Of­com probes un­der­cover Al Jazeera film

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

THE AL Jazeera doc­u­men­tary which at­tempted to un­cover links be­tween the Is­raeli em­bassy in Lon­don and Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal and stu­dent groups is to be the sub­ject of a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by me­dia watch­dog Of­com.

The Lobby — which aired on the Qatari-owned chan­nel in Jan­uary — was al­ready the sub­ject of four sep­a­rate com­plaints over its al­le­ga­tion that the em­bassy was try­ing to in­flu­ence groups such as the Labour Friends of Is­rael and the Jewish Labour Move­ment.

It was con­firmed on Mon­day that a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into The Lobby was now un­der way, with the probe look­ing specif­i­cally at two cat­e­gories — breaches of con­tent stan­dards, and fairness and pri­vacy.

“We are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether this pro­gramme com­plied with our rules on due im­par­tial­ity and of­fence, and whether it ma­te­ri­ally mis­led the au­di­ence,” an Of­com spokesman con­firmed.

The Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil was one group known to have writ­ten to Of­com to lodge a com­plaint about the four-part pro­gramme. Pro-Is­rael cam­paigner Jonathan Hoff­man was an­other to have reg­is­tered a com­plaint.

Si­mon John­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the JLC, said in Fe­bru­ary that the group had filed a for­mal com­plaint with Of­com on be­half of JLC em­ploy­ees and mem­ber or­gan­i­sa­tions. At the time, Mr John­son said: “The com­plaint al­leges that the pro­grammes on Al Jazeera in­fringed the Of­com code in re­la­tion to fairness, pri­vacy and due im­par­tial­ity.”

The lat­est edi­tion of Of­com’s of­fi­cial TV com­plaint bul­letin lists cases that have been as­sessed and deemed to not be in breach of strict guide­lines — as well as those which may have a case to an­swer.

The Lobby is listed as one show be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. But Of­com stresses that a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the broad­caster has done any­thing wrong.

Mr Hoff­man told the JC on Mon­day: “Most com­plaints to Of­com do not move to the for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion stage. The news that this one has — more­over in two cat­e­gories — is there­fore very welcome.”

The doc­u­men­tary fea­tured record­ings, ob­tained by an un­der­cover re­porter, of Shai Ma­sot, a ju­nior Is­raeli em­bassy em­ployee, who was heard jok­ing about “tak­ing down” MPs crit­i­cal of Is­raeli set­tle­ments.

Mr Ma­sot was sent back to Is­rael by the em­bassy.

The footage prompted ques­tions in the House of Com­mons, with Speaker John Ber­cow de­scrib­ing it as a “se­ri­ous con­cern”.

The doc­u­men­tary also led to the res­ig­na­tion of Maria Striz­zolo, a for­mer chief of staff to Con­ser­va­tive MP Robert Hal­fon.

Is­raeli Am­bas­sador Mark Regev apol­o­gised to For­eign Of­fice Min­is­ter Alan Dun­can.

Shai Ma­sot was caught on cam­era by Al Jazeera

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