BBC responds to complaints about Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Khaled Masha’al

Several members of the public who submitted complaints concerning Jeremy Bowen’s recent interview with Hamas leader Khaled Masha’al (see related articles below) have received the following template response.Bowen Hamas filmed

“Thank you for contacting us about BBC News Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. We have received a wide range of feedback about this interview, so we apologise in advance if your specific concerns have not been fully addressed in this response.

Some people contacted us saying this interview showed bias in favour of Hamas, or against Israel. Firstly, we would like to point out that the longer version of the interview shown on the BBC News at Ten on 1 April clearly explained the nature, intentions and ideology of Hamas to viewers. During the introduction to the report we said that Hamas is:

“…designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and other countries and “still calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter”.

The BBC News website’s article, which featured a shorter version of the interview, said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-32060613 

“Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and other countries due to its long record of attacks on Israelis and its refusal to renounce violence. Under its charter, the group is committed to the destruction of Israel.”

This interview sought to give a brief insight into Hamas’ position given the current political landscape in the Middle East. We felt it was relevant and important to explore the likely challenges facing Palestinians and their leadership, particularly following the results of the Israeli general election in March, last year’s war with Israel in Gaza and the growing crisis in Syria and Iraq.Bowen Hamas written

Jeremy Bowen challenged Khaled Meshaal on a number of points during the interview. He reflected on comparisons between Hamas and jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda and ‘Islamic State’. When Mr Meshaal described Hamas as “moderate” in response to this comparison, Jeremy remarked that many in the US, Israel and the UK would “laugh” at this description.

During the News at Ten report, Jeremy was shown some of Hamas’ network of tunnels by Colonel Peter Lerner from the Israeli Army. Col Lerner explained how sophisticated the tunnels are and emphasised the threat posed by them to those living in southern Israel. This point was put directly to Khaled Meshaal during the interview. 

Across our coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we have extensively reported on Hamas’ actions. We have covered their targeting and killing of Israeli soldiers and civilians, on the threat posed by rocket attacks and tunnels, and their hostility towards the state of Israel. This interview was a small part of a much wider range of reports on this complex and ongoing conflict.

Thanks again for contacting us.” 

Obviously, nothing in that generic first stage response addresses the issues raised on these pages and others. As Tom Wilson writing in the Spectator noted with regard to Bowen’s interview:

“When journalists have the much sought after opportunity to interview the heads of states and organisations with appalling human rights records the very least we expect is to see such people given a thorough cross-examining. What we don’t expect is for heads of terrorist organisations to be provided with a platform from which to give the equivalent of a party political broadcast and to get away with it virtually unchallenged. “

Members of the public considering pursuing their complaint further may find the following links helpful.

How to Complain to the BBC

Tips on using the BBC Complaints Procedure

Related Articles:

 BBC’s Bowen facilitates Hamas PR binge

More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

Jeremy Bowen exploits Radio 4 news bulletin for Hamas PR promotion

Jane Corbin’s BBC documentary on plight of ME Christians promotes jaded Israel-related narratives

On April 15th 2015 BBC Two’s ‘This World’ programme aired a documentary by Jane Corbin titled “Kill the Christians” which is described as follows in the synopsis:Corbin This World

“Christianity is facing the greatest threat to its existence in the very place where it was born. Jane Corbin travels across the Middle East to some of the holiest places in Christendom and finds that hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing Islamic extremists, conflict and persecution. From the Nineveh plains in Iraq to the ancient city of Maaloula in Syria, Kill the Christians reveals the story of how the religion that shaped Western culture and history is in danger of disappearing in large parts of its ancient heartland.”

Pre-broadcast promotion of the programme included an article by Corbin titled “Could Christianity be driven from Middle East?” published on the BBC News website and another article by Corbin published in the Guardian under the headline “These may be the last Christians of the Middle East – unless we help“. The sub-heading in the Guardian article reflects one of the themes appearing in the documentary itself as well as in the other written article.

“Islamic extremism has taken persecution to a new level, but the seeds were sown a decade ago in the US- and British-led Iraq invasion”.

Whilst the version of Corbin’s article appearing on the BBC News website confines itself to discussion of the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria, in the article appearing in the Guardian, readers got a taste of things to come in the documentary itself.

“Christianity remains a force only in Lebanon, where the common enemy for Muslims and Christians alike is Islamic extremism. There are other threats, however – in historic Palestine young Christians leave for jobs and a more secure life abroad. Emigration and fear are sapping the life of Christian communities even in relatively peaceful parts of the region.”Corbin written

At around 37 minutes into the programme Corbin tells viewers:

“But there’s one country where Christians are still secure – their last bastion in the Middle East: the Lebanon.”

