The ICC Policy Chair sent the following letter to the CBC:
On Monday Feb 11, 2019 CBC aired their News Now program with Jennifer Hall and the segment focused on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Iran. The CBC presumably intended to provide insight into the revolution and politics regarding Iran – however they only interviewed one Iranian-Canadian with specific partisan views to provide commentary on this complex issue.
During this interview Mr. Shahrooz shared his personal opinion on Iran. In response to a question regarding Canada's policy on Iran, Mr. Shahrooz advocated for sanctions, and pressure on Iran. Mr. Shahrooz also said that the federal government of Prime Minister Trudeau realized that diplomacy with Iran is not possible and as a result decided not to re-engage with Iran. This is Mr.Shahrooz’s own speculation and not reflective of fact or any formal position from the Government of Canada. Indeed, Mr. Shahrooz is on the public record advocating for sanctions against Iran since at least 2012, when Mr. Shahrooz advocated for such views at the Canadian Senate, a fact that was never mentioned or addressed by Ms. Hall.
In 2016, the House of Commons launched an E-Petition (E-553 Iran) that called on the Government of Canada to establish diplomatic relations with Iran and re-open embassies in both countries. This petition garnered around 16,000 signatures – for a comparison, in a counter-petition launched by Samira Mohyeddin, who works for the CBC as well, calling on the Canadian government not to re-engage with Iran was only signed by 607 people.
Canada is home to over 300,000 Iranian-Canadians. The complexity of the community and their views cannot be encapsulated by one person – especially one who does not represent what is very clearly a very widespread desire of re-engagement with Iran in the community.
Interviewing one individual from the Iranian-Canadian community to provide insight on Iranian political affairs, Iran-Canada relations, diplomacy and sanctions, and other important topics does not meet standard journalistic practices; it provides a skewed and inaccurate depiction of Iranian-Canadian community and fails to represent diverse opinions. Furthermore, there was no fact checking nor any corrections on misleading, incomplete, or false information about the effect of US sanctions on Iran and its widely noted negative impact of the lives of Iranian people, including in terms of food, medicinal, and consumer goods shortages, as stated by the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran.
The CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices clearly states:
“Our programs and platforms allow for the expression of a particular perspective or point of view. This content adds public understanding and debate on the issues of the day.
When presenting content (programs, program segments, or digital content) where a single opinion or point of view is featured, we ensure that a diversity of perspective is provided across a network or platform and in an appropriate time frame.
When we choose to present a single point of view:
it is clearly labeled, and
it does not misrepresent other points of view.
Our value of impartiality precludes our news and current affairs staff from expressing their personal opinions on matters of controversy on all our platforms.”
We are extremely concerned to see Canada’s public broadcaster ignore their responsibility to provide balanced coverage of both Iran and the Iranian-Canadian community and instead give an exclusive platform to one individual with a specific point of view.
The CBC must take balanced reporting especially seriously when covering racialized ethnic communities and important international political events and issues. Our public broadcaster must uphold journalistic integrity in these moments rather than abrogate it.
We therefore ask that the CBC commits to providing a balanced approach on Iran and the Iranian-Canadian community and provides us with their plans to do so in the future. We also ask that the CBC demonstrates measures so that the political opinions of their producers do not influence their coverage of the Iranian-Canadian community; Canada's public broadcaster cannot act as a mouthpiece for the political opinions of partisan individuals with known political biases. We believe that this issue is of crucial importance not only for the accurate reporting of the views of a minority community by Canada's public broadcaster, but also for international peace and stability at a moment when extremist governments are advocating for instability and war.
We note that we expect this important issue be addressed by the CBC, and are prepared to take this complaint to the CBC Ombudsman's office, copied on this email, if our issues are not adequately addressed at the editorial level.