Jeremy Bowen compromises BBC impartiality via Twitter

The flimsiness of the BBC Middle East editor’s adherence to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality in his own Israel-related reporting is by now legend. It therefore came as little surprise to see that Jeremy Bowen applies a similarly politically motivated approach to the issue of the accuracy of content produced by other media outlets which he chooses to promote on social media.

Here is a Tweet sent by Bowen to his one hundred and ten thousand followers on October 29th:

Tweet Bowen buses

Bowen’s intentions are amply evident: he uses an article produced by the supposedly authoritative London Times to promote the notion of a ‘bus ban’ on Palestinians which purportedly shows that Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’.

The ‘apartheid’ trope – now a prime component in the toolbox of anti-Israel campaigners – is of course employed to portray Israel as a country beyond the pale, the existence of which no right-thinking person can tolerate just as the apartheid regime in South Africa could not be allowed to persist.

However, the Times’ article was inaccurate, as our colleague Adam Levick at CiF Watch demonstrated. Moreover, the Times has since issued a correction to that article – a fact which Jeremy Bowen has to date failed to communicate to the 110 thousand people he misled.

The BBC’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality in news, current affairs and factual output state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” 

Similar principles appear in other sections of BBC policy documents on the use of social media with the BBC News social media guidance clearly instructing staff as follows: 

“You shouldn’t state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don’t sound off about things in an openly partisan way.”

There is no way in which the intentional amplification of an inaccurate article promoting a defamatory slur well-known for its use by anti-Israel campaigners by the man responsible for the BBC’s Middle East content can be viewed as anything other than seriously compromising the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. Likewise, it is patently obvious that this Tweet from Bowen – along with many others – clearly communicates his “personal prejudices” to audiences.

Will the BBC do anything about this latest blatant breach of its own editorial guidelines by a senior member of staff? We’re not holding our breath.

 

Bowen tweets reveal the BBC’s idea of ‘pressing’ news from the Middle East

It’s olive picking season in the Middle East and – seeing as of course there is absolutely nothing more pressing (sorry about the pun) going on in the region at the moment – it would appear that the BBC’s Middle East editor has plenty of free time in which to provide audiences with yet another one of those perennial political propaganda items loosely tied to the topic of the olive harvest. 

Tweet Bowen olives 1

 

Tweet Bowen olives 2

Tweet Bowen olives 3

Well that already oozes impartiality, doesn’t it? 

 Related Articles:

BBC serves up political propaganda with olives

The Naked (BBC Middle East Editor) Chef

BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS in ‘analysis’ of Commons vote

As readers are no doubt aware, fewer than half of the MPs making up the lower house of the British parliament took part in a vote on a non-binding motion to recognise a Palestinian state on October 13th.

Whilst the motion does nothing to change UK government policy, those who have perused the transcript of the debate would no doubt be struck by the appalling ignorance and distortion of facts voiced by some of the elected representatives of the British public in a debate which – with context-free references, for example, to “punitive restrictions on Palestinian movement” and “the construction of an illegal annexation wall through Palestinian land” – at times (and perhaps not coincidentally) bore resemblance to some of the BBC’s more egregious content.

Following that parliamentary debate, the BBC’s Middle East Editor appeared on television news to ‘analyse’ the issue for audiences. The item was also promoted on the BBC News website’s UK Politics and Middle East pages.Bowen filmed Commons vote

Bowen: “It’s symbolic because Britain is still important in the Middle East. Britain is a member of the [UN] Security Council. Other Western members of the Security Council haven’t recognized an independent State of Palestine and of course Britain doesn’t intend to at the moment either. But the fact that the…the parliament in this country is pushing for it is something that the Israelis do not like and it’s something that the Palestinians are going to be cock-a-hoop about. Because their whole diplomatic strategy in recent times has been trying to carve out…eh…a sort of virtual independence – even if they don’t have actual independence – by moves at the UN, trying to join international organisations and a country of Britain’s stature – and Britain’s historic role in the Middle East as well – doing this is something which they will like very much. The Israelis have lobbied against this – they believe that everything should go through a bi-lateral negotiation. However, there isn’t one at the moment: that’s the so-called peace process. Doesn’t exist right now.”

