Radio New Zealand (RNZ), for instance, says it decided not to broadcast or report on a Palestinian guest’s remarks because it “would have stolen valuable time” from those being interviewed, writes Mick Hall.
By Mick Hall
in Whangarei, New Zealand
Special to Consortium News
New Zealand’s national broadcaster has justified removing references to “genocide” in Gaza made by a Palestinian guest on its podcast because it would have otherwise “stolen valuable time.”
It is part of a trend among national broadcasters in English-speaking countries to shy away from what U.N. experts have begun naming Israel’s conduct in Gaza.
Radio New Zealand’s In Detail podcast “Fear and trauma from a world away“ featured interviews with Palestinian-New Zealander Tameem Shaltoni, who has relatives in Gaza, and Ben Kepes, a New Zealand tech businessman and son of holocaust survivors from eastern Europe.
The podcast, published Nov. 7, explored how the “Israel-Hamas war” had impacted them both, as well as their respective views on catastrophic events in occupied Palestine and in Israel since Hamas broke out of Gaza’s confines and attacked settlements and military installations on Oct. 7.
Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood left 1200 people dead, according to Israel, while Israel’s response in laying total siege to Gaza, indiscriminately bombing its residents and displacing approximately 1.5 million Gazans has so far left over 14,000 dead, including approximately 6000 children.
A ‘humanitarian’ pause was agreed to begin on Thursday, to last an initial four days, to facilitate a hostage exchange and deliver aid to Gazans, who now face the threat of starvation and disease.
After the RNZ podcast and accompanying website story were published on Nov. 9, Shaltoni took to X (Twitter) to voice his concern that his repeated references to “genocide” being committed in Gaza had been removed.
He said he had been told by the podcast journalist his interview would be subject to RNZ media policy guidelines and that this would be reflected in the editing process.
He deleted his tweet but repeated his concerns on the weekly political podcast 1 of 200, stating his view Western media didn’t want to countenance the idea of genocide because it contradicted the narrative that there was a war between Israel and non-state actor Hamas.
Genocide ‘Outside the Ambit’ of Podcast
The activist platform, the Aotearoa Liberation League, contacted RNZ to ask what broadcasting guideline had been used to remove references to the term. In a reply seen by Consortium News, RNZ head of content, Megan Whelan, said its guidelines were publicly available to read and that claims of genocide were simply “outside the ambit” of the podcast in question. She said:
“For this podcast, the purpose, which was shared in advance with all participants, was to provide a New Zealand audience with an insight into what is like living in New Zealand while there is a war in your homeland.
This podcast’s focus was therefore on personal, firsthand experiences. It was also made clear to all participants that podcasts are edited and curated pieces.”
Whelan said no participant had the right to veto decisions of the podcast’s producer and suggested airing references to genocide would have been editorially troublesome.
“To have included the claims of genocide would have stolen valuable time away from the guests as it would have meant defining genocide, providing context for the listener and offering a right of reply,” she said.
Zionist Allowed to Make Contested Statements
In contrast, Zionist guest Kepes, who described himself as an ethnic, non-religious Jew, was allowed to introduce highly-contested Israeli talking points and make accusations about those who attended Palestinian solidarity rallies in New Zealand, without evidence or context added.
Kepes claimed protestors had chanted “gas the Jews” as they marched down Auckland’s Queen Street on an unspecified date.
He said people he knew were “almost housebound with fear” in New Zealand because they didn’t want to be identified as a Jew and that police had heightened security measures for others. He added he felt safer in a bomb shelter when he lived in Israel than living in New Zealand, where the threat was “much more insidious.” He said:
“I’m not denying Palestinian angst. I absolutely accept that the Palestinians have been hard done by their own co-religionists and Israel and I’m more than happy to have that conversation, but that is a distinctly different thing from someone saying that because I’m Jewish I deserve to die.”
Kepes also claimed Iran was the regional “puppet master” who had “engineered this war” using Hamas, implying that it bore responsibility for the current crisis.
Iranian leaders have signalled a reluctance to play any role that could potentially to lead to regional conflagration and a possible world war. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CBS News Hamas made its own decisions and carried out its Oct. 7 operation without its knowledge, but his government supported Hamas’ right under international law to violently resist Israeli occupation.
No right of reply was offered by RNZ to Kepes’ comments.
Whelan said RNZ took “no editorial stand in its news or factual output” and pointed to three Reuters stories she said dealt with genocide “claims.” She added that views were reported according to their news worthiness and significance.
Alarm Raised Over Genocidal Intent
There have been warnings of an unfolding genocide against Palestinians for several weeks now. Key experts have said the threshold for using the term when talking about Gaza had been met.
In the latest of four statements on the subject, U.N. special rapporteurs said this week there was evidence of an intent to “destroy the Palestinian people” and that the West was failing to stop it.
