Jan Fran lashes leaks internal email from SBS news director ordering staff to be ‘balanced’ in reporting on Israel-Palestine war
SBS star Jan Fran has lashed out at the mainstream media, sharing an old email from a news director who instructed staff on how to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Fran, whose full name is Jeanette Francis, used an Instagram post on Sunday to leak an email from SBS instructing reporters to use neutral terms about the fighting.
“We have to be very careful about the terminology and figures we use in our reports,” said the email, which dated from an Israeli raid on Gaza in 2012.
Fran said reporters have been told not to call the Palestinian territories “occupied” or “disputed” but instead to use only geographical terms.
Fran, who is also a presenter for the ABC, took aim at the journalism industry, labeling it an ‘evil, biased, agenda-driven institution controlled by lobby groups’.
SBS and ABC reporter and journalist Jan Fran has criticized media attempts to remain ‘balanced’ on the war between Israel and Hamas
Fran said she has seen several newsrooms conscientiously ensure that each interview is balanced from one side by airing an interview of equal length from the other side with roughly the same emotional tone.
This is what “the noble pursuit of impartiality and balance looks like in my profession,” Fran writes.
“Good journalism, we are told, is impartial. It doesn’t take sides,” she said.
It shows ‘that both parties are complicit in the horror’.
She said the staff email makes it clear that some of this is to avoid backlash, which Fran calls a “headache” for “understaffed” organizations.
“We are being closely watched from both sides and any mistakes or perceived imbalance will bring the inevitable stream of complaints,” the email said.
However, Fran said that balance is largely sought for balance’s sake.
“It is fair, confident that it acts ethically in its pursuit of fair and balanced reporting,” she wrote.
“It’s doing something good, the only thing it can do.”
However, Fran accused some unnamed media outlets of being compromised.
“I don’t blame those who look at coverage of Israel/Palestine and think the mainstream media is an evil, biased, agenda-driven institution controlled by lobby groups. That’s possible,” she said.
She argued that efforts to be “unbiased” could even have the opposite effect of helping one side over the other.
In a long Instagram post, Fran leaked some of the guidelines that SBS reporters are given to report on the conflict
“What if, in pursuit of these righteous goals, we obscure the truth and exercise power over the powerful? she asked.
She stated that close reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a UN special rapporteur had called Israel’s action against the Palestinians “apartheid.”
“States that choose to take Israel into account will find themselves on the wrong side of history,” Fran quotes from the 2022 Amnesty report.
Although Fran admits that ‘apartheid’, the system of racial segregation practiced in South Africa, is a ‘loaded’ word, she says the conclusion is ‘drawn from decades of research and evidence gathered by aid agencies on the ground’.
With this in mind, she argues that “balanced” reporting distorts the truth.
“If the world can view Israel/Palestine as a ‘conflict’ between two sides, despite mounting, readily available evidence showing a gross asymmetry of power and authority, who does that serve?” she writes.
“In whose interest is it that journalists do not use the word ‘occupied’ to describe the Palestinian territories?”
Smoke rises from the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun as Israel continues its military action against Hamas
She said that while some media might continue to pursue balance to avoid complaints, “some will do so in blissful ignorance, unaware that in their dogged pursuit of balance, the first casualty is the truth.”
“The great irony in pursuing this balance is that they may have done the very thing they tried so hard not to do, and they have chosen a side,” she writes.
The post has generated more than 3,000 likes and mainly positive comments.
“Jan says the media needs to report with more truth – instead of trying to present both sides as if they are both valid points of view,” one comment read.
“When good people remain silent, they join the side of the oppressor.”
Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’ bloody invasion on October 7 is estimated to have claimed more than 9,000 Palestinian lives.