Skip to main content

After a long, angry speech by Winnipeg media mogul Izzy Asper, which accused most of the world's media of being insufficiently pro-Israeli and implied that reporters are anti-Semitic, bewildered journalists yesterday struggled to respond.

Mr. Asper's Wednesday night speech, which was reprinted prominently in his city papers and the National Post, effectively positioned Mr. Asper and his newspapers to the far right of most of the world's major media.

As with speeches he delivered last month with former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it repeated the Israeli Likud party's conservative and aggressively anti-Arab views.

This time, though, he named names, accusing the CBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and Reuters wire services, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, BBC, the British Guardian, Independent, Evening Standard and Daily Mirror newspapers, as well as ITV and Sky News networks, and other outlets of being "lazy, or sloppy, or stupid . . . [or]plain and simple, biased or anti-Semitic."

He singled out the CBC and its former Middle East reporter Neil MacDonald, accusing them of providing "the most slanted and biased information" and of routinely practising "dishonest reporting."

In particular, he demanded that reporters in the Mideast, such as Mr. Macdonald, refer to all Palestinian militants as "terrorists."

Tony Burman, head of the CBC-TV news division, said yesterday that he considered Mr. Asper's opinions "bizarre," and that he would be demanding space to respond to the accusations in the Asper-owned papers.

"To suggest that most of the world's media are involved in a conspiracy against Israel, it's just a totally extreme conception on Asper's part."

He said it had been the position of the CBC and most major media outlets for 25 years not to refer to militants on either side as terrorists, regardless of their actions.

He also said that the CBC receives a commensurate number of complaints from pro-Palestinian viewers about its Middle East coverage, all of which are adjudicated by an independent ombudsman.

"There is something profoundly ironic about being told off about media bias by someone like Izzy Asper," said Mr. Burman, apparently referring to Mr. Asper's former practice of forcing his city papers to print company-written editorials that expressed the owner's views.