.He said they are often all a reader sees before going to the story.He continued:

It would, of course, be wrong to say that the first crime did not help fuel these tensions but the tit-for-tat nature of almost continuous conflict in the region makes laying blame entirely on one side impossible for all but the most myopic.

9. He continued that both events contributed to the triggering of tension in the region, which ultimately led to the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict.He submitted the introduction was a fair representation of the story it linked to.He said there is seldom a single identifiable cause for war, and that a number of factors lead to conflict.He said the story clearly states this and is a simple court story following yet another crime in a complicated conflict.

The Discussion

10. Neither the headline (blurb or “click bait”) nor the story itself breaches any of the principles as alleged.

11. The story deals with the sentencing of two Jewish teenagers who had been prosecuted by the State of Israel for the offence of murder which involved the abduction, bludgeoning, strangling and burning of a 16 year old Palestinian boy.They were found guilty by an Israeli court.The story also makes very clear that this was said to be a revenge murder for the killing of three Israeli youths by Hamas beforehand.

12. It states that the incidents, clearly referring to both sets of killings, raised tensions and led to a seven-week Israeli offensive against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip that began on 9 July 2014.It states that this was after cross-border Palestinian rocket attacks and an Israeli round-up of suspected militants in the West Bank.

13.The second sentence of the blurb complained of states that this was part of a cycle of violence that led up to the 2014 Gaza War.We stress it does not say it was the only cause but clearly attributes it as a contributing factor. For an impartial reader, able to see both sides of this complex conflict, that is a reasonable statement to make.

14. Furthermore, given that it was the State of Israel that prosecuted these two murderers, it cannot be said in any way that this story is discriminatory or biased against the State of Israel. The State of Israel saw this attack for what it was and sought both young men be sentenced to life for the murders they committed. It is a straightforward report which brings fairness and balance. None of the other alleged breaches are made out.

15. The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, John Roughan, Marie Shroff, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens and Tim Watkin.


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