Case Number: 2818

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2019

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Radio NZ

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


Jennifer Gottschalk complained that an RNZ online article Israel missile attack on Syria kills at least four civiliansbreached several Media council principles.

Ms Gottschalk said

  • the article was unfair and unbalanced as it unfairly targeted Israel without taking into account Syrian actions that led to the missiles being fired.
  • The headline implied that Israel was at fault, despite the fact the source Syrian State Media is inherently anti-Israel and deeply unreliable.
  • The RNZ headline is misleading because RNZ had removed the reference to Syrian State Media, which other media had included.
  • The headline added the words “at least” which implied there could have been more than four casualties
  • The headline discriminates against Israel and RNZ has bought into a destructive narrative that Israel is solely responsible for casualties when the reality is far more complex.

In response to Ms Gottschalk’s initial complaint RNZ noted that the source Syrian State Media was identified in the very first sentence of the story; the story had run in Israeli mediawho put the casualty count a lot higher and that Israeli military refused to comment (which was not a reason not to run the story.)

The Media Council notes that the Syrian conflict falls within the category of long-running issue where every aspect cannot be expected to be covered in each article. This was a story relating to one particular incident.

The Council also notes that it is not unusual for casualty counts to vary as a situation develops. The headline was likely not inaccurate at the time, even though later stories put the casualty rate higher. Neither does the headline discriminate against Israel.

The same incident was also covered in the Israeli media, though noted that 16 had been killed and 21 wounded.

The Complaints Committee finds no grounds to proceed with this complaint.

Finding: No Grounds to proceed