“Many of us already raised the alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza,” experts said on Nov. 18. “We are also profoundly concerned about the support of certain governments for Israel’s strategy of warfare against the besieged population of Gaza, and the failure of the international system to mobilise to prevent genocide.”
Israeli ministers have signposted their genocidal intent with multiple statements dehumanising Palestinians and attributing collective guilt to all Gazans for the Oct. 7 attack.
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Oct. 9 said, for instance, that Israel was dealing with “human animals” who would be treated as such, as a total siege of the 25-mile by 5-mile strip was announced six weeks ago.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said “an entire nation” was responsible for the Hamas attack. Israel’s senior army officials framed Hamas as Nazis and its attack a holocaust, a position reinforced by U.S. President Joe Biden and other Western leaders, signalling that all means to defeat Hamas were permissible. Israeli officials also emphasised the military goal in Gaza was destruction not accuracy.
Since then, over 20,000 tonnes of explosives have landed on Gaza, leaving half of all buildings damaged or destroyed, agricultural land, bakeries and hospitals bombed. An estimated 1.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from the north to the south of Gaza, while it too is being bombed.
Arguably most sinister were comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After earlier promising to turn Gaza to rubble, he compared the strip to Amalek at the beginning of the ground invasion on Oct. 29, a biblical reference where Yahweh commands King Saul to put to death every man, woman, child and infant in an act of total destruction.
A leaked Israel ‘concept’ document revealed a plan to displace Gazans and force them into tent cities in Egypt’s Sinai desert. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has also backed calls by Israeli MPs for Western countries to accept Gazan families who expressed a desire to relocate.
Genocide Clearly Identifiable in Gaza – Albanese
U.N. special rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who made a flying visit to Auckland and New Zealand’s capital Wellington this week, told Consortium News genocide occurred when there was an intent to destroy a group of people, identified as a religious, ethnic, national or racial group, in full or in part.
“There are a number of acts [that] constitute genocide,” she said.
“For example, the act of killing of the members of the group, the severe physical and psychological harm inflicted to the members of the group or the creation of circumstances that might lead to the destruction of the group, in full or in part. These are the three cases that are clearly identifiable in the case of Gaza and there has been a clear and declared intent.”
She said there was an obligation on Western states, including New Zealand, to speak out against genocide and believed the word should be used repeatedly in the media.
“I think that the word should be used because the 1948 Genocide Convention poses an obligation to prevent it, when there is a risk of genocide being committed and member states have to intervene and have to stop atrocities and crimes that may amount to genocide.”
New Zealand ratified the Convention in 1978. Albanese said:
“The media have notoriously played a role in certain contexts in not being accurate and probably either underestimating the risk or even amplifying, in certain contexts, genocidal calls and incitement to genocide.”
Her position is reflected widely among those in legal and academic circles specialising in international humanitarian law.
Israeli associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University in the U.S., Raz Segal, said both the intent of Israel and the dynamics of violence make Israel’s onslaught in Gaza “a textbook case of genocide”.
He told U.K. media commentator Owen Jones on Nov. 22:
“If you take all the elements of intent, dehumanising language, portraying Palestinians as a whole as enemies, human animals – think about the discourse of human shields, which is incredibly important to note here Palestinians are humanised only as they appear as human shields, which is of course incredibly dehumanising – when you take all of this together, with the dynamics of violence, what we see on the ground is very clear… the killing is genocidal.”
Segal said with the siege, bombing and displacement of residents, Israel had created the conditions calculated to bring about the destruction of Palestinians in Gaza.
State Broadcasters Refuse to Call Out Genocide
Other state-funded broadcasters in the Anglosphere have come under criticism over coverage of Israel’s onslaught.
On Nov. 8, The Sydney Morning Herald reported a mass meeting of over 200 Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalists that saw staff raise complaints about managers mis-framing what was happening in Gaza and about the news outlet refusing to use accurate terms like ‘apartheid’, ‘war crimes’ and ‘genocide’. ABC established an advisory panel to look into the complaints.
ABC boss David Anderson subsequently accused staff of wanting to inappropriately engage in political activism. Some of Anderson’s critics have countered that he expects staff to remain stenographers of Western power, framing events in Gaza uncritically and without proper context, while maintaining a passive editorial stance that runs contrary to the notion of public-interest journalism challenging and holding power to account.
There have been similar reports of unrest within the BBC. On Oct. 25, The Times reported staffers at the broadcaster had been crying in toilets and had taken time off work, upset at the BBC’s double standards, being too “lenient” on Israel while “dehumanising” Palestinians. BBC North Africa correspondent, Bassam Bounenni, resigned after posting on X he had done so for the sake of his “professional conscience.”
RNZ’s has news-sharing agreements with both ABC and BBC and republishes the outlets’ stories on its own website.
Mick Hall is an independent journalist based in New Zealand. He is a former digital journalist at Radio New Zealand (RNZ) and former Australian Associated Press (AAP) staffer, having also written investigative stories for various newspapers, including the New Zealand Herald.
Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.