HonestReporting (also Honest Reporting or honestreporting.com) is a non-governmental organization that monitors the media for bias against Israel and has been described by several news outlets as a pro-Israel media watchdog group. The organization is a United States 501(c)3 registered charity headquartered in New York City, with its editorial staff based in Jerusalem, Israel. It has affiliates in the United States, UK, Canada, France, Brazil and Australia/New Zealand.
HonestReporting (HR) was founded as an email list by Jewish British university students in 2000, and sponsored by the Aish Hatorah Yeshiva, after a skewed news report in the New York Times showed a bleeding boy near a yelling Israeli soldier waving a club. The caption read "An Israeli Policeman and a Palestinian on Temple Mount". The picture was interpreted as depicting the Israelis as aggressors against Palestinian children and was used in an official Egyptian government website, in the Palestinian information center website www.islam.net and on online calls to boycott Coca-Cola for doing business with Israel. In fact, the picture was of an American Jewish boy, Tuvia Grossman, being saved by the Israeli soldiers from a lynch by a mob in the Arab Neighborhood of Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem, during Yom Kippur, at the onset of the Second Intifada. The boy's father sent a letter to the New York Times, but the caption was at first only partly corrected. The email list called for the readers to personally participate in getting the editors to show the facts, urging the readers to first carefully read the article and decide for themselves, and then to respond factually and correctly in their own words. The readers were also urged to send in similar news coverage that was infactual or written in a biased way. The list reported about success cases, the first being the full correction of the first article by the New York Times and the publication of the ordeal the boy actually went through.
By 2003 the list had 150,000 subscribers and began raising funds for it to become an independent organization. In 2003, HonestReporting Canada (HRC) was founded as an "independent, non-profit organization" headquartered in Toronto, Canada. In February 2006, HonestReporting was granted "independent Charitable Organization status in Israel to complement its US and Canadian status.". In March 2006, a dedicated website by HonestReporting for covering the Media in the UK was launched by two expatriate Britons, CEO Joe Hyams, and Managing Editor Simon Plosker. In 2011, the HR UK website was merged into the main HR.com site.
The Austrailian branch HonestReporting Down Under was launched in March 2016, to cover Australian and New Zealand media. For Portuguese-language media HonestReporting Brazil was launched in June 2016, and for the French language media HonestReporting France was launched in June 2016.
HR's self-declared mission statement claims that,
HonestReporting combats the false depiction of Israel in the media by challenging the biased coverage and demanding accountability. HR's mission is to educate the public about unfair media coverage of Israel and to empower the grassroots to respond in an effective manner.
Media critiques, commentaries, and action alerts hold the media to account and serve as direct communication with HonestReporting's readers.
Israel Daily News Stream
A daily roundup of news and how the media is covering Israel.
HR runs two missions per year. These week-long educational seminars bring community leaders and advocates to Israel to learn first-hand about current events, hearing from high-level speakers and visiting places of interest.
HonestReporting, in addition to media watch activities, co-marketed a documentary discussing the Arab–Israeli conflict in association with former HR President Ephraim Shore's twin brother Raphael Shore. This film was entitled Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. Independently of HonestReporting, the same team produced a film titled Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. HonestReporting's subsequent videos include What Really Happened?, which deals with the al-Durrah affair as well as many other short videos dealing with media bias issues and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In January 2016, National Public Radio’s (NPR) ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen released an explanation and apology for a map published on the news organization’s website that erased Israel from the Middle East. Shortly after HonestReporting ran a piece on the issue, NPR began receiving critical emails about the map and removed it promptly, according to Jensen, who credited HonestReporting for exposing the error.
In November 2015, a report on CNN's Money website on Islamic State and dangerous parts of the world, displayed a map that showed Israel labeled "Palestina." The map was removed after it was publicly highlighted by HonestReporting.
Time magazine organ-harvesting
In August 2014, Time magazine retracted allegations that Israeli soldiers harvested and sold Palestinian organs in response to complaints from HonestReporting.
The magazine deleted the allegations from a two-minute video on its website about the Israel Defense Forces, writing at the end, "Correction: The original version of this video cited a contested allegation in a 2009 Swedish newspaper report as fact. The allegation has been removed from the video."
