BBC Trending warns of misrepresented photo, BBC correspondent Tweets it

h/t A

On December 16th BBC Trending produced a brief report about a photograph of a toddler’s blood-soaked shoe which was being promoted on social media as having been taken at the scene of the terror attack in Peshawar on the same day. As was pointed out, the photograph was in fact taken in 2008 in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon after a missile attack from the Gaza Strip.

The next day, BBC Trending uncovered more information about the photograph and updated its report. The article appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the amended title “Israeli photographer ‘horrified’ at use of bloody shoe photo“.BBC Trending shoe art

The article states:

“BBC Trending tracked down the photographer, Edi Israel, who says he took the photo while working as a freelancer in Ashkelon in May 2008. In that incident, a rocket was fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza into Israel, injuring dozens.

“I’m horrified to know that the picture has moved to Pakistan, and that it’s being used like that,” Edi Israel says. “This is a known phenomenon that people take a photo from one place and use it like it was elsewhere.”

The “recycling” of shocking photos is indeed common on social media in the wake of attacks – for instance we reported on the sharing of old images under the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack earlier this year.”

However, the image in question was not only misleadingly promoted on social media on December 16th as having been photographed in Pakistan. A Dutch journalist inaccurately claimed that it was actually taken in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 and his disinformation was in turn retweeted by the BBC’s correspondent in Libya Rana Jawad.  

Rana Jawad Tweet

Once again it is clear that the BBC’s social media guidelines are not effective in preventing breaches of accuracy and impartiality by its correspondents on the ground. 

Update:

Rana Jawad has put out a correction to the inaccurate retweet. 

 

Superficial reporting from the BBC’s James Reynolds in Ashkelon

As has so often been the case in past rounds of conflict and also during ‘quieter‘ times, the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon has been under particularly heavy attack during Operation Protective Edge. Since the beginning of the operation on July 8th and as of the evening of July 16th, 102 missiles have been fired at Ashkelon alone. 64 were intercepted, 14 fell in open areas and 6 hit the city.

On July 16th BBC television news broadcast a report by James Reynolds from that battered city which was also promoted on the BBC News website under the somewhat ambitious title (considering that the city has some 120,000 residents) “Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon“.

Distinctly less ambitious were the BBC’s efforts to meet standards of accuracy in that report’s synopsis as it appears on the website.

Reynolds 16 7 Ashkelon Beit Ariye

Thirty-seven year-old father of three Dror Hanin was actually killed near the Erez crossing whilst he was handing out food parcels to soldiers. He was a resident of the town of Beit Aryeh, which is about 90 kms away.

Three days before James Reynolds filmed this report in Ashkelon a teenager was badly wounded by missile shrapnel during one of the dozens of attacks on the city over the past ten days. Yarin Levy is hospitalized in the ICU at Barzilai Hospital in his city where, due to the missile fire from the Gaza Strip, premature babies had to be evacuated to a protected area already on the first day of the operation and the accident and emergency department was similarly evacuated on the day of Reynolds’ visit. Also on that day, one of the nineteen missiles targeting Ashkelon hit a house in the city, with a teenage girl narrowly escaping serious injury and the clinic belonging to her mother – a pediatrician sometimes practicing at home  – fortunately empty at the time.

In contrast to recent filmed BBC reports produced by Reynolds’ colleagues in the Gaza Strip, however, there were no images of a child in an intensive care hospital bed, of distraught relatives, of ruined houses or of people sifting through rubble in this report. Instead, Reynolds chose to represent the situation in Ashkelon by showing viewers a shopping mall.

He opens:

“I’m in the Israeli city of Ashkelon and Gaza is just a few miles to the south of there on the horizon.  And so far today there’ve been three rocket warnings from Gaza. Israelis have heard sirens blare across the city. They stop whatever they’re doing and they go to find shelter.”

“Rocket warnings from Gaza”? Not rocket attacks from Gaza?

He continues:

“But for the moment here they’ve decided to carry on with their lives. Now I want to show you inside this shopping centre. Have a look there at the security guard. Shalom. In all Israeli shopping centres there’s a security guard because for years the threat here was from suicide bombers. Now the threat is from rockets and if you look in here you’ll see it’s pretty empty. People here say it’s much emptier than normal but they’re continuing to follow news of the conflict from Gaza.”