That, of course, is not an accurate statement: Christians in Israel are both secure and thriving.  

Remarkably, around a tenth of this hour-long documentary ostensibly about “Christians…fleeing Islamic extremists, conflict and persecution” is devoted to what Corbin variously terms “historic Palestine” and “the Holy Land”.

“The Christians of the Lebanon have a good chance of holding on, but only if their children feel they have a future in the region. That’s not certain when you look at where it all began: historic Palestine. The Christian community has dramatically declined in the very place where Christ was born: in the little town of Bethlehem on the West Bank Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.”

Bethlehem is of course located in Area A and has been under the full control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995.

“It’s not Islamic State that threatens Christians here but a slow process of attrition. Decades of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have driven many Christians to emigrate. In the 1920s Bethlehem was almost completely Christian; only one Muslim family lived here. But now only a third of the town’s inhabitants are Christian.”

Corbin refrains from informing her viewers of some critical background to Bethlehem’s demographics:

“In 1947 the population of Bethlehem was 85% Christian. In 1990 23,000 Christians lived there, as a 60% majority. After the Palestinian Authority took over control of the town in 1995 the town’s municipal boundaries were altered to include concentrations of Muslim population, turning the Christians into a minority. By 2010 the number of Christians in Bethlehem had fallen to 7,500.”

Corbin continues:

“The Church of the Nativity marks the very place where Christ was born in a manger. It’s somewhere every devout Christian in the world wants to visit. Much of Bethlehem’s economy depends on pilgrimage and tourism and that always suffers when there’s conflict in the Holy Land.” […]

“During the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation a decade ago, the Church of the Nativity itself was besieged. Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants who’d taken refuge inside. Many Christians left Bethlehem following the uprising.” […]

Corbin makes no mention of the fact that the Palestinian terrorists who violently took over the church were in possession of weapons and explosives and held some 200 hostages – civilians and clergy.

“Life is hard in Bethlehem. The town’s now partly surrounded by the wall. Israel says it built this separation barrier for its security but Christians say it restricts their movement. Violence still regularly flares up in Bethlehem between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.” […]

Once again we see the BBC’s standard “Israel says” formula at work in relation to the anti-terrorist fence. As usual, no effort is made to provide audiences with factual information on the subject of the fence’s effectiveness in preventing the terror attacks which were the cause of its construction and just as Corbin avoids any mention of Palestinian terrorism during the second Intifada, she also erases it from her euphemistic description of contemporary violence which, according to her, just “flares up”. Corbin also repeats the standard inaccurate BBC claim according to which Bethlehem is “partially surrounded by the wall”. In fact, not only is there no anti-terrorist fence to the south and east of Bethlehem, but the section which can accurately be described as a “wall” is one small specific section.

“Some Christians also complain of discrimination against them by the Muslim majority and they fear increasing Islamic extremism in the area.” […]

That one-liner is of course the real story behind the plight of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem and elsewhere but – despite the ample evidence long available – it is one which does not fit the BBC narrative and hence has not been reported comprehensively. As we see, Corbin makes no effort to present an exception to that BBC rule.

“Many Christians in Bethlehem feel cut off from the greatest place of all in the life of Christ – just five miles away. Jerusalem is where three of the greatest religions on earth come together, making this the holiest city on earth. Two of those religions are still thriving in the Holy Land. Judaism is secure in the State of Israel and prayers in Jerusalem’s great Mosques echo those across the Middle East where Islam is predominant. Only Christianity is in terminal decline. They still worship in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site of Jesus’ tomb. But most visitors are from far away – from places where the religion’s growing. Soon these most symbolic sites could become just museums for international pilgrims. Few Christians actually live in the place where Jesus lived and died.”

In the year following the establishment of the State of Israel – 1949 – its Christian population numbered 34,000.  In 1947 there were 28,000 Christians living in Jerusalem. During the 19 years of Jordanian rule over the eastern part of the city, 61% of them left, with the population reduced to 11,000 when the city was reunited in 1967. At the end of 2012, The Christian population of Israel numbered 158,400, 80% of whom are Arab Christians living exactly in “the place where Jesus lived and died”: the Galilee and Jerusalem.

“Most Christian Arabs live in the northern Israel, and the cities with the largest Christian populations are Nazareth, with 22,400; Haifa with 14,400; Jerusalem with 11,700; and Shfaram with 9,400.”

One year later – December 2013 – the number of Christians living in Israel had risen to 160,900, indicating a natural growth rate of around 1.9%. By way of comparison, the natural growth rate of the UK population in 2013 was 0.6%.

