01 February 2008

Rabble News - CRTC complaint filed for reporting on Laibar Singh

I have been thinking for some time that the news coverage of Laibar Singh's case has been biased. I know, however, I am somewhat sensitive to Canadian coverage of Sikh community matters in general and thought perhaps my perceptions were a bit jaundiced. Evidentally, I am not the only person finding the coverage unfair. I found this press release and am sharing it with you. For those who may not know - OK, I had to look it up - CRTC stands for Canadian Radio-Television Commission.

by Various
February 1, 2008

A group of journalists, academics, and media-watch groups have filed a CRTC complaint stating that news coverage of the case of Mr. Laibar Singh was not accurate, full, and comprehensive. According to the complainants, this inaccurate and incomplete coverage breached the broadcasters' ethical codes and betrayed the public trust, while negatively impacting the public perception in the case of Mr. Laibar Singh.

This complaint has been filed against CBC TV, CBC Radio, CKNW, CTV, and Global TV on the grounds that – despite numerous clarifications including by legal experts - broadcasters failed to provide accurate, comprehensive, fair, full, and unbiased coverage when they reported falsely that Laibar Singh "came to Canada illegally" or that he "was illegal" in Canada prior to taking sanctuary in July 2007. This decontextualized and/or inaccurate information has fuelled ignorance in the public sphere and has negatively influenced perceptions of Mr. Laibar Singh and all asylum seekers to Canada.

The complaints have been filed as a group by:

- Ann Simonton, Coordinator and Founder, Media Watch
- Judy Rebick, Professor of Communications and Culture, Ryerson University
- Isabel Macdonald, Communications Director, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting- New York (FAIR)*
- Dr. Fiona Jeffries, Instructor, Communications Department, Simon Fraser University
- Dr. Jenny Burman, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, McGill University
- Avi Lewis, Filmmaker and broadcaster
- Naomi Klein, Author and syndicated columnist
- Steve Anderson, Coordinator, Campaign for Democratic Media
- Dr. Yasmin Jiwani, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University
- Derrick O'Keefe, Editor, rabble.ca
- Marshall Soules, Media Studies Department Chair, Malaspina University-College

"By inaccurately stating that Laibar Singh 'entered Canada illegally,' when in fact he came under a prescribed channel that many asylum seekers choose, and by leaving out essential context about laws pertaining to asylum seekers, broadcasters have used the public airwaves to fuel ignorance rather than to inform the public," stated Macdonald.

Soules added, "The media must be held accountable for reporting misleading, incomplete, and inaccurate information. This is especially important when that reporting contributes to biased perceptions of refugees and immigrants who contribute so much to Canadian society. The media are failing in their duty to the public trust, and the CRTC has a clear responsibility to investigate this failure."

"The repetition of an inaccuracy in the media is one of the worst examples of how media framing can impact on legal proceedings. The impact of the falsehood that Laibar Singh entered Canada illegally cannot be overestimated. This error must be corrected and the media held accountable. A man's life may be at stake," stated Rebick.

"The biggest problem with media inaccuracies has to do with situations such as this, when real humans are being hurt by what the media says," Simonton agreed.

Klein, who has already lent her support to the campaign to allow Mr. Singh to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, stated, "Public perception has been informed by often careless reporting. Letters to the editor, web comments, and callers on radio shows have argued that Laibar Singh's deportation should proceed based on a perceived 'illegality,' a claim fuelled by inaccurate news reports. The media is responsible for informing the public in an accurate, full, and fair way, and they have betrayed that trust, while contributing to false public perceptions of Mr. Singh."

Jeffries concluded, "The news media has an enormous influence on framing public debates and it is vital that it adheres to its own stated commitment to accuracy and responsible reporting of the facts. This complaint seeks to hold the news media to its public responsibility."


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