Notably, Bowen refrained from informing BBC audiences that the reason the peace process “doesn’t exist right now” is because the last round of talks was curtailed by the PA’s decision to form a unity government with a terrorist organization which rejects Israel’s right to exist and just weeks later initiated a seven-week war with Israel. He continued:

“And the Israelis of course continue to build their settlements – illegal under international law – in occupied land and that’s something that the Palestinians say is a unilateral action by them.

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to BBC guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences that differing legal opinions on that topic also exist and hence BBC audiences were once more deliberately misled.

Not unpredictably, Bowen then went on to give some free publicity to what has emerged in recent months as one of his most frequently plugged causes.

“So I think what we’re seeing at the moment is a change in the shape of the conflict; a change as well in the way that the diplomacy around it is evolving. And also moves like this will do other things that will strengthen other…other….vestiges of it. There is this move to try to boycott and divest and sanction Israel. I think they will be encouraged by that and the Israelis are more and more worried about that as well.”

As we see, Jeremy Bowen’s provision of promotion and publicity for the BDS campaign continues – see previous examples in ‘related articles’ below. With absolutely no effort having been made by the BBC to date to clarify to its audiences that the BDS movement is a major actor in the anti-peace campaign which seeks to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state to the point of extinction, the majority of viewers of this item will have been unable to appreciate the redundant nature of Bowen’s suggestion that the ‘one-stater’ advocates of the BDS campaign will be “encouraged” by the passing of a motion which was defined by its supporters “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”. Those viewers would therefore also be unable to recognize the gratuitous nature of Bowen’s irrelevant shoe-horning of the BDS campaign into the topic under discussion.

As this example once again shows very clearly, Bowen’s repeated promotion of the BDS campaign on assorted BBC platforms can only be viewed as inappropriate and unacceptable exploitation of his position to advance his own political views.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS and apartheid analogy on main TV news programme

Bowen again promotes BDS in three separate BBC programmes

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

On July 31st the BBC World Service radio presenter Rebecca Kesby made the following remark during an interview with an Israeli politician:

“But what the Americans and others across the world are seeing on their television screens are dead civilians and they’re seeing your artillery hitting schools and hospitals and the power supply and people see that as collective punishment against the Palestinians.”

Wordle headlines 8 to 17 Jul

BBC News website headlines July 8 to 17 incl.

Of course what people “across the world” were “seeing on their television screens” throughout the months of July and August this year was dictated by what media organisations decided they should – or should not –see.

Over the next few days we will be taking a look at the BBC News website’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge and examining the corporation’s claims of equal coverage of the two sides of the story.

Content on the BBC News website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were indeed “seeing on their television screens” – as well as what they were not seeing.

In part one of this analysis we will look at the content appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page during the first ten days of Operation Protective Edge: from its commencement on July 8th until the beginning of the ground operation on July 17th. A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 8th:Graph Jul 8

Written:  Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip

Israel ‘ready for escalation’ of Gaza conflict (discussed here)

Features:  Gaza conflict: Why Israeli invasion would be risky  Jonathan Marcus

Filmed: Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip  Rushdi Abualouf in Gaza

 50 strikes, 15 injuries: Israel and Gaza in 45 seconds

Israel ‘no alternative’ but airstrikes after rocket attacks interview with IDF spokesman Peter Lerner

Gaza doctors ‘running out of medicine’ to treat civilians  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Notably, the BBC’s second written article on the very first day of the operation already promoted Hamas claims of Israeli ‘war crimes'; a theme which was to be repeated in the days to come. Also notable was Yolande Knell’s promotion of the inaccurate notion that shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip were attributable to border restrictions imposed by Israel. That obviously pre-existing theme was frequently promoted in subsequent BBC coverage.

