HonestReporting criticised the timing of the panel’s decision, which coincided with 'Yom Yerushalayim' (Jerusalem Day) (picture) commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.“This is astonishing and outrageous. Aside from a sovereign state’s right to determine its own capital, international convention maintains that a capital city is usually where a state’s central political institutions reside”.
LONDON (EJP) ---A landmark ruling by the British Press Complaints Commission over the right of UK media to refer to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital has opened the floodgates for the press “to further delegitimize Jerusalem’s status” internationally.
These were the words of pro-Israel media watchdog HonestReporting, as news emerged of the rejection of their official complaint to the UK press panel over a disputed photo caption in The Guardian newspaper which it claimed “mistakenly” described Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The paper stated it should have read Tel Aviv instead. HonestReporting referred the case to the Press Complaints Commission for their ruling.
The media ruling body’s controversial decision on Sunday read as follows:
“While it is correct to say that Israel classes Jerusalem as her capital city, this is not recognised by many countries and those nations enjoying diplomatic relations with Israel have their embassies in Tel Aviv...(therefore) the newspaper was entitled to refer to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel.”
This ruling was defined by the commission’s official code on media reporting, which states that newspapers should avoid publishing “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and that in the event of doing so, the “distortion once recognised must be corrected promptly and with due prominence”.
The UK Foreign Office waded into the furore, stating that “Israel maintains that Jerusalem is its capital city, a claim not recognised by the UK and its international community. The UK locates its embassy in Tel Aviv.” Whilst specific about not recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the comment notably stopped short of endorsing labelling Tel Aviv as such.
HonestReporting responded by criticising the timing of the panel’s decision, which coincided with Jerusalem Day, describing it as a rehashing of British “imperialism”:
“This is astonishing and outrageous. Aside from a sovereign state’s right to determine its own capital, international convention maintains that a capital city is usually where a state’s central political institutions reside”, they claimed.
The watchdog continued to express concern at the potential ramifications of the panel’s decision in a statement, claiming:
“We believe that this flawed ruing has the potential to further delegitimize Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, giving the media carte blanche to follow The Guardian’s lead”.
Other British media refusing to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the past include The Financial Times. The BBC was also embroiled in the legitimacy scandal in 2007, when it apologised for referring to Jerusalem as capital, in response to complaints from four British organisations – Arab Media Watch, Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Friends of Al-Aksa and the Institute of Islamic Political Thought.
BBC head of editorial complaints Fraser Steel issued an online correction, as well replying by letter to the organisations to say:
“We of course accept that the international community does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that the BBC should not describe it as such...I apologise for this factual mistake. I appreciate that the status of Jerusalem is of particular concern to Palestinians, and it is important that it is not misrepresented.”
Israel's foreign ministry spokesman responded to this move by the BBC:“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It is the right if every sovereign state to determine which city will be its capital. If this is not accepted by everyone today, I am confident it will be in the future.”