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22 Nov 2023

Emma Paling, The Breach

Canada: Bell Media's CTV allegedly forbids use of ‘Palestine,’ suppresses critical stories about Israel and rejects coverages of rallies; Incl. Co. comment

"CTV forbids use of ‘Palestine,’ suppresses critical stories about Israel"

CTV directed journalists not to use the word “Palestine” and has cultivated a “culture of fear” that is suppressing critical coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza, according to internal emails obtained by The Breach and interviews with several employees.

The journalists said senior producers and senior editors across the platforms of CTV’s parent company Bell Media have disparaged Palestinian guests, told employees that protests calling for a ceasefire should not be reported on, and blocked or delayed stories that included too much contextual information about Israel’s military occupation and regime of apartheid in Palestine.

The journalists, who are not being identified for fear of retribution, described a widespread bias at the media conglomerate against Palestinians that’s resulted in one-sided, incomplete coverage of the violence in Gaza that does “a huge disservice” to Canadians.

Bell Media is the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate that operates CTV News Channel, CTV’s national broadcasts and national website, local CTV affiliate stations, BNN Bloomberg and CP24 in Toronto. 

These revelations follow The Breach’s analysis that found coverage on CTV National News has featured far more Israeli than Palestinian voices.

In directive, Bell denies Palestinian nation exists

In an Oct. 10 directive telling employees how to write about the violence, CTV told them not to use the word “Palestine” and made the politically-charged assertion that “Palestine…does not currently exist.” 

The email, sent to journalists across the media conglomerate, stated that all Bell Media platforms should use the same language...

In fact, the vast majority of countries in the world do recognize Palestine and it has the status of an “observer state” at the United Nations. Canada is in a small minority of countries that do not recognize Palestine’s statehood. 

The nation of Palestine can also refer to the people who identify as Palestinian, even though the West Bank and Gaza have been under military occupation by Israel since 1967.

The Breach verified the directive’s authenticity with several employees at Bell Media...

In an email, The Breach asked Bell Media and CTV why the media conglomerate takes a stance on Palestinian statehood and how they would respond to critics who believe the guidance erases the history and identity of a people.

The company did not respond to specific questions but provided a statement.

“Our news organization always ensures coverage is balanced, factual, accurate, and fair,” Bell Media said in an email.

In 2021, CBC News was criticized for sending out a similar directive. CBC News Toronto told staff the broadcaster doesn’t use the word “Palestine” because “there is no modern country of Palestine,” and told them to not use the word in rough drafts or “colloquially in our own exchanges.”

At least one headline this month on CTV News that initially used the word “Palestine” was later edited to remove it... 

Palestinians only welcome if they’re ‘crying’

The journalists also said there is a clear bias in how Bell Media treats Palestinian guests and in the editing of stories about Israel. 

Bell Media platforms have regularly invited Israeli government and military officials to appear but rarely—if ever—invite sources who could talk about the state’s occupation and apartheid from organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or B’Tselem, one employee said.

“If it was the Ukrainian war, these types of guests would be asked to come on all the time.”

Senior editorial staff have also openly disparaged Palestinian guests and questioned whether their perspectives are newsworthy, the journalist said.

Palestinian guests, according to the journalist, are expected to express grief but not political opinions or context about their experiences...

Stories that provide context about Israel’s occupation or information about pro-Palestine rallies are subjected to days-long, sometimes nonsensical edits, one of the other journalists told The Breach. In some cases, those types of stories have been finished but never published, defying the network’s normal practices...

The media conglomerate did not respond to specific questions about why the company would not want to provide its audience with history and context about Israel’s military occupation.

‘Cowardly and one-sided’

Journalists said these directives are examples of a wider culture at Bell Media, describing extremely tense workplaces and a “culture of fear.” 

Editors have told journalists not to cover rallies supporting Palestinian freedom and calling for a ceasefire unless they cause significant disruption to the public. That move was “cowardly and one-sided,” one of the journalists said...

Bell Media told The Breach that its journalists are encouraged to share their thoughts on coverage.

“We are committed to a respectful and inclusive work environment where CTV News journalists are encouraged to discuss and raise concerns regarding coverage of any story.”...