So as we see, Corbin’s claim that “…in the Holy Land…Christianity is in terminal decline” is not evidence-based at all. Rather, it clearly flows from the exact same politically motivated source as Jeremy Bowen’s recent attempt to persuade BBC audiences that Israel is just as much a threat to Middle East Christians as the religiously motivated persecution and slaughter perpetrated by Islamist extremists.

The issue of the persecution of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East is one which clearly does need to be brought to audiences worldwide. It is therefore all the more regrettable that the BBC exploits this serious subject for the promotion of inaccurate, trite political narratives about the one country in the region in which they are not in danger, whilst at the same time downplaying and even concealing the real background to the plight of Christians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. 

Superficial BBC report on Russian missile deal with Iran

Over the last couple of weeks BBC audiences have been repeatedly informed that the essence of the framework agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran on April 2nd is restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions following verification of Iranian compliance.

For example: [all emphasis added]

“”Under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments,” [US State Department] spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters.” [source]

“According to the framework agreement, sanctions will be gradually phased out as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.” [source]

“The deal aims to prevent Tehran making a nuclear weapon in exchange for phased sanction relief.” [source]

“Under the terms reached last Thursday, Iran must slash its stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon, and cut by more than two-thirds the number of centrifuges that could be used to make more.

In return, UN sanctions and separate measures imposed unilaterally by the US and EU will be gradually suspended as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.” [source]

So, when one of member of the P5+1 group which negotiated that framework agreement announced that it was unilaterally terminating a five year-old ban on the supply of missiles to Iran before the terms of a final deal have been reached and before the IAEA has given any confirmation whatsoever of Iranian compliance with an agreement not yet even written down, one might have thought that the many obvious issues that raises would feature in the report on the subject produced by the self-declared “standard-setter for international journalism”.

However, in the article titled “US concern as Russia lifts ban on Iran arms delivery” which appeared on the BBC News website on April 14th, readers were not even reminded that Russia is one of the P5+1 nations.Russia S 300 art

Audiences were informed that:

“The US has expressed concern after Russia lifted a ban on supplying Iran with the sophisticated S-300 air defence missile system. […]

Russia said the embargo was no longer necessary after an interim deal was reached on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Tehran and six world powers aim to reach a final deal by 30 June.”

No questions were raised by the BBC regarding the issue of whether the framework agreement means that sanctions repeal is open to individual interpretation by countries and organisations or, alternatively, subject to a joint P5+1 decision-making process on which specific sanctions would be lifted when and under what conditions. The potential effects of this unilateral Russian decision (and pre-existing ones) on the functioning of the P5+1 were also not addressed by the BBC.

“Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later confirmed statements by a Russian diplomat that Russia was already supplying Iran with various goods in exchange for oil. Peskov said this trade was not barred under the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

The moves raised alarm bells in Israel and the US, which said a Russian-Iranian barter deal would raise serious concerns and could interfere with sanctions that the United States and other Western nations imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.”

The article states:

“Russia agreed to sell the S-300 system in 2007, but blocked delivery in 2010 after the UN imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

The S-300 is a surface-to-air missile system that can be used against multiple targets including jets, or to shoot down other missiles.”

However, readers were not informed of the implications of the Russian move – and in particular its potential to complicate the option of military action in the event that Iran does not comply with the pending agreement. That omission is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that just days before the publication of this report, the BBC had seen fit to amplify statements made by the US President regarding Israel’s safety – which included the claim that:

“…we still have the options available to me — or available to a future president – that I have available to me right now.”

Once again the self-imposed limitations of BBC reporting on the P5+1 negotiations with Iran are glaringly evident.

BBC’s Yolande Knell promotes Muslim Brotherhood messaging

“…there were many interviews with members of the Brotherhood itself – some rank-and-file, some described as leaders. All of these stressed that their movement favoured freedom and democracy, and did not seek to impose an Islamic order on people against their will. Some of the expert commentators accepted these statements more or less at face value, stressing the Brotherhood’s evolution towards pragmatism during its long years in opposition and semi-clandestinity…”

Source: ‘A BBC Trust report on the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of the events known as the “Arab Spring”’ – June 2012

One might have perhaps thought that in the four years which have passed since the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt, BBC correspondents would have had the opportunity to garner enough understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent them from repeating the same face value acceptance – and amplification – of its messaging as was seen in BBC coverage of the events at the time.Knell MB art

However, if the article titled “Muslim Brotherhood: From rapid rise to sharp decline” produced by Yolande Knell on April 13th is anything to go by, not only is that is definitely not the case, but Edward Mortimer’s description of Muslim Brotherhood statements being naively “accepted … at face value” by BBC “expert commentators” may be in need of review.