CNN drops Mideast editor
In July 2010, CNN fired its Senior Mideast Editor Octavia Nasr after HonestReporting highlighted a Twitter message saying that she respected the Shiite cleric the Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of Hezbollah's founders. The New York Times Media Decoder blog wrote:
Some supporters of Israel seized on the Twitter posting almost immediately. A Web site called Honest Reporting that says it is “dedicated to defending Israel against prejudice in the media” asked, “Is Nasr a Hezbollah sympathizer? This is disturbing enough given that the group is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and is committed to the destruction of Israel.
“And which of Fadlallah’s individual views does Nasr admire?”
Comedy Central removes anti-Semitic video game
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
"I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack," which earlier this week was renamed "Drawn Together: The Movie: The Game," was removed from the Comedy Central site, according to Honest Reporting, which mounted a successful campaign to pressure the television network to remove the game based on an animated series that had run on Comedy Central.
Following the threat of legal action, The Guardian was forced to change its style guide and publicly acknowledge that Tel Aviv is not the capital of Israel. As reported by The Times of Israel:
On April 22 , the Guardian ran a page 27 correction apologizing for "wrongly" having called Jerusalem Israel's capital a few days earlier. The London-based paper then stated that according to its style guide, Tel Aviv is the country's capital. Indeed, the style guide at the time stated that designating Jerusalem as the capital is "a mistake we have made more than once."
After the Guardian's April correction—published after the paper ran a caption on a photo showing passengers on a train observing a two-minute silence for Holocaust Remembrance Day—Honest Reporting filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission.
The PCC, a non-governmental regulatory body which has the power to force publications to run corrections, initially defended the Guardian's position to call Tel Aviv Israel's capital, writing in its May ruling that "many countries" don't recognize Israel's classification of Jerusalem as its capital and that "those nations enjoying diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in Tel Aviv." Therefore, the PCC wrote, the Guardian "was entitled to refer to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. There was no breach of the code in this instance."
According to Honest Reporting, whose stated mission is "defending Israel from media bias," the London-based PCC ruling was flawed and had the "potential to further delegitimize Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital, giving the British media a carte blanche to follow The Guardian's lead." Therefore, Honest Reporting initiated steps to file for a judicial review of the decision, leading the PCC in July to retract its original ruling and to ask the Guardian to defend their position—which culminated in Wednesday's correction.
The PCC later overturned its original decision, concluding that "the unequivocal statement that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel had the potential to mislead readers and raised a breach of … the Editors' Code of Practice."
Following a 2004 article published in the British Medical Journal which criticised Israel for a high level of Palestinian civilian casualties and claimed that the pattern of injuries suggested routine targeting of children in situations of minimal or no threat, the journal received over 500 responses to its website and nearly 1,000 sent directly to its editor. In an analysis of the responses published in the journal, Karl Sabbagh concluded that the correspondence was orchestrated by Honest Reporting and aimed at silencing legitimate criticism of Israel. In his analysis Sabbagh pointed to evidence that the correspondents had not read the article. Sabbagh also documented a significant proportion of offensive, abusive and racist insults among the correspondence. An editorial by the BMJ referred to the campaign as bullying and said that the best way to counter such behaviour was to expose it to public scrutiny. Daniel Finkelstein, associate editor of The Times, responded that Sabbagh's piece was "anti-Israel propaganda" that did not meet even "basic academic standards" of scientific analysis.
Honest Reporting Canada
HonestReporting Canada (HRC) is the Canadian branch of the organization. It monitors Canadian media coverage of Israel and the Middle East to promote what it calls "balanced, accurate, and unbiased reporting" about Israel.
HonestReporting Canada (HRC) was established in 2003 as an independent, non-profit group headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Since then, HRC has opened an office in Montreal in April 2008, giving them official national and bilingual status. HRC plans to further expand across the country to other large Canadian cities and extend their operations to include regular monitoring of college and university campus papers.
The executive director of HonestReporting Canada is Mike Fegelman and Assistant Director is Paul Agoston. Prominent Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister Peter Kent has served on the board of Honest Reporting Canada.
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- Cite error: The named reference
startedwas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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- Headlines & Deadlines
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- Honest Reporting official website
- Honest Reporting Canada: the official Canadian affiliate
- HonestReporting.org, which reports critically on HonestReporting
- Media manipulators by David Leigh in The Guardian, criticizing HonestReporting
- HonestReporting.com's response to the "Media manipulators" article, at aish.com