So on the one hand Reynolds tells BBC audiences that the people of Ashkelon have “decided to carry on with their lives” but on the other hand the shopping mall is “pretty empty” and “much emptier than normal”. And whilst people are apparently following “news of the conflict from Gaza”, one assumes that they are also following news of the attacks on the rest of Israel which go unmentioned by Reynolds.

Reynolds then interviews three people – none of whom is a native English speaker, but nevertheless, the interviews are conducted in English rather than Hebrew with voice-over. Reynolds’ first question to the first interviewee again indicates just how Gaza-centric BBC coverage is.

“How is the offensive into Gaza affecting your life?”

Surely a more appropriate and relevant question would have been ‘how are the missile attacks from the Gaza Strip affecting your life? Notably, the message given by the first two interviewees (at least after editing) is that people get used to missile attacks.

Reynolds: “Are you scared now?”

Man: “Now less…because I got used to it.”

Woman: “I’m not afraid – I get used to that..”

Reynolds concludes:

“Israelis here in Ashkelon await word from their government about the future of the ground offensive into Gaza. Some ministers have called for a ground operation. The decision one way or another will be made by the entire security cabinet.”

Did BBC audiences really learn anything about “the mood” in Ashkelon or get a sense of the realities of life under missile fire in one of Israel’s most attacked cities where even premature babies in hospital have to be moved to air-raid shelters? Hardly. But the really revealing thing about this report is the way in which it contrasts so sharply with the emotional reports produced by Reynolds’ colleagues in the Gaza Strip.  

Missile attacks on Ashkelon – BBC leads with Israeli response

Shortly before 2 a.m. on the morning of January 16th residents of the Ashkelon area in southern Israel were woken by the sound of the ‘colour red’ air raid siren warning them to take cover due to incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip.

Five missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system (see a video here), with additional falls thought to have occurred in open areas. Following those attacks, the IDF responded by targeting terror sites in the Gaza Strip.

“Earlier tonight, rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Five rockets were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome active missile defense system. In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a terror site, an underground rocket-launcher, a weapon storage facility and a weapons manufacturing site, all located in the northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page later on the morning of January 16th found the headline “‘Five hurt’ in Israel-Gaza air raids”, with the link leading to a report with the similar title of “‘Five hurt’ in Israel-Gaza Strip air raids“.

five hurt art on hp

five hurt art 16 1

Underneath a photograph captioned “Israel launched at least two air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Monday”, this latest example of ‘last-first’ reporting opens:

“Five people including four children have been injured in a series of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics have told the BBC.”

Once again, there is no evidence of the BBC having independently confirmed that information before reporting it.

In the report’s second and third paragraphs readers are informed that:

“The raids took place on Thursday shortly after militants fired five rockets towards Ashkelon in southern Israel, the military said.

An army spokesman said the missiles were intercepted.”

In other words, the BBC informs audiences of unverified consequences of Israel’s response to terrorist missile attacks before it – briefly – tells them about the attacks themselves.

The report then goes on to devote three paragraphs (from a total of eleven) to locally sourced accounts of sites targeted, notably avoiding even the BBC’s usual euphemistic ‘militant’ terminology when mentioning Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades. 

“In Gaza, witnesses said planes attacked five different sites and explosions could be heard across the Strip.

At least one missile hit a training facility for Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist movement, Hamas, which governs Gaza.

Another raid was reported to have targeted a rocket launcher cell in an agricultural farm east of Gaza City.”

The article ends by once again misleading audiences as to the reasons for the designation of the Gaza Strip as “hostile territory”.

“It [Israel] considers Gaza a “hostile territory” after it was taken over by the Islamist Hamas movement in 2007.”

As has been noted here on several previous occasions, that September 2007 designation came about not – as the BBC repeatedly claims – as a result of the Hamas take-over of the Strip in June 2007, but because of the subsequent escalation in terrorism emanating from that territory. 

This report also states:

“On Monday, the Israel Air Force struck two targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel earlier in the day.”

Brief mention of those missile attacks on January 13th was also to be found in an article of that date concerning the funeral of Ariel Sharon.

“The Israeli military said four rockets were launched from Gaza on Monday. The first two rockets did not reach Israel, the second two landed on open ground.”

In fact, BBC journalists reporting from Sharon’s funeral were in no need of information from “the Israeli military” as they found themselves in the vicinity at the time of the later missile attacks.

tweets Shuval missiles funeral

tweet Doucet missiles funeral

Up to the morning of January 16th 2014, there have been seven separate incidents (some involving more than one projectile) of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year, with the BBC having briefly mentioned around half of those attacks mostly in articles related to other subjects and usually in cases in which there has been an Israeli response. There has been no dedicated report on the subject reflecting the fact that seven attacks using fifteen missiles have taken place in sixteen days. 