Knell has no comment to add on the use of the phrase “democratic process” by a supporter of an organization which states that its intention is to create a state ruled by religious law which discriminates against women, non-Muslim minorities and others.

“On Saturday, a court confirmed death sentences on the group’s General Guide, Mohammed Badie, and others for planning attacks against the state.

But another man, Ahmed, insists they have done nothing wrong.

“God willing, we’ll see the democratic process get back on track soon,” he says.”

Neither does Knell make any effort to explain the reasoning behind her promotion of the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole is ‘relatively moderate’.

“Yet many in Egypt accept the clampdown on the Brotherhood, believing it failed its test in power, and across the entire region the fate of this relatively moderate Islamist organisation has undergone a dramatic turnaround.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines the political sense of moderate as “not radical or excessively right- or left-wing”. The aim of running a state ruled by Sharia law cannot accurately be described as anything other than radical and right-wing and of course there is little evidence of ‘moderation’ on the part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood or the movement’s Qatar-based  ‘spiritual guide’ Yusuf al Qaradawi.

‘Moderate’ political organisations obviously do not support terrorism or cultivate links with its perpetrators – but a journalist who uses the makeover term “political faction” to describe a terrorist group which just months ago launched thousands of missiles at civilians will obviously be oblivious to that nuance.

“Not far away, in the Palestinian territories, Hamas – which is aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood – is also suffering from the organisation’s demise.

Its leaders were treated like VIPs in Egypt during the Brotherhood’s brief reign.

But in February, a court in Cairo joined Israel, the United States, the European Union and others in pronouncing Hamas a terrorist organisation.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the political faction, ordinary people feel more isolated than ever. […]

Across Gaza, the green flags of Hamas still flutter defiantly above the mangled metal and rubble of homes destroyed in last summer’s war with Israel.” [emphasis added]

Knell’s take-away message to readers comes right at the end of her article:

“But throughout much of the Middle East, there is a sense that times are changing.

And what worries many is that just as the Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of Islamist groups in the region, is in decline, so fanatical ones – like Islamic State – are gaining momentum.

The danger is that efforts to suppress the Brotherhood could radicalise its younger supporters and help swell the ranks of the extremists.”

Yolande Knell does not reveal to her readers the identities of the worried “many” who apparently believe that the political aspirations of young Middle Eastern Muslims are to be found exclusively on a scale lying between ‘moderate’ Islamists and ‘fanatical’ ones and hence promote the highly debatable claim-cum-threat that the decline of the Muslim Brotherhood could “swell the ranks of the extremists”.

However, a clue to the potential source – and background motivations – of that claim promoted and amplified by Knell comes in the form of a report published by Associated Press about the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan which appeared almost a month before Knell’s article saw the light of day. Interestingly, the two pieces show some curious similarities.

In a section of her article about the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Yolande Knell writes:

“A new, officially licensed branch defines itself as strictly Jordanian, saying it has cut ties to the regional movement, so it is not identified as militant.”

The earlier AP article states:

“The new, officially licensed Brotherhood offshoot defines itself as a strictly Jordanian group, saying it cut ties with the regional movement to avoid being branded as militant.”

Yolande Knell writes:

“The legal status of the other, larger faction is less clear, but it is keeping its links to the wider Brotherhood.”

The earlier AP article states:

“The larger Brotherhood faction, still loyal to the regional movement, alleged the government engineered the division to weaken the group.[…] The status of the second faction now remains unclear.”

Yolande Knell writes:

“The danger is that efforts to suppress the Brotherhood could radicalise its younger supporters and help swell the ranks of the extremists.”

Readers of the AP report were informed that:

“In Jordan, some warned that the government’s apparent divide-and-control policy could backfire by pushing more Brotherhood supporters into the ranks of extremists like the Islamic State group, seen as the main threat to the country’s stability.”

And:

“Some warn the government crackdown could radicalize Brotherhood supporters and help swell the ranks of the Islamic State group.”

In other words, Yolande Knell’s supposedly impartial take-away message to Western audiences on the topic of the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have come straight (or perhaps via AP) from the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood horse’s mouth.

So much for ‘standard-setting’ journalism.

Related Articles:

The BBC and the Brotherhood

Must read article by former BBC journalist

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC ME editor’s analysis of threat to Christians: IS, extreme Islam – and Israel

h/t: MG, SI

The April 14th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme included an interview (available here for a limited period of time from 01:49:45) with Cardinal Vincent Nichols on the subject of his recent visit to displaced Christian communities in Iraq.Today 14 4

 Immediately after that interview, presenter Mishal Husain brought in Jeremy Bowen (from 01:54:35) for further analysis of the issue of the plight of Christian communities in Iraq as described by Cardinal Nichols and listeners heard an ‘interesting’ interpretation of the cause of Islamist violence against Christians in that country.