July 9th:Graph Jul 9

Written: Hamas fires rockets amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza  (discussed here)

Israel ‘to intensify Gaza attacks’ (discussed here)

Filmed: Israel steps up plans to stop rocket attacks from Gaza James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

A night of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Video shows Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here

‘Scrambling for cover’ in Ashkelon as tanks mass  James Reynolds in Israel

Where are Gaza militants firing rockets?   James Reynolds in Israel

Mid-East crisis: Israel vows to expand Gaza operation  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza death toll rises as air strikes continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Hamas spokesman on restoring ceasefire  interview with Osama Hamdan

Israeli adviser Dore Gold on hopes for Mid-East peace   interview with Dore Gold

Day two of the operation saw further promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’ in the day’s first written article along with amplification in both that item and a filmed report by Yolande Knell of the false claim made by a political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel that Israeli forces were deliberately targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip. The topic of Hamas’ use of human shields – already evident by this stage – was ignored in both written and filmed reports.

July 10th:Graph Jul 10

Written: UN chief Ban Ki-moon: Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleas for Gaza ceasefire

Features: Yo app warns Israeli citizens of missile strikes

Filmed: Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israeli villagers escape unharmed after Gaza rocket attack  James Reynolds in Israel

Call for calm on Gaza Israel border as death toll rises  Kevin Connolly in Israel

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’ – UN chief Ban Ki-moon  press conference 

On July 10th BBC audiences heard amplification of claims of ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The practice of unqualified promotion of casualty figures supplied by Hamas sources (but not verified by the BBC) was evident and continued to be so throughout the conflict. No effort was made by the BBC to establish the number of combatant casualties and the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields – including directives issued by Hamas officials to the public – continued to be ignored.

July 11th:Graph Jul 11

Written: US prepared to broker Gaza ceasefire, says Obama

Gaza crisis: Fresh attacks follow US ceasefire offer

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′

Features: In pictures: Gaza conflict escalates  (discussed here)

 Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?  Kevin Connolly

 Gaza-Israel conflict: ‘It’s not worth living’

Mothers in Israel and Gaza ‘want the same thing’  audio – Yolande Knell Gaza and Israel

Filmed: ‘Five killed’ as Israeli air strike flattens Gaza house  Tim Wilcox Gaza

 Gaza crisis: Rocket strikes Israeli petrol station  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel defends Gaza military campaign  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Amateur footage after Israeli air strike on Gaza  Gaza

Baroness Amos calls for ceasefire on Gaza Israel border  interview Valerie Amos

Jerusalem mayor defiant in face of Hamas rocket attacks  interview Nir Barakat

The BBC continued to report casualty figures supplied by Hamas or Hamas-linked sources with no effort made either to inform audiences of the motives of the sources, to verify those figures or to determine the civilian to combatant ratio. Notably, within hours of Jeremy Bowen’s arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th he was already promoting the concept that “there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians” and claiming that Israel had “serious questions” to answer. Bowen also began the promotion of UN casualty figures, but failed to inform audiences of the sources of those statistics.

July 12th:Graph Jul 12

Written: Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza

 Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises

Features: Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire  (discussed here)

Filmed: Death toll rises in Gaza as air strikes and rockets continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Israeli strike on disability shelter in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya  Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Israel ‘will do what it takes to stop the fire of rockets’  interview with Mark Regev

One of the notable themes appearing on this day (as well as in subsequent BBC coverage) was the depiction of the missiles used by terrorists in the Gaza Strip as “homemade rockets“.

