Independent

A quick and fun lesson for Indy editors: the difference between facts and opinions


A report at The Independent, by Ben Lynfield, on Knesset legislation which would allow for the suspension of sitting MKs was not particularly problematic – at least not by British media standards. The proposed law would allow the Knesset to suspend MKs (with a 90 MK majority) if they engage in incitement to violence or racism; support armed conflict against Israel; or negate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.  

Though the bill was inspired by the moral support shown by a few Arab MKs to the families of Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israelis, this law would apply to all lawmakers, not just those from Arab parties.

Though some British media outlets have predictably amplified voices characterizing it as a bill ‘targeting’ Israel’s Arab minority, the Indy’s headline accompanying their March 30th article fails to even minimally adhere to the basic journalistic requirement of distinguishing between fact and opinion. 

anti-Arab bill

Specifically, section iv of the accuracy clause of the editors’ code in the UK requires that “the Press…must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.”  

The Indy article is a straight news story, not an op-ed, and so it certainly seems that the headline runs afoul of the editors’ code requirements. It may be editors’ opinion that the Israeli law is “anti-Arab”, but it is certainly not a fact.

To further illustrate the difference between a fact and an opinion, let’s go to the videotape:

Yes, some journalistic principles are so simple that even a child can understand them.

12 replies »

  1. You assume that journalists are as intelligent as children – obviously Limey journalists are not. The proof is before us

    • @gee59 –

      Here’s a fun “Can YOU tell the difference” test:

      Which of the following October 11 headlines written by I/P journalists (all accompanying news reports of an October 11 incident) would you say were “factual” and which ones fail “to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”?

      1. Attempted Suicide Bombing near Ma’ale Adumim

      2. Terrorist detonates explosive near Ma’aleh Adumim checkpoint injuring police officer

      3. Bombing attempt outside Jerusalem wounds police officer

      4. Policeman lightly injured as Palestinian driver sets off car bomb

      5. Police say ‘car bomb’ set off, witness says it was electrical fault

      6. Jerusalem woman critically injured in car explosion

  2. “The proposed law would allow the Knesset to suspend MKs (with a 90 MK majority) if they engage in incitement to violence or racism; support armed conflict against Israel; or negate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

    How can you be so specific? According to the ToI report you point to the suspensions would be incurred in response to “unseemly behaviour” and that there is “confusion surrounding what an MK would have to do to merit a possible suspension”.

    Moreover the bill is widely accepted as being aimed at narrowing the range of legitimate discourse for Arab MKs in the Knesset. Reference to the meeting of Arab MKs with families of the dead is a red herring.

    • If I invite people to come to my house for a meal, I assume they will share food and engage in mutually agreeable conversation. We want to spend a pleasant evening. If they start making offensive remarks about Jews or other select groups, I don’t consult a rule book and I don’t carefully consider whether what they say is exactly within (or not within) certain boundaries – I just ask them to leave. Quietly or not, as the case may be.

      We should all be fully aware of what is civilized and what is not – if certain people need rules it is because they have a habit of going well beyond what is civilized. Until they learn what is acceptable and what isn’t, I think it is necessary for there to be rules.

      And this also applies to quite a few journalists.