MH: “On the line is our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Jeremy, listening to Cardinal Nichols, it’s a reminder that although we may see the fight against IS and the position in the Middle East at the moment often through sectarian…in sectarian terms and through that sort of prism, this has been traditionally a religiously diverse part of the world.”

JB: “Yes. In Syria and Iraq there was a delicate mosaic – a very interesting mosaic – of different faiths which really has been shattered now. In Iraq, in the last…since 2011…since the war started there…sorry; in Syria I should say…2011…but in Iraq it’s been going on since the invasion by American-led forces in 2003 in that since then, the population of Iraqi Christians has been reduced pretty much by more than half. And there have…it’s been a catastrophe for them which started before the rise of Islamic State, which started as a consequence of the invasion. And if you talk to the Christian communities in other parts of the Middle East as I often do, a lot of them will look to that example of Iraq and say we do not want to be like Iraq and now they’ll also say of course we don’t want to be like what’s been happening in Syria too.” [emphasis added]

Following a question about the possibility of Iraqi Christians from the Nineveh Plains being able to return to their homes, Husain said:

MH: “Perhaps we’ve only just recently woken up to the reality of what’s been happening to minority communities in this part of the world because of all the headlines and the attention that’s been grabbed by Islamic State. From what you’re saying, this is a much longer phenomenon.”

JB: “Well, Christians have been leaving the Middle East for an awfully long time. There are well-established groups of émigré Middle Eastern Christians in all sorts of countries – in South America for example; one region of the world. But…ehm…what has changed; the rise of extreme Islam – which of course has resulted in the killing of many Muslims – has also resulted over the last ten years or so in a lot of Christian communities being dislocated and it’s become particularly acute since the rise of Islamic State. And it’s not just Islamic State either: Christians in Egypt feel very threatened there by different kinds of religious extremism. There is still a large community of Christians in Egypt, also in Lebanon – they’re pretty well established in Lebanon and strong but they again feel pressure. And Palestinian Christians as well feel threatened from not just of course from extreme Islam, but they also feel threatened by what the Israeli government might be doing. So all round the place when you look at it, it’s difficult.” [emphasis added]

Bowen of course provided no fact-based support for his fallacious claim that Palestinian Christian communities are “threatened” by Israel and neither did he inform listeners that the Christian community in Israel is both safe and thriving.

But no less remarkable is the fact that Bowen would clearly have listeners believe that, in terms of threats to Middle East Christian communities, “what the Israeli government might be doing” (whatever that bizarre phrase is supposed to mean) can and should be seen as being on a par with the religiously motivated persecution and slaughter of Christians (and of course other minorities) by Islamist extremists.

And that, dear readers, is from the man whose entire job was created with the stated intention of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”. 

 

 

 

A way but no will: BBC coverage of Palestinian affairs in Q1 2015

We have often noted on these pages that the BBC’s coverage of Palestinian affairs is for the most part focused on subjects with some sort of connection to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that the corporation shows considerably less interest in reporting on internal Palestinian topics such as domestic politics, human rights or social issues. Even reports which ostensibly do deal with purely Palestinian stories are frequently used as a hook for political messaging.

Throughout the first quarter of 2015 twenty-nine reports relating to the Palestinian Authority, PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip appeared on the BBC News website, along with an additional three previously discussed reports relating to specific incidents of terrorism perpetrated by Palestinian attackers. 

Four of those reports related to the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the ICC:ICC probe art

Palestinians sign up to join International Criminal Court (discussed here)

Palestinians submit ICC membership bid documents

Will ICC membership help or hinder the Palestinians’ cause?  (originally published on January 14th – discussed here)

Israel-Palestinian ‘war crimes’ probed by the ICC (discussed here)

Three reports were about PA tax revenue transfers suspended – and later reinstated – by Israel:

Israel freezes Palestine tax funds over ICC bid

US opposes Israeli tax freeze on Palestinians

Israel to resume tax transfers to Palestinian Authority (discussed here)

One report related to the PLO’s recommendation to halt security cooperation with Israel:

PLO votes to end historic Israeli security agreement (discussed here)

One report concerned Palestinian views of the Israeli election:

Israel election: The view from Ramallah  – Yolande Knell  (discussed here)Knell filmed 17 3

One report marked the ten-year anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat:

Arafat’s widow on husband’s legacy  (discussed here)

Two reports related to water issues connected to the city of Rawabi:

Rawabi: A new Palestinian city in the West Bank and The new Palestinian city that lacks only one thing – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Three reports concerned terrorism:

Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers (discussed here)

The lost sons (discussed here)

