BBC coverage of UK aid convoy fails to meet editorial guidelines on impartiality

As was noted in the comments to one of our previous posts (thanks to Duvid), a recent article from the Gatestone Institute highlights the promotion of extremist charities by the BBC.

“BBC’s leading current affairs program, Newsnight recently broadcast an eight-minute film in which a BBC reporter accompanied a British “aid convoy” headed to the most dangerous parts of Syria. […]

During the broadcast, the BBC did not, however, reveal the names of the charities involved with the convoy. The Aid for Syria Convoy is, in fact, managed by charities that many might justifiably regard as “extremist”: One Nation, Al Fatiha Global and Aid4Syria.”

Readers can see that ‘Newsnight’ broadcast here.

In addition to being featured on the BBC’s flagship news programme, a version of Catrin Nye’s report also appeared on the BBC’s Asian Network.

Catrin Nye BBC Asian network

Filmed and written versions of the report were promoted on Twitter and appeared on the BBC News website’s UK and Middle East pages.

Catrin Nye filmed website

Catrin Nye ME pge

Catrin Nye written website

There was also coverage on the BBC’s local TV (featuring one of the people mentioned in the Gatestone Institute report), on BBC World News, on BBC World Service radio and on Radio 4.

Catrin Nye BBC WS radio

Aid for Syria on BBC World News

As promoted on the Facebook account of one of the charities and on Catrin Nye’s Twitter account, further programming is scheduled for this coming weekend.

Aid for Syria FB

That, by any standard, is a great deal of coverage of one story. But of course the point – as made in the Gatestone Institute article – is that the BBC is telling half a story: in all of the above content it fails to inform viewers, readers and listeners at home and abroad of what lies beyond the humanitarian aid aspects of these charities, thus once again failing to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. 

“4.4.14

We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

 

Change to photo caption for Part 2 of BBC WS programme on Talmud

Last week we noted here the use of a gratuitous mention of “Young Jewish settlers” in the caption to a photograph chosen to illustrate the webpage of the first part of a ‘Heart and Soul’ BBC World Service programme by Rabbi Naftali Brawer about the Talmud.

Here is a screenshot of that webpage which, at the time of writing, still stands.

Heart & Soul Talmud

Part two of the programme was broadcast on August 24th. Whilst the webpage of that programme uses the same photograph, the gratuitous caption no longer appears. 

Synopsis Talmud prog 2

Curious choice of image illustrating BBC WS programme on Talmud

On August 17th 2013 the BBC World Service programme ‘Heart and Soul’ broadcast the first episode of a two part series called “The Talmud” by Rabbi Naftali Brawer.  The programme itself is engaging and innocuous, but the photograph selected to illustrate it – together with its caption – is interesting. 

Heart & Soul Talmud

The image shows two young religiously observant Jewish men studying by a window. At the bottom of the programme’s synopsis we find a caption:

“Picture: Young Jewish settlers study the Talmud, Credit: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images”.

In the programme itself, Rabbi Brawer visits the Mir Yeshiva in the Beit Yisrael neighbourhood of Jerusalem, which lies west of the 1949 Armistice Line. 

map Mir Yeshiva

The picture – with its caption describing the young men as “settlers” and its depiction of people who, by their dress appear more likely to belong to the Religious Nationalist movement than an Orthodox yeshiva – was clearly not taken at the Mir Yeshiva, even though that location would seem to be the obvious subject matter for an illustrative photograph seeing as it features extensively in the programme. Alternatively an image of, say, a page of the Talmud or of Beit She’arim which the presenter also visits could have been used, but they are not. 

So curiously, the picture must come from a location not featured in the programme – but where? A search for photographs taken by the same photographer turns up this image – reportedly taken in Beit El in the Binyamin area of Judea & Samaria, apparently before December 2011. Towards the top left, we see a back view of two young men by a window who appear to be the same people appearing in the photo selected by the BBC.

Beit El pic Pedro Ugarte

The yeshiva in Beit El does not feature at all in this BBC World Service programme, and neither do any other yeshivot in locations where the BBC would describe the residents as “settlers”, but the BBC chose to use a picture taken there anyway – for no apparently relevant reason.

It also chose to adopt the words “young Jewish settlers” from what appears to be the photo’s original caption – whilst dropping the location.  It is of course difficult to believe that the BBC could have fact checked that description with regard to the specific students appearing  in the image, taking into consideration that Beit El yeshiva has students hailing from a wide range of locations.   

