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February 25, 2016

NPR Obfuscates and then Goes Silent on Possible Ethics Violation

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National Public Radio (NPR) has refused to discipline one of its reporters for apparently violating the organization’s own guidelines on ethical reporting.

As CAMERA previously reported (“NPR’s Former Israel Reporter ‘Sad’ That Hoax Anti-Israel Agitprop Not Real,” Feb. 2, 2016), the network’s former Jerusalem bureau chief, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro said on Twitter that she was “sad” that a fake New York Times editorial distributed by anti-Israel activists wasn’t real.

The fake New York Times editorial apologized—absurdly enough given the paper’s documented anti-Israel slant (see, for example, “New York Times Tilts against Israel Whenever it Can,” CAMERA, Jan. 14, 2016)—for a pro-Israel bias in its coverage. As CAMERA’s Gilead Ini has documented, numerous journalists fell for the forgery despite it not appearing on The New York Times Web site and having several “farcical advertisements with anti-Israel messages.” Lourdes Garcia-Navarro didn’t—but on Twitter she did tell a believing colleague, Matthew Bell of Public Radio, that the material was “fake, sadly.”

The editorial falsely claimed that “during the period of September-October 2015, eighteen headlines depicted Palestinians, while none depicted Israelis, as instigators of violence.” Ini wondered: “Does Garcia-Navarro really want to see New York Times headlines cast innocent Israeli men, women, and children stabbed by Palestinian terrorists as ‘instigators’ of violence?”

During her time as a reporter in Israel, Garcia-Navarro exhibited a pronounced anti-Israel, pro-Arab tilt as CAMERA has noted (see, for example, “On Israel, NPR is No Perspective Radio,” July, 18, 2012).

Unsure if the government-subsidized network was aware of the offending tweet, CAMERA contacted Elizabeth Jensen, NPR’s ombudsman on February 3, pointing out that Garcia-Navarro seemingly violated the organization’s social media policy. The guidelines state that journalists should “refrain from advocating for political or other polarizing issues online” and should not “express personal views on a political or other controversial issue that you could not write for the air or post on NPR.org.” Further, the guidelines insist, “Our standards of impartiality also apply to social media.”

CAMERA asked Jensen what NPR intended to do regarding Garcia-Navarro’s display of bias. The ombudsman passed on the following response from the newsroom:

“Lourdes Garcia-Navarro no longer covers the Middle East and does not shape NPR’s coverage of the region. We do not think her two-word tweet—“fake, sadly”—was advocacy. But it was subject to misinterpretation. It’s particularly important to be careful when posting on social media.”

NPR did not say how the tweet could be misinterpreted nor did it specify how it did not amount to advocacy. Moreover, as CAMERA pointed out to Jensen, the organization’s claim that Garcia-Navarro no longer shapes NPR coverage of the Middle East due to her current posting in Brazil does not pass muster.

Brazil’s domestic and foreign policy have components strongly related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. And the claim that Garcia-Navarro, from Brazil, no longer covers news relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict is patently false, as her December 30 report “Brazil Rejects Israel’s Ambassador: Israel Threatens Relations Downgrade,” illustrates. Brazil, the reporter writes, “Has made a point of its policies on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”

CAMERA noted these points to NPR’s ombudsman, who said she took note of them. Here the newsroom’s obfuscation turned to silence.

By its silence, NPR has answered the question whether or not it will reprimand a staffer for an apparent violation of its own guidelines against political advocacy. The network’s own written standards are explicit in this matter—even if enforcement of them is lacking. The next time listeners hear NPR invoke its commitment to impartiality, they would be wise to take it with a grain of salt. Or maybe the whole shaker.

Posted by SD at February 25, 2016 12:28 PM

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