Palestinian groups face $218m Israel attacks fine in US (discussed here)

Three reports related to damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip resulting from last summer’s conflict and the slow pace of reconstruction:

Gaza resident: ‘Everyone has forgotten us’ – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Caught in a wasteland: Gaza six months after the ceasefire  – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Banksy artwork appears on the streets and walls of Gaza – Rushdi Abualouf (discussed here)

Two reports concerned Palestinian Islamic Jihad rearmament:

Palestinian Islamic Jihad have rearmed and replenished ranks and Inside Gaza’s tunnels, militants get ready for the next war – Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

One article was about an Amnesty International report on the subject of Hamas war crimes:

Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes

Examples of reports ostensibly covering Palestinian stories but used as a hook for political messaging include a feature by Yolande Knell on Christmas in Bethlehem, an article by Yolande Knell on Palestinian democracy, a sports article and a report about a protest in Ramallah.Knell Democracy Day art

The town with three Christmas Days – Yolande Knell (discussed here)

How Palestinian democracy has failed to flourish – Yolande Knell (discussed here)

Palestine lose 4-0 to Japan in first Asian Cup match (discussed here)

Canada’s foreign minister egged in Ramallah by protesters and Palestinians throw eggs at Canada’s John Baird (discussed here)

Just three of the reports appearing on the BBC News website during the first quarter of 2015 can be said to give audiences some sort of glimpse into Palestinian social issues.  In “Saving Gaza’s only grand piano” Tim Whewell briefly touches on the issue of attitudes towards music:

“but with […] a steady growth of conservatism in local society, such performances became a thing of the past. After the Islamist militant movement, Hamas, took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, live music events became even rarer.”

And:

“The music school has existed for seven years, discreetly hidden away inside the Gaza headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent. It operates only in the evenings but provides a rare space for music in a society where some reject it as haram – forbidden by God.”

The BBC Monitoring report titled “Palestinian paper apologises over ‘Muhammad cartoon'” includes a brief description of what it deems to be the prevalent social attitude on that topic and the Palestinian Authority’s reaction.

Whilst Rushdi Abualouf informs readers of his article titled “Can music help to de-stigmatise disability in Gaza?” that “despite the high prevalence of people with disabilities in the territory, disabled children are still shrouded in social stigma” he refrains from informing readers about the relevant topic of congenital disabilities – instead focusing their attentions on ‘the conflict’ as a cause of disability.

“The tiny territory has been blighted by successive conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel, which have had serious physical and psychological impacts on the population.

It’s estimated that between 126,000 and 270,000 members of the population in Gaza are disabled, according to a 2012 report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and the 50-day conflict last summer has left many more with a long-term or permanent impairment.”

Palestinian paper apologises over ‘Muhammad cartoon’

Can music help to de-stigmatise disability in Gaza?  – Rushdi Abualouf

Saving Gaza’s only grand piano – Tim Whewell

However, visitors to the BBC News website during the first quarter of 2015 learned nothing substantial about the ongoing animosity between ‘unity government’ partners Hamas and Fatah which continues to deter international donors from contributing to reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. They were also not informed of the resignation of the unity government’s deputy prime minister or of allegations of human rights abuses by Hamas and a PA crackdown on social media users and journalists. The topic of Hamas’ rearming and reorganization was only briefly mentioned in a couple of BBC reports with no serious attempt made to explore that obviously important issue.  And of course the topic of the long overdue elections for both the Palestinian legislative body and president remain a no-go area for BBC journalists – along with subjects such as women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of religious minorities.

As the BBC’s World Editor acknowledged last year, the fact that it has permanent offices in Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem – as well as an entire Arabic-speaking division – means that the BBC is better placed than most if not all Western media organisations to provide its audiences with quality in-depth journalism which goes beyond the usual flat-pack reports on the subject of ‘the conflict’. So whilst there is already a way, what appears to be lacking is a will – and the question the corporation’s funding public must be asking is why. 

Another BBC report on Iran framework agreement stays on message

On April 12th the US & Canada and Middle East pages of the BBC News website ran an article titled “Iran nuclear deal: Obama says US partisanship gone too far“. The report’s main subject matter is remarks made by the US President at the recent ‘Summit of the Americas’ in Panama.Obama partisanship art

“US President Barack Obama has said that partisanship over the Iran nuclear deal has gone too far.

He rebuked the stance of some Republicans in the US Congress. […]

President Obama, speaking after a regional conference in Panama, said he remained “absolutely positive” that the deal was the surest way to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear arms. […]

Mr Obama said that entrenched partisanship was no way to run foreign policy.”