July 13th:Graph Jul 13

Written: UN calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Gaza: Israel hits security HQ and rocket site

Filmed: Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Gaza hit by Israeli shells  Gaza

Israel’s Iron Dome intercepts rockets fired from Gaza  Israel

Fleeing Gaza families take shelter at UN school  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Again, the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and directives issued by Hamas officials instructing civilians to stay in their homes despite Israeli warnings was absent from the emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

July 14th:Graph Jul 14

Written: Thousands flee northern Gaza after Israel warnings  (originally published on July 13th and discussed here)

Israel’s Gaza campaign in seventh day as rocket fire continues

Features: Life in the Gaza Strip (updated version of a feature originally published in 2012)

Filmed: Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel continues Gaza campaign   Quentin Sommerville in Israel

 Why has Israel-Gaza conflict flared?  Paul Adams

July 14th saw not only continuation of the BBC policy of ignoring Hamas’ use of human shields, but active denial of that policy on the part of Jeremy Bowen.  In addition, Bowen continued to promote claims of Israeli ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ made by the head of a political NGO engaged in anti-Israel lawfare.

July 15th:Graph Jul 15

Written: Egypt proposes Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza conflict

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire

Features: Hamas and Israel step up cyber battle for hearts and minds

Filmed: President Obama urges peace in Gaza Strip  press conference 

Hamas spokesman says Egypt truce plan is ‘like an ambush’  interview with Sami Abu Zuhri

Israel spokesman: Hamas threw away chance of a ceasefire  interview with Mark Regev

‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza & James Reynolds in Israel

Palestinians reject Gaza ceasefire proposal  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Netanyahu: Prepared to ‘continue and intensify operation’  press conference

Gaza conflict: Strikes will ‘intensify’, says Netanyahu  press conference

Gaza-Israel ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt  Simon Clemison

Gaza conflict: Anger at scene of Hamas rocket attack in Ashdod  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel to ‘intensify’ Gaza air strikes as Egypt truce fails  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza Strip residents give their views on ceasefire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

The issue of Hamas’ use of human shields continued to be ignored, despite visual documentation of the practice by the BBC. The topic of “tight border restrictions” was again promoted without provision of the context necessary for BBC audiences to comprehend why those restrictions came about and their roots in Hamas terrorism. Unqualified promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures continued.

July 16th:Graph Jul 16

Written: Israel warns Gazans to leave homes as air strikes continue

Features: Crowley: Israel and Palestinians increasingly disillusioned

Filmed: Middle East crisis: Gaza house destroyed after Israeli warnings  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Smoke rises over Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Four boys killed on beach by rocket fire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: Peace deal still possible, says Arab League Orla Guerin in Cairo

 Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

 Israeli air strike warnings: What the footage tells us  (discussed here)

By this stage the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the PR messaging of political NGOs had been extended to include B’Tselem as well as the PCHR and UN OCHA.

July 17th:Graph Jul 17

Written: Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel begins

Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal denied  (discussed here)

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder  (discussed here)

Features: #BBCtrending: The rise of Hitler hashtags

Why Egypt remains key to Gaza-Israel truce

Filmed: Israeli president ‘sorry’ over four child deaths in Gaza  interview with Shimon Peres

Gazans flock to banks and shops during brief ceasefire   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel (discussed here)

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza crisis: New exchanges of fire after truce ends  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

 ‘Journalists told to evacuate hotel’ – Paul Adams in Gaza

Notable in the second written article on this day was the disappearance of Hamas’ breach of a ceasefire and the downplaying of the cross-border infiltration into Israel by Hamas terrorists which made a ground operation inevitable.

Between July 8th and July 17th the predominant type of content presented to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page was filmed reports from the Gaza Strip, with the majority of those items concentrating on what can only be described as emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on civilians. Hamas spokesmen were interviewed on just two occasions (in contrast with four times as many interviews or footage from press conferences with Israelis) meaning that the focus of BBC reporting remained on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza during those first ten days of the conflict was more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel.

Graph all

Within the first few days of BBC coverage of the conflict, certain themes became apparent. Just hours after the operation commenced the BBC had already introduced the topic of ‘war crimes’ into its coverage and that theme and similar ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ continued to be promoted; particularly by means of generous amplification of the messaging of selected political NGOs. The speed with which the BBC adopted that theme – along with the lack of any attempt to provide factual evidence that the use of such terminology was justified – does not encourage the belief that the corporation’s foreign correspondents arrived in the Gaza Strip free of preconceived political views.

