CBC ignores criticisms of Libya war coverage

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Mediaspin colleague Brooks Kind reports that he has yet to receive any response from CBC news executives regarding his criticisms of the coverage of NATO’s role in the war in Libya. His first e-mail is dated July 7 and the follow-up one, July 18:

From: brooks kind <brookskind@yahoo.ca>
Subject: Fw: CBC coverage of war in Libya
To: jonathan.whitten@cbc.ca, esther.enkin@cbc.ca
Received: Monday, July 18, 2011, 10:06 AM

Dear Mr Whitten,

It’s been 11 days since the email below. It is a reasonable inquiry on a very important subject, namely, the role of public broadcasting in a democracy and whether CBC is adequately fulfilling that role. I would appreciate a response.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.

Brooks Kind

From: brooks kind <brookskind@yahoo.ca>
Subject: CBC coverage of war in Libya
To: jonathan.whitten@cbc.ca, Lynda.Shorten@CBC.CA, david.lamb@cbc.ca
Received: Thursday, July 7, 2011, 11:44 AM

Dear Mr Whitten,

I am writing to inquire about the CBC’s apparent refusal to provide critical coverage of the NATO war against Libya in which Canada is a major participant. According to your Standards and Practices, CBC’s mission is to “inform, to reveal, to contribute to the understanding of issues of public interest and to encourage citizens to participate in our free and democratic society.”

I assume you would not question that the Canadian government’s participation in a massive bombing campaign against a sovereign country, the legitimacy of which has been extensively called into question, is an “issue of public interest”. In fact, it is of grave public interest, particularly since the Security Council resolution authorizing the war has been abandoned, civilian infrastructure is being targeted and the extrajudicial assassination of the head of state is openly pursued. In other words, there is a very real possibility that Canadian forces are now engaged in an illegal war, i.e. aggression, the supreme war crime under international law.

And yet critics of the war have been all but kept out of CBC coverage.

World Report, which seems to be transforming itself into a vulgar British infotainment tabloid, more interested in royal visits, babies falling from balconies, hockey, soccer, the anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death and similar weighty subjects, seems to be in denial about the very existence of a war (or anything serious for that matter). The Current has had a few segments on Libya since the war began, one interview with staunch war supporter, retired general Rick Hillier; one covering victims of Gaddafi’s forces in Misrata and one on a refugee from Libya sent back by the Canadian government.

As it Happens and the World at Six coverage has been similarly inadequate and skewed. In the leadup to June 14, the date of the parliamentary vote to extend Canada’s involvement in the war by thee months, when, by the terms of CBC’s mandate, coverage of the issues surrounding the legitimacy of the war should have been a high priorty, there was nothing. As it Happens, for instance, had an interview with war-supporter Paul Dewar of the NDP on the day of the vote. And since the renewal of Canada’s engagement there has been very little reporting at all on the CBC, though one can read reports of mounting civilian casualties in Tripoli in the alternative press.

I believe the failure to present your audience with dissident perspectives on this war and with regular up-to-date reports from the ground where NATO bombs are falling, constitutes a serious breach of CBC’s Standards and Practices, undermines the ability of Canadian citizens to be adequately informed about their government’s involvement in Libya and needs to be immediately addressed. Will you commit to providing critics of the war who can address such issues as international law and humanitarian consequences some space on the CBC airwaves, particularly on The Current and As it Happens, and to reporting on the human and material consequences of NATO airstrikes in your news broadcasts? And if not, why not?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to your response.

Brooks Kind
Halifax, NS

About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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