What’s worse: impertinence or impotence? The Israel Press Council’s June 19 ruling against the Israeli news site Ynet, and the council’s inability to do anything about the media outlet’s refusal to abide by its ruling, is a saga involving both. Ynet, which publishes in English and Hebrew, has defied the Israel Press Council’s ruling last month which found that a Feb. 27 article by Elior Levy falsely reported that Israeli police denied the mother of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy arrested for throwing stones permission to join him in the police vehicle. In its ruling, the Council’s Ethics Court gave Ynet a warning, and called on the media outlet to publish the court’s findings. The period for appeal has long passed, and yet Ynet has refused to publish the ruling.
The court had convened to consider the case against Ynet in the wake of a complaint filed by Presspectiva, CAMERA’s Israeli branch. Another independent complaint was filed separately as well. As a result of Ynet’s refusal to abide by the council’s directive and publish the ruling, the Press Council, in line with its regulations, has asked another media outlet to publish the court’s findings. This week, NRG, which is Ma’ariv‘s Web site, published the following item (CAMERA’s translation):
The Ethics Court of the Israel Press Council has found that the Internet site Ynet has violated clause 4a of the Journalistic Code of Ethics with the publication of an item about a Palestinian minor who was arrested by police in eastern Jerusalem. [sic. CAMERA notes: The arrest was by border police in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank.]
According to the news article, the police forbade the minor’s mother from joining him in the police vehicle when he was taken in for questioning, but the video clip which accompanied the news piece shows the police inviting the mother to get into the vehicle.
The court rejected the claim by one of the complainants that the clip was staged. [CAMERA notes: The other complainant raised this objection. While we elsewhere noted the apparent staging on the part of the B’Tselem photographer, that criticism was outside the Press Council’s purview in its handling of a case againt Ynet, and thus Presspectiva did not include it in its complaint.] But the ruling found that: “with regard to the point in question about the incident, in which the boy’s mother tries to accompany her son, a minor, there is a total contradiction between what is written in the article and the pictures seen in the video clip. On this point the defendants violated clause 4a of the Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, dealing with the publication, either knowingly or negligently, of untruthful material.”
The court issued a warning measure against the Internet site.
In addition, today the Hebrew daily Yisrael Hayom published a similar item about Ynet’s violation of the Journalistic Code of Ethics in its erroneous coverage of the Nabi Saleh arrest incident. Certainly it is to the public’s benefit to shed light on Ynet’s malpractice and to provide corrective information. Yet, the fact that the information appeared in NRG and Yisrael Hayom, and not Ynet, is a testament to the press council’s weakness. What future incentive does Ynet have to abide by the Journalistic Code of Ethics and the press council’s rulings if both may be violated with impunity?