Two Montreal Muslim Organizations File Complaint With CRTC Over Global TV's Documentary On Concordia University

June 12, 2003

Two Montreal based Muslim organizations have recently filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) against Global TV regarding its coverage of recent events at Concordia University.

The two plaintiffs are the Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF) and the Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM).

The hour long documentary, entitled "Confrontation at Concordia," was first aired on May 9, 2003 on the Global TV network and concentrated mostly on pro-Palestinian activism at the school during the 2002-2003 academic school year.

The documentary addressed such issues as the September 9th protest against former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University, the expulsion of Palestinian activist Samer Elatrash, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) general assembly on racism and the war in Iraq, a freeze on Hillel-Concordia’s funding, the CSU student elections, the anti-war movement on campus and Montreal in general and discrimination against a Muslim student member of the Board of Governors.

GlobalTV is owned by Israel Asper, and his CanWest/Global foundation was one of the co-sponsors of Netanyahu's speech, which was subsequently cancelled due to the overwhelming objection by protestors over his presence on campus.

Many consider Netanyahu to be a war criminal, due to his numerous human rights abuses against the Palestinian people during his time in office, who more rightly belongs behind bars and not a university lectern passing himself off as an advocate of peace.

In its press release announcing its CRTC submission, CMF referred to the documentary as a "biased presentation of Jewish relations with Muslim and Arab students on Concordia university" and called it "hate propaganda and racism against Muslims and Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular."

The group further stated that Israel Asper is known for diffusing "hate propaganda against Canadian Muslims and Arabs" and that the program was "a clear and outrageous exercise of hate propaganda" against that segment of Canadian society.

"As a result," the CMF press release stated, "we demand a full investigation of the program and the practices of this media group."

In its thirteen page submission to the commission, MCM stated they felt the "documentary to be unfair in its representation of its subjects and biased in its presentation."

Some of the objections the organization made in its submission stated that: "it presents the September 9th protest as more violent than it was, it unfairly portrays Palestinian solidarity activists and their allies as extremists, anti-semites, Nazis, fascists and terrorists, it provides no compelling proof for such charges, 'it provides no space for those accused to refute the allegations, it provides no balance on its presentation of the issues, it misrepresents significant historical and news events, and it redefines Jewishness as linked to the state of Israel, thus unfairly politicizing a religion and a people."

"We therefore strongly object to any repeated broadcasting of this documentary," the MCM submission stated, "and demand a public admission of wrongdoing and an apology from Global TV and from the journalist who produced the piece," who in this case was Martin Himel.

Himel was a Middle East correspondent for more than 20 years for CTV CBC, FOX and ABC. He is also the Executive Producer of Elsash Productions, the production company responsible for the documentary.

The MCM submission further requested that Global TV "allow Palestinian solidarity activists at Concordia, and all those who have been defamed by this documentary, one hour of air time, during the same time-slot that the documentary aired, to present the issues from their own perspectives."

Members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and the Concordia Student Union, namely Samer Elatrash, Laith Marouf, and former CSU VP Communications Aaron Maté, have also filed a complaint with the CRTC citing bias against pro-Palestinian activism on campus, and improper journalistic conduct on the part of the producers of the documentary.

"They’re essentially calling us anti-Semitic, with the very serious, implicit message that anyone who stands up for human rights, they’re going to try to silence," Maté, who himself is Jewish, is quoted as saying in a recent article in the Link, the Concordia student newspaper.

Le Collectif Échec à la guerre, a Montreal based anti-war collective consisting of close to 200 unions, social justice, human rights, cultural and religious organizations which organized several mass rallies numbering in the tens of thousands against the US led invasion of Iraq, is also considering filing a complaint with the CRTC.

According to Raymond Legault, one of organization's spokespersons, some of their main concerns center around the documentary depicting the anti war movement as being anti-semetic, and it also being riddled with "disinformation," and "the failure of the documentary to report important facts and its groundless charges it makes against the anti war movement."

CMF is a non profit public relations organization which works with various NGOs and government agencies on issues which are of concern to Canadian Muslims, and MCM is an umbrella organization representing several Muslim institutions in the Montreal region.

If Global is found in violation of journalistic ethics, CRTC guidelines state that the TV network will be required to make a formal apology during the same time slot the documentary aired.

CanWest Global does not seem to be too worried about the fallout as a result of these complaints as it is selling the documentary online for $19.95.