An additional theme promoted right from the start of BBC coverage of the conflict was that of the supposed deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel – described on numerous occasions in the Hamas-style terminology ‘collective punishment’. Whilst BBC audiences were shown ample footage and images of destruction and casualties in the Gaza Strip (including graphic filmed reports from hospitals and morgues) the subject of Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields was ignored and even denied.  Also noticeable was the BBC’s failure to carry out any discernible independent verification of the casualty figures and ratios supplied by Hamas and Hamas-linked sources, yet unquestioningly and vigorously amplified by the BBC.

Whilst BBC compliance with Hamas restrictions placed on the foreign media throughout the conflict (for example, refraining from filming Hamas terror operatives) was all too apparent to those with additional sources of knowledge and information, general audiences were not informed of that factor either during the conflict or since (in contrast, for example, to BBC statements concerning restrictions on reporting in Iraq in 2003) meaning that they would naturally conclude that all BBC content presented a freely reported, accurate and impartial picture of the situation on the ground upon which they could rely as a source of knowledge and understanding and use to reach informed judgements on the issue.

The BBC’s adherence to Hamas messaging, its advancement of pre-existing politicised themes and its heavy focus on the promotion of context-free emotive images of civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip meant, however, that the story was being framed in a very specific way already from the opening hours and days of coverage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wasted opportunity: BBC R4’s ‘Media and the Middle East’

As we noted here a few days ago, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Archive on 4′ broadcast an edition titled “Media and the Middle East” on September 13th, presented by John Lloyd. On September 15th a written article by Lloyd appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How the Western media’s Middle East coverage has changed“.Archive on 4

Those who had anticipated hearing answers to the questions posed in the radio programme’s synopsis would have been largely disappointed.

A significant proportion of the programme is made up of archive material from the BBC and others: a glimpse of how the subject was reported in yesteryear. Unfortunately, quite a few of those ‘historical’ parts of the programme are accompanied by inaccurate and misleading statements.

For example, after a segment from a Movietone News feature, Lloyd tells listeners:

“Its coverage of Palestine in the years before Israel became a state described as criminals the armed Jewish guerilla groups dedicated to ridding the country of British soldiers. Groups like the Stern Gang and the Irgun used the terror tactics of bombs and assassinations against the army deployed to keep the peace in Palestine, for which the British then had the mandate.”

Similarly, in his written article Lloyd states:

“In the closing years of World War Two and in the three years after it, the Jewish Irgun and Stern gangs who sought to force the British out of Palestine carried out a series of bloody attacks on British soldiers and officials.

Jews were labelled by the British as “terrorists”.”

John Lloyd might be interested to learn that they still are: for a fee of £195, educators can purchase a video from the BBC on the topic of “Early Israeli Terrorism“. But of course what is really important here is that Lloyd misrepresents the purpose of the mandate with which Britain was entrusted. The aim of that mandate was not to “keep the peace”, but to establish a Jewish homeland in accordance with the San Remo declaration and the League of Nations directive. That was a mandate, it transpired, the British had no intention of fulfilling – as was apparent from British actions such as the restrictions imposed on Jewish immigration to Palestine (though never on Arab immigration), even as persecution of Jews in Europe escalated and reached its unprecedented climax.

Likewise, Lloyd completely ignores events such as the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936 and even the post-Partition Plan violence of 1947, taking listeners to 1949 by means of an archive broadcast which states:

“Nearly a million harmless Arab villagers have been made homeless as a result of war in the Holy Land.”

The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur war are not presented with any better context and listeners hear Lloyd claim that:

“In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon in retaliation for an attempted assassination of the country’s ambassador in London by a Palestinian dissident group.”

The fact that by June 1982 Israeli civilians all over the Galilee had been under Katyusha fire from Palestinian terrorists in southern Lebanon for months and 29 people had been killed and over 300 injured in PLO attacks since July the previous year despite a supposed ceasefire is not imparted to BBC audiences.