Now, even assuming that the BBC really could not come up with any other more relevant picture to illustrate the webpage of this programme, would not the caption “Yeshiva students study the Talmud” have been sufficient instead of the gratuitous and – thanks to the BBC’s politicisation of the term – loaded inclusion of the term “settler”? 

The second part of the series will be broadcast on August 24th – details here.  

BBC report on Jews in Tunisia tainted by agenda-driven addition

h/t David

The BBC World Service’s recent two-part ‘Heart and Soul’ programme on the subject of Jews from Arab lands was, to many, a refreshing piece of reporting on the whole. 

(See our posts here and here.) 

Presenter Magdi Abdelhadi’s visit to Tunisia was also featured in the Magazine section of the BBC News website on October 24th, with the article reflecting much of the radio broadcast’s content. 

Somebody, however, apparently could not resist adding to Mr Abdelhadi’s report a side panel of ‘facts’ titled “The Exodus”, where we are informed that: 

“As reports of Zionist settlers driving Palestinians off [sic] their villages hit Arab capitals during the 1940s anti-Jewish sentiment hit new heights”

So, despite numerous examples, including the massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1828, mass forced conversions in the Persian city of Meshed in 1839, the Damascus blood libel in 1840, the pogroms in Morocco in 1905, the 1929 Hebron massacre and the Farhud in 1941, the BBC once more returns to the simplistic narrative of contextualising prejudice and violence against Jews from Arab lands solely as a reaction to Israel and Zionism. 

What a shame it is that Magdi Abdelhadi’s insightful report from Tunisia has been tainted by the reversion to agenda-inspired versions of history. 

BBC World Service programme on Jews from Arab lands – part 2

In the second part of the BBC World Service ‘Heart and Soul’ programme entitled ‘Arab Jews: A Forgotten Exodus’ (which can be listened to here), presenter Magdi Abdelhadi travelled to Tunisia to meet members of its tiny Jewish community. 

To his credit, Abdelhadi did a much better job in this second episode than in the first. Not only did he not shy away from presenting the various threats posed  by Islamist extremists  to the continued existence of Tunisia’s remaining Jewish community, but he vigorously challenged Rachid al Ghannouchi – leader of the En-Nahda party which heads the coalition in Tunisia’s current government – on his ‘double speak’ regarding attacks on Jews and his party’s relationship with the Salafists carrying them out. 

Al Ghannouchi has often been portrayed by some members of the Western media (and even by some Western governments) as a ‘moderate’, despite – among other things – his party’s feting of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last January and his own long extremist history

Magdi Abdelhadi, however, seems to have got Ghannouchi’s number. Perhaps he could help out with some sorely-needed editing on the BBC’s ‘Country Profile’ page for Tunisia, where interim president Moncef Marzouki is presented as a “counterweight” to the Islamist En-Nahda party – despite his having earlier this year sponsored a conference co-organised by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’  - and where a profile of the En-Nahda party includes the claim that Ghannouchi  is “widely viewed as a moderate, reform-minded Islamist”. 

BBC World Service programme on Jews from Arab lands – part 1

If you happened to miss the first episode of the BBC World Service ‘Heart and Soul’ programme entitled ‘Arab Jews: A Forgotten Exodus’ which we mentioned in a previous post, it can be heard here

To give credit where it is due, the programme did try to boldly go where no BBC reporter has gone before and in general gave the impression of trying to present a reasonably balanced picture. However, little – if any – context was given in relation to anti-Jewish discrimination or pogroms in Arab lands prior to the emergence of the Zionist movement and the establishment of Israel. 

Neither did the programme relate to the additional influence of attitudes and ideologies imported by European colonialists or the consequences of, for example, the Vichy regime in North Africa.  

In addition, several of the interviewees perhaps gave the impression that Jews in Arab lands were not interested in Zionism which – although perhaps the case for some – is by no means true of all. Consequently, listeners may have been left with the impression that the persecution of Jews in Arab lands has a background exclusively related to Zionism and Israel. 

Impressions of the programme as recorded by Bataween at the ‘Point Of No Return’ blog can be read here

Part two of the programme – in which the presenter will visit the Jewish community in Tunisia – is still to come. 

Upcoming BBC WS programme on Jews from Arab lands

Readers may be interested in having prior notice of a programme scheduled to be broadcast on the BBC World Service this coming Saturday, October 13th 2012, with repeats the following day. 

The two part programme is entitled “Arab Jews: A Forgotten Exodus”. 

For background on the use of the term ‘Arab Jews’, see this article from the blog ‘Point Of No Return’ and this essay by Lyn Julius from ‘Jewish Quarterly’.