On January 2nd a missile was fired at the Sdot Negev area. The BBC mentioned that incident – and the subsequent Israeli response – in this report.

“The raids were in response to a militant rocket attack on southern Israel on Thursday night, according to Israeli Radio.”

On January 6th a missile landed in the Eshkol region. That incident was not reported by the BBC.

On January 9th three mortars were fired at an Israeli patrol near the border fence with the Gaza Strip and an additional attack was thwarted. The BBC did not report that attack.

On January 11th sirens sounded in the Ashkelon region as a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip. That incident was not reported by the BBC.

On January 13th two missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip in the morning and two additional ones in the afternoon. As mentioned above, both incidents were briefly noted in this BBC article.

In the early hours of January 16th at least five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards the Ashkelon area and those attacks are briefly noted in the article above.  rock attack near Hebron 15 1 14

Additional terror-related news not reported at all by the BBC during the first half of January includes the arrest of the perpetrators of the bus bombing in Bat Yam in December and the discovery of a Hamas terror cell planning to kidnap Israelis.

The following incidents (which are just some of many more to have taken place since the beginning of the year) have also received no BBC coverage: stones thrown at a minibus on Route 443, the attempted stabbing of a Border policeman in Jerusalem, a thwarted attack on Migdal Oz, fire-bombs and stones thrown at Israeli cars near Bethlehem, a grenade thrown at an IDF base near Bethlehem, a pipe-bomb thrown at Rachel’s Tomb, fire-bombs thrown at an Israeli bus on Route 60, a man stabbed in the neck in Jerusalem and a drive-by shooting on Route 55.

With the BBC’s record on reporting missile fire from the Gaza Strip standing at just over 50% so far this year and its record on reporting additional forms of terrorism in other districts standing at zero, BBC audiences are clearly not being provided with the background information necessary for them to form a proper understanding of subjects such as the effects of rising terrorism on the current talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Neither are they being given the context necessary to them to properly understand the Israeli responses to terror on which the BBC does chose to report.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on doubling of terror attacks since renewed ME talks

BBC continues to ignore non-fatal terror attacks

 

Unnoted corrections to BBC report on Salafist terror cell

A headline appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on the evening of November 26th informed readers of “Palestinians killed in Israeli raid”.

Yatta headline MEp

The link leads to a short article titled “Suspected Palestinian militants killed in Israeli raid“, the second version of which is shown below. 

Yatta

That 121 word article contained very sparse information and was amended after its initial publication to include two additional uses of the phrase “suspected militants” in addition to the two already included in its initial version. 

amended Yatta article

The incidents to which the report refers took place on the evening of November 26th in Yatta, south of Hebron. As Israeli security forces operated to arrest members of a Salafist group (in addition to others already arrested earlier) planning to execute terror attacks in the coming days, two members of the group were intercepted whilst travelling in a car. The two initial BBC reports failed to mention that the occupants of the vehicle fired at the security forces when the latter tried to stop them, stating only that:

“Two of the suspected militants were killed in their vehicle near the city of Hebron, Israeli officials said.” 

According to more detailed reports:

“The Palestinian terror suspects were in a car that had explosives and firearms in it, when they were met by the counterterrorism unit and additional special forces, who were sent to intercept the vehicle, a senior IDF source said.

Israeli forces opened fire at the car’s wheels, and the suspects fired back. Following an exchange of fire, the two suspects were killed, the source said.”

On the morning of November 27th, the BBC report underwent significant changes and the later version now reflects the fact that an exchange of fire took place.  

“Two of the militants were killed in a shoot-out when security forces tried to arrest them, near Hebron, a domestic intelligence official said.”

yatta later version Weds am

The link to the article on the Middle East page was also amended to better reflect the actual events:

Yatta headline ME p version 2

The original BBC report stated:

“According to security agents, the network was planning attacks on Israel in the coming days.”

It neglected to mention that the cell was also planning attacks against the Palestinian Authority.

“The IDF said the organization to which the two belonged had over the past months attempted to set up an extensive military infrastructure across the West Bank. The organization had planned to target Palestinian Authority structures and personnel, in addition to Israeli soldiers and settlers, the statement said.”