The first intifada is described by Lloyd in the anodyne terms of “an escalating campaign of disobedience” with no mention of violence from the Palestinian side. The post-Oslo campaign of terrorism is completely ignored and the peace process is described as having been “broken” by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin rather than by Arafat’s decision to launch the second Intifada. Moreover, Lloyd uses an archive clip obviously from the autumn of 2000 which repeats one of the BBC’s most egregious – and most widely promoted – falsehoods.

“The violence was sparked off three days ago when the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited one of Islam’s holiest sites in Jerusalem.”

So as we see from the examples above, one very serious problem with this programme is that its attempt to use historic events as a means by which to explain the shifts in the media’s approach to Israel are hampered by the fact that Lloyd is unable to step outside the often incorrect accepted BBC narratives relating to those events and even amplifies them further. If one perhaps thought that basing a theory of changes in media attitudes as having resulted from Israeli actions would necessarily involve getting the history right, one would obviously be mistaken. 

With the help of his guests – heavily tipped in favour of the Palestinian narrative by number – Lloyd lays out a theory according to which Western media reporting from 1948 to 1967 was dominated by a colonialist attitude which, according to Daoud Kuttab, meant that Palestinians were sold short by Western journalists because they were not represented as a nation. Of course one very significant factor in that discussion should have been the fact that whilst Palestinians lived under Egyptian and Jordanian control for those 19 years, neither they nor their Arab rulers made any move to establish a Palestinian nation-state or to promote Palestinian nationhood. The reasons for that are well documented, but they do not fit into the narrative this programme seeks to promote.

According to another of Lloyd’s guests, David Cesarani, the “watershed in media coverage and perceptions of Israel” came in 1982 as a result of the first Lebanon war. Cesarani claims that from then on, Israel was no longer seen as a “plucky little state” and that instead it turned into “the bullying regional superpower, crushing relentlessly the Palestinian people – dispossessed refugees – turning all the might of a modern military force on people who could barely fight back”. Of course that simplistic theory only works if – as Lloyd takes care to do – one isolates the Palestinian issue and ignores the fact that actually it is just one aspect of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict.

That framing is reinforced by Chris Doyle of CAABU:

“Now I think in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian issue it is a question of the Palestinians being David to the Israeli Goliath and this is something that is not always there in the framing of the coverage: the permanent reminder – as I believe is necessary – that it is a question of an occupying power and an occupied people and that the Palestinians have very, very few options.”

One of the more disturbing aspects of this programme from this listener’s point of view was the way in which it promoted the inaccurate and ridiculous notion that Jewish self-determination can legitimately be defined as colonialism. Anton la Guardia of the Economist told audiences that “in a sense Palestine is the last great anti-colonial struggle” and later – as part of the programme’s effort to answer the question “why does this particular conflict, above all others, attract the attention it does?” – promoted the theory that:

“To some extent your position on Palestine defines your political position on other things – in part because of this question of colonialism and the Palestinian struggle.” 

Lloyd made no attempt to clarify to audiences the illegitimacy of the colonial analogy, which was also used by other guests. Moreover, no effort was made to examine the effects of factors prevalent in Western society as part of a possible answer to the question of why so many people who know precious little about the Middle East express such strong opinions on the topic. Lloyd written

The fact, for example, that whilst Europeans have for several decades now regarded the model of European ‘unity’ and the sidelining of national identities as the best means to ensure peace on their continent certainly affects the way in which they view a people whose answer to the horrors of World War Two was to go and build a nation state. The fact that fewer and fewer of those expressing an opinion – including journalists – on the topic of Israel’s military conflicts have actually lived through war themselves, seen their loved ones go off to battle, been attacked by missiles or suicide bombers or experienced anything even approaching an existential threat is also a factor which needs to be taken into account.