In order to be able to reach an informed opinion on the topic of the US President’s claims of “partisanship”, BBC audiences clearly need to have enough information to judge whether or not the reservations regarding the framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran expressed in many quarters have any factual basis.  

Unfortunately, the BBC’s coverage of the framework agreement to date (see related articles below) has refrained from informing them of the existence of an Iranian factsheet presenting a version of the terms of the agreement which differs markedly from the factsheet on the same topic produced by the US State Department – which has in contrast been extensively promoted by the BBC. Similarly, the range of opinions on the subject, as expressed by commentators including researchers, diplomats and scientists, has been excluded from BBC News website coverage.

That means that when readers of this article are told that “one of those criticised by the president – Senator John McCain – said that there were discrepancies between US and Iranian versions of the deal” and “he [McCain] argued on Saturday that discrepancies between US and Iranian versions of the deal extended to inspections, sanctions relief and other key issues”, they are not in a position to know whether McCain’s appraisal of the two documents is correct or not and hence whether his criticism is indeed nothing more than “entrenched partisanship”.

This article also tells readers that:

“The deal aims to prevent Tehran making a nuclear weapon in exchange for phased sanction relief. […]

Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that a final agreement must result in an immediate end to all sanctions.

President Obama said on Saturday that Mr Khamenei was simply addressing his own country’s internal politics.

“Even a guy with the title ‘Supreme Leader’ has to be concerned about his own constituencies,” he said.”

The BBC makes no effort to point out to readers that – despite the US President’s reassurances – many observers are concerned about the implications of Iran’s obviously different reading of the framework agreement on the ability to implement a final deal.

And whilst the BBC has, as noted above, heavily and exclusively promoted the US administration’s version of the framework agreement in its coverage of this subject, it has to date made no effort to provide audiences with objective and informed appraisal of its content. One such appraisal was recently published by the Institute for Science and International Security.

“The recent nuclear framework between the P5+1 and Iran was neither written nor published as a collective document. Instead, France, Iran, and the United States have each written “Fact Sheets” describing the various agreed provisions in the framework. The French one has not been made public. However, the U.S. and Iranian versions differ significantly in key elements such as sanctions relief or include different provisions. The U.S. Fact Sheet is the most detailed of the two public ones. In briefings by U.S. officials involved in the negotiations, they have stated that during the negotiations Iran agreed to every provision listed in the U.S. Fact Sheet. Therefore, in this analysis, we base our comments on the U.S. Fact Sheet and assume that these provisions are accurate. […]

…our overall assessment is that this complicated framework has some excellent provisions (such as those relating to the Arak reactor), several that are inadequate as currently described (enrichment and centrifuge research and development limitations), and several that cannot be judged at this time because they remain to be further negotiated. […]

However, the negotiations are not over; many difficult challenges must be overcome in order to arrive at a final deal. Our goal remains obtaining an adequate deal. To do so, a key goal of the negotiations remains a final deal which provides confidence of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and ensures sufficient reaction time, namely, enough time to respond diplomatically and internationally to stop Iran if it does decide to renege on its commitments and build nuclear weapons. According to Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, “We must be confident that any effort by Tehran to break out of its obligations will be so visible and time-consuming that the attempt would have no chance of success.” That goal must be at the core of any agreement. Overall, however, we do not assess that this essential goal has yet been achieved.”

The BBC can of course continue to portray this topic to its audiences by means of blinkering reporting which promotes one approach alone and excludes any meaningful presentation of information and views which dissent from those presented by the US administration. Or – as required by its public purpose remit – it can begin to tell its funding public the whole story so that they can reach informed opinions on this particular international issue.  

Related Articles:

Did the BBC News website’s reporting on the P5+1 framework agreement with Iran tell the whole story?

BBC audiences still getting cherry-picked information on Iran framework agreement

More spin than a centrifuge: BBC report on Khamenei nuclear deal speech

 

 

BBC News website corrects an error, leaves another standing

Back in early March we noted here that a BBC report on a terror attack in Jerusalem misled readers with regard to the PLO’s previously adopted recommendation to halt security coordination with Israel.

“The article implies to readers that there is some kind of linkage between this latest terror attack and the unrelated topic of the PLO’s recent call for a halt to security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“The incident came shortly after Palestinian officials voted to halt security co-operation with Israel. […]

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) decided to suspend co-operation, part of 1993 peace accords with Israel, at a meeting on Thursday night.”

The BBC fails, however, to clarify to readers that the PLO’s decision does not have any practical effect at this stage.

“A source close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Israel Radio that the council’s decision was a recommendation only. Another Palestinian official said that Abbas must issue a presidential order ending the security cooperation with Israel.””

