LONDON, (AP) – The British-based Sky News channel joined the BBC on Monday in refusing to broadcast an emergency fundraising appeal designed to raise money for people living in the Gaza Strip.
Executives at the international satellite broadcaster said they made the decision after a weekend of deliberations to protect the impartiality of the station’s news report.
“The conflict in Gaza forms part of one of the most challenging and contentious stories for any news organization to cover,” said Sky News director John Ryley. “Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of that story with uncompromising objectivity.”
The ad was submitted for broadcast by the Disaster Emergency Committee, a group of charities that includes the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children.
Protesters say the humanitarian appeal must be shown to help Palestinians in desperate need of assistance after heavy fighting in Gaza. Broadcasters say they worry they will be seen as taking sides in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, if they show the ad.
The issue over whether to show the charity appeal ad has ignited passions throughout Britain.
BBC officials received more than 10,000 complaints and were the focus of numerous protests over the weekend after announcing the charity appeal would not be shown. The BBC’s decision has been criticized by lawmakers and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, said Sky and BBC management are behaving in a cowardly way.
“They say their impartiality would be compromised because it’s so sensitive, but it isn’t, it’s humanitarian aid,” he said. “Listeners can distinguish between sending blankets to refugees and taking sides in the conflict.”
Adrian Wells, Sky’s director of foreign news, said the station understood the good intentions of the charities seeking to publicize the situation in Gaza.
“Let me say to those people who might be angry, people who might be passionate about this, there is no question about Sky’s commitment to reporting the region,” he said. “We’ve had our reporters there since the gates of Gaza opened. There is absolutely no question of Sky viewers not being aware of the humanitarian crisis.”
Other British broadcasters — including Channel 4, ITV, and Five — have said they will show the advertisement.
Israel launched its three-week offensive on Gaza late last month to try to halt Hamas rocket fire on towns in southern Israel. The assault killed more than 1200 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed during the fighting, Israel said.