And of course the fact that a simplistic and one-dimensional version of ‘the Palestinian cause’ (notably characterized by an astounding lack of interest in the basic rights of Palestinian women, gays and Christians) has become a fashion accessory-cum-political statement in Western society which is simultaneously nurtured and fed upon by the media (for example in programmes such as the BBC’s ‘World Have Your Say’) is also significant in terms of the style and content of coverage presented. Western society – including its media mirror – sanctifies the view according to which one does not need to have an understanding of a topic in order to express an opinion about it and all opinions are equally valid. That approach may be harmless when it comes to texting a vote for the perceived best dancer of the waltz in a televised reality show, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when uninformed and often prejudicial views on international affairs are amplified – unchallenged – on ‘have your say’ style current affairs programmes.  

An additional notable aspect of this programme was the platform given to Jeremy Bowen to promote his well-known frustrations with regard to what he perceives as organized campaigns of complaint regarding BBC coverage.

“And there would be phone calls sometimes which we’d try to deal with and of course there’d be letters. Almost all from supporters of Israel – 99% I’d say. […] Palestinians weren’t organized in the same sort of way.”

Lloyd too appears to have adopted the same view:

“Palestinians weren’t geared to complain as Israelis and the Jewish diaspora were.”

Of course as we know very well, veteran organisations such as CAABU and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – both of which have now been active for decades – are in fact extremely well-organized when it comes to orchestrating complaints campaigns and lobbying the BBC.

The programme’s brief coverage of this summer’s conflict failed to address relevant topics such as Hamas’ intimidation of foreign journalists and why hardly any footage was shown by Western media crews of terrorists in action, with the result being that most organisations falsely framed the subject as an Israeli war against the people of Gaza. Ethical questions such as should the BBC film in morgues and hospital wards in Gaza if it would not film similar footage in the UK were ignored. The fact that Israeli society does not accept the screening of graphic images of dead or injured people – and therefore no such images were filmed in Israel even though lethal events happened there – whilst Palestinian society has no such social taboos and hence graphic images were broadcast to Western audiences in abundance, raises professional questions this programme made no attempt to address.

Two separate segments of the radio programme related to Jon Snow of Channel 4’s decision to place his personal need to “bear witness” to what he saw in the Gaza Strip this summer above his obligations to journalistic ethics. Snow was of course far from the only journalist to adopt such an approach even though others – including BBC employees – may have been more subtle in expressing their self-indulgence. However, the programme made no attempt to explore the question of whether the industry’s acceptance of such an approach actually renders it insignificant. After all, if audiences are going to hear and read the personal views of Jon Snow or Orla Guerin in place of accurate and impartial reporting, they can just as well find similarly expressed personal opinions – for which they do not have to pay a licence fee – at thousands of other locations on the internet. 

All in all, this programme can be described as a wasted opportunity as far as its success in informing audiences about the issues it ostensibly set out to address is concerned. More worrying was the promotion (also in Lloyd’s written article) of historical inaccuracies, existing misleading BBC narratives and the language of anti-Israel propaganda. That aspect of these two items of BBC content suggests that objective examination of the media’s role in shaping public opinion on the Middle East and its adherence to the standards of journalism expected by the general public cannot effectively be carried out solely by members of a profession who have, in no small numbers, revealed over the past few months the existence of an organisational culture which allows personal politics to trump commitment to professional standards and obligations. 

An upcoming event with the BBC’s Middle East editor

On September 3rd the Frontline Club – with which the BBC frequently collaborates – will be hosting an event titled “Reporting the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict – Emotion, Bias and Objectivity” which we are informed is already fully booked.

The topic of discussion is promoted as follows:

“The latest chapter in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has again highlighted the difficulties of covering this complex and deep-rooted conflict that provokes such a strong emotional response from the general public.

The BBC has faced accusation that it is not critical enough of Israel’s actions and that its reporting is one-sided, whereas Channel 4 News has been accused of crossing the line between journalism and campaigning. Is there a middle ground?

In the face of such devastation should we expect correspondents to offer an objective view devoid of emotion? If we encourage correspondents to show more emotion do we risk compromising the credibility and standard of journalism in this country?

Join us as we take a view of the coverage we have seen, talk to the journalists that have produced it and ask what we can learn.”