Several days later, on March 13th, the BBC amended the wording of that part of the article and added the following footnote.

footnote 13 3

Unfortunately, the lack of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website means that it is unlikely that those who read the original version of the report would have returned to it a week after publication and seen that footnote. One must therefore once again ask the BBC what exactly is the point of amendments and corrections to reports appearing on its website if no effort is made to ensure that audiences receive the corrected version?

Notably the inaccurate and no less misleading graphic appearing in the same report which leads readers to believe that there is such a thing as a “1967 ceasefire line” running through Jerusalem was not corrected.

Pigua Jlem map

 

What percentage of Q1 2015 terror attacks against Israelis was reported by the BBC?

Throughout the first quarter of 2015 the BBC News website reported on three separate terror attacks in Israel:

January 21st: Israel bus attack: Tel Aviv passengers stabbed (discussed here)

February 23rd: Jerusalem mayor overpowers attacker after man stabbed (discussed here)

March 6th: Jerusalem: Israeli police hit in Palestinian car attack and Jerusalem attack: Driver rams car into pedestrians (discussed here)BBC News logo 2

As far as BBC audiences are concerned, therefore, the number of terror attacks (although not specifically named as such) against Israelis during the first three months of 2015 totals three: one in Tel Aviv and two in Jerusalem. But is that an accurate representation of the situation?

The Israel Security Agency publishes a monthly summary of terror attacks and its reports for the first quarter of 2015 provide the following information:

January 2015: total number of attacks – 124. Of those: 105 in Judea & Samaria, 18 in Jerusalem.

February 2015: total number of attacks – 96. Of those: 84 in Judea & Samaria, 12 in Jerusalem.

March 2015: total number of attacks – 89. Of those: 58 in Judea & Samaria, 31 in Jerusalem.

The BBC’s above reports relate to two stabbing incidents and one vehicle attack. Two additional stabbings, nine small arms shootings, forty attacks using IEDs (including pipe bombs and improvised grenades) and 256 incidents of firebombing were not reported. Also noteworthy is the fact that whilst most of the attacks – almost 80% – took place in Judea & Samaria, that was not reflected in BBC coverage.

As we see, the total number of attacks during the first quarter of 2015 is 309, which means that the BBC reported less than 1% of the incidents which took place.

Clearly BBC audiences are still not being provided with the comprehensive picture of this subject necessary in order to meet the corporation’s remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

A part of the Israeli story consistently ignored by the BBC

Another terror attack on Israelis ignored by BBC News

Limited BBC journalistic curiosity on Iranian involvement in Yemen

On April 9th the BBC reported on statements made by the US Secretary of State during an interview with an American media outlet.  As readers can gather from the punctuation used in the headline “Yemen crisis: Kerry warns Iran over Houthi rebel ‘support’“, the BBC is obviously not convinced by John Kerry’s assertion of Iranian backing for the Houthi militia in Yemen and the language used in the body of the article itself was equally vague.Yemen Kerry art

“US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Iran over its alleged support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. […]

Iran has denied accusations it is providing military aid to the Houthis.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day under the title “Yemen crisis: Iran’s Khamenei condemns Saudi ‘genocide’” informed readers that:

“On Wednesday, the US warned Iran over its alleged support for the rebels. […]

The [Iranian] foreign ministry also summoned Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires in Tehran.

The state news agency, Irna, quoted the ministry as saying the envoy would be asked to explain “baseless accusations” made by a spokesman for the coalition.

On Wednesday night, Brig Gen Ahmed al-Assiri told a news conference that Iran had been training and equipping Houthi fighters, according to the Reuters news agency.

The US secretary of state also said that Iran’s support for the rebels was clear.”Yemen tweet BBC World

Of course Iranian support for the Houthis is not a new topic: it one that has been under discussion for quite some time and in particular since the Yemeni coastguard intercepted an Iranian ship carrying arms destined for the Houthis over two years ago. A more recent statement from an Iranian politician appeared to add credence to the claims long made in the Saudi media and – as the BBC itself reported in 2013 – by some in Yemen.

“Ali Reza Zakani, an MP, boasted that Sana’a was now the fourth Arab capital in Iranian hands – after Beirut (through Hizbollah), Damascus (through President Assad) and Baghdad (through Iraq’s democratically elected Shia-led government).”

The BBC, however, has apparently opted to remain on the fence and appears to have little journalistic curiosity or interest in either confirming or refuting the assertions of the US administration and others with regard to Iranian activities in Yemen.

It is difficult to see how the corporation intends to fulfil its remit of providing its funding public and wider audiences with a fact-based “understanding of international issues” relating to the conflict in Yemen in particular or the already under-reported issue of Iranian policy in the Middle East in general if it continues to make do with reporting based on the use of the word ‘alleged’.