That omission was rectified in the later version of the report:

“Officials said the cell had planned a series of attacks in the coming days.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority were among their targets, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service said, according to the AFP news agency.”

The first two versions of the BBC report also stated:

“Members of the [Salafi jihadist] movement are thought to operate in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

In fact, the operation of Salafist groups in both those areas (as well as in the neighbouring Sinai Peninsula and in Syria) is well-known – rather than merely “thought” to exist – with the BBC itself having reported on Salafists in the Gaza Strip and a Hizb ut Tahrir rally (not reported by the BBC) having taken place in Ramallah last July. Amos Harel writes in Ha’aretz:

“The presence of the Salafis, most of whom are not violent, is now being felt in the West Bank, nearly a decade after they established themselves in the Gaza Strip. Last year, saw a rise in their organized operations, most of which are not political and do not involve terror activity. In East Jerusalem, in particular, one stream called Hizb a-Tahrir stands out, though its activities aren’t violent. Still, there have recently been large assemblies of Salafist groups at several locations in the West Bank, including in the Hebron area. “Suddenly, from nowhere, you hear that 30,000 people are attending a gathering at the stadium in the South Hebron Hills,” a senior military official told Haaretz.

[…] On the margins of the Salafist movements, there is a violent jihadist arm under the influence of al-Qaida’s violent ideology, which has already manifested itself in cells in the Gaza Strip. One can assume that the increased activity of factions with similar ideologies, both in the Sinai Peninsula and especially in the murderous Syrian civil war, strengthens support for them in the West Bank.”

Again, the later version of the report corrected that inaccuracy:

“Salafist jihadists – ultra-conservative Islamists who espouse violence to realise their political objectives – are active in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser extent in the West Bank.”

Whilst it is good to see the BBC News website correcting its own mistakes, no notification of the changes made is provided to those visitors to the site who read the earlier – inaccurate – versions of the article during the eleven or so hours that they were left up on the website. Having already read the report, those readers are unlikely to bother revisiting it just to check if the BBC has made any amendments. Once again, this underlines the need for a dedicated page showing corrections and amendments on the BBC News Ashkelonwebsite.   

Also on November 26th, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip carrying a grenade was apprehended near Kibbutz Kfar ‘Aza after managing to infiltrate the border fence. On the same evening, residents of Ashkelon had to rush to their air-raid shelters as the siren warning of incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip sounded. The missile fell short, landing in the Gaza Strip and endangering the local population there. Neither of those incidents was reported by the BBC. 

BBC report on Ashkelon: 80% of footage from elsewhere

This looks promising at first sight: a two minutes and 27 seconds BBC News report by Jeremy Bowen entitled “Israeli-Gaza conflict: Ashkelon bears brunt of rockets” from November 18th

The town of Ashkelon (population about 120,000) has indeed suffered greatly from rocket attacks over the past twelve years as well as the past few days

Israeli rescue workers stand at the scene of a rocket attack in the southern city of Ashkelon May 14, 2008. A rocket struck a shopping mall in Ashkelon, close to the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday and wounded several people, the Israeli army and emergency service officials said.

Ashkelon shopping centre after a rocket attack in 2008. Photo credit Reuters

School in Ashkelon Itai Levi / Jini

A school in Ashkelon after being hit by a Grad rocket in 2009. Photo by Itai Levi / Jini

Ashkelon residents outside a building hit by a rocket on November 18th 2012. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Here is some footage from Ashkelon taken on November 19th by Al Jazeera. 

So did BBC audiences finally get to see what is happening in that beleaguered town? Well, not much.

 Bowen’s 147 second report showed a mere twenty-eight seconds of footage from Ashkelon.

The rest of the report showed images of a meeting of the Israeli cabinet (12 seconds), Israeli soldiers training (60 seconds), President Obama (25 seconds), the Iron Dome missile defence system (25 seconds), a panorama of Gaza City (2 seconds) during which Bowen injects the loaded term ‘proportionate’, an interview with Lt Col Leibovich of the IDF Spokesman’s unit (14 seconds) and is then rounded up with a further 20 seconds of pictures of Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

So BBC viewers are probably little the wiser about what it is like for the residents of Ashkelon to “bear the brunt” of barrages of rocket attacks for years on end after Jeremy Bowen’s report.

But they do now know that there are lots of soldiers, politicians and very big bulldozers in Israel.