An Irish radio presenter has been suspended from broadcasting after a row with a government body about Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip.
Peter Kearney, presenter of the International Politics show on Dublin’s Near FM, had ridiculed Ireland’s Broadcasting Authority after a complaint from the Israeli embassy was upheld.
The Sunday Times reports that Kearney has been suspended and told by station management that his actions ‘were not acceptable.’
Kearney had interviewed a number of people last March about their experiences in Gaza in the aftermath of Israeli military action in 2008 and 2009.
The paper reports that during his program, he described Gaza as an ‘open-air prison,’ endorsing a term used by one interviewee.
The presenter also said on air that Israel did not want to share the waters off the coast of Gaza with Palestinians because of their potential gas and oil reserves.
Boaz Modai, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, then complained to the Broadcasting Authority that the program was a ‘propaganda platform’ for Gaza Action Ireland as there were no neutral guests or advocates of Israel’s position.
The authority’s compliance committee ruled that the show was not ‘fair, objective and impartial’ as current affairs programs are required to be.
After Near FM broadcast the BAI’s ruling before an episode of International Politics, Kearney discussed the ruling with Azizi, a comic character who is the creation of Sami Moukaddem, a Lebanese musician.
On the program Azizi described the BAI ruling as ‘the garbage that we just smelt,’ He said it had ‘stank the whole office.’
The paper says that Kearney then said that the ‘I’ in BAI stood for Ireland and not Israel and said if he had endorsed the opinions of the interviewees he wasn’t going too far wrong.
He said: “Shock, horror, I allowed their opinions to be expressed.”
Azizi added on air that, historically, people who tried to expose human rights abuses were vilified.
The comic said: “There is not enough toilet paper in this building to clean me of the vibe of what we just heard.”
The report says that Azizi then mocked the BAI committee for upholding the embassy’s complaint. He said: “Give us this shit, let us expose you. They keep on exposing themselves.”
He also said that the complaint exposed the Israelis ‘as bullies of just about everything, small and big.’
Kearney then took to the program’s Facebook page where he claimed the BAI had supported an Israeli embassy attack on his show. He wrote: “This is an attack on community volunteers.”
The station apologised to both the BAI and Israeli embassy after the Sunday Times investigated the program.
In a statement, it said: “Near FM fully accepted the decision of the BAI regarding the lack of balance in the International Politics program of March 26. We stand over our apology as broadcast on November 6.
“The presenter, who undermined that apology, acted counter to Near FM’s policies and has been suspended. The presenter was informed about the seriousness of this matter, and acted contrary to Near FM’s instructions. His views are not the views of Near FM.”
The report adds that Kearney was unrepentant on his Facebook page. He said: “I have a clear conscience. The suspension is wrong. The Israelis are wrong.”
He also claimed the reluctance of the Israeli embassy to accept any criticism or questioning of its state was ‘shocking and undemocratic.’
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