Case Number: 3493

Council Meeting: March 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Radio NZ

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories:


Radio New Zealand published an article on 11 January 2024, headlined Despair in Gaza as fighting intensifies despite Israeli promise to scale back. This was a Reuters news agency report published in the world news section on RNZ’s website. It was an update on the latest developments in the war in Gaza and included background to the war sparked by the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 last year.

One paragraph stated: Israel has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza since launching its campaign to eradicate the Hamas militant group that runs the enclave after Hamas fighters killed 1200 Israelis and captured 240 hostages in a rampage on 7 October.

Geoffrey Knight complained that RNZ had breached Media Council Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance as the 1200 number was wrong. The number had been updated in January to 1139, of which 71 were foreign nationals, so 1068 Israelis were killed. This was a significant exaggeration.

He said those responsible were identified as Hamas fighters, when fighters from several Palestinian groups took part. More importantly some proportion of those killed were killed by Israeli forces. Footage shown on Israeli television showed helicopters firing on occupied cars and a tank firing on a house in an Israeli settlement. It was unrealistic to attribute none of the Israeli deaths to what appears to have been intense friendly fire with heavy weaponry.

RNZ said that as always, context was important when considering use of these figures. The sentence used the journalistic convention of rounding all three figures to the near multiple including the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza. This convention allowed users to make easier comparisons between the quantum of the figures.

The thrust of the article was on the intensification of fighting in Gaza and the sentence complained of was background information. The lack of precision would not have misled readers.

The Media Council can see that RNZ has used a Reuters report and understands how all news media commonly round out figures for good reason, particularly in brief background summaries of events in long-running major news stories.

As the death toll from the October 7 attack included some 71 foreign nationals it would have been more accurate to have not reported that all of them were Israelis. However, the Council does not believe the inaccuracy would influence objective readers. It was not a significant error warranting a ruling against RNZ.

Decision: There are no grounds to proceed.


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