On the panel selected to provide answers to those questions are Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen and Channel 4’s Jon Snow.Nelson

The discussion would doubtless be enhanced were Bowen  (along with his colleague Orla Guerin) to take the trouble to brush up beforehand on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and that policy’s role in causing so many of the civilian casualties which he graphically reported during his recent stint in the Gaza strip.

That, of course, is unlikely to happen but if any of our readers do intend to attend the event and would like to report on it afterwards, we would be interested in hearing from you.

In the meantime, what do readers think of the questions above? Is it really too much to ask journalists to report conflicts objectively and factually? Would we accept that other professions – say doctors or policemen – should have leeway to bend professional standards in light of emotionally difficult scenes or experiences? Is reporting based on journalists’ emotions of any value to the BBC’s funding public? Has the “credibility and standard of journalism” displayed by the BBC indeed been compromised by its coverage of the recent conflict and do readers identify any effects of the style and content of its coverage in broader society? Tell us in the comments below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘From Our Own Correspondent': a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

Readers no doubt remember that on July 5th – three days before Operation Protective Edge commenced – the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy appeared on the World Service’s ‘Outside Source’ programme to explain how the BBC ensures equal coverage of what the programme termed “Israel-Palestine”.

Andrew Roy: “Well we try to look at the entirety of our coverage. We’re not minute counting. We are ensuring that across the whole thing we can look back on our coverage of this and say we did give fair balance to each side. So it’s not a minute by minute thing, no.” […]

Presenter: “When you get people complaining that they feel one side has been given more air-time or more favour than the other, what do you do?”

Andrew Roy: “We answer them by giving them the evidence that we’ve tried to put the other side as often as we can.”

Let’s take a look at the accuracy and validity of Roy’s claims by using a test case: BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.FOOC

Between July 8th (commencement of Operation Protective Edge) and the present, eight editions of the programme have been broadcast. The first two (July 10th and July 12th) did not include any content related to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The July 17th edition included an item by Yolande Knell (available here from 00:42) which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie using the description ‘fasting under fire’. Knell’s report focuses entirely on the presentation of life in the Gaza Strip with descriptions of shortages of food, frightened children, reduced business in markets and evacuees. Much focus is also put on the topic of border restrictions with Knell twice quoting interviewees referring to a “siege” which of course does not exist and no explanation given regarding the terrorism which brought about the border restrictions.

On July 19th the programme featured an item by Jeremy Bowen which is available here from 00:45. Whilst the item is introduced as being about the whole Middle East, the BBC’s Middle East editor has his sights firmly set on one tiny part of that region. Using the language of Hamas Bowen tells listeners:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” [emphasis added]

Like Knell before him, Bowen makes no attempt to tell listeners about the Hamas terrorism which brought about border restrictions.  He later continues:

“And there’s been a reminder in the last few days of the terrible potency of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. [..] But the new war in Gaza shows how the Palestinian –Israeli conflict still has resonance across the world as well as in the region. People care about it, get angry about it in a way that they don’t about other crises and wars. I’m calling what’s happening in Gaza a war though I’m aware that it perhaps is not a perfect description. Some people have even told me I shouldn’t use the word because of the enormous imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. I disagree. Wars are increasingly fought between the strong and the weak. By the way, it’s wrong to pretend that there’s any kind of equality between what Israeli citizens are going through and the experience of Palestinians. The trauma of Israelis caught up in mass attacks is unquestionable but the trauma in Gaza is of an utterly different degree. The only long-term way to end this chronic killing is through a permanent settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It has to be one both sides can tolerate. An imposed peace would just contain the seeds of the next war. But at the moment peace is not conceivable. Even a long-term absence of war is unattainable. What’s the alternative? If nothing changes more and more of these mini wars, which will eventually become major wars.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s Middle East editor makes no effort to inform listeners that Hamas is not interested in the kind of “permanent settlement” which has been on the table for two decades, neglecting to inform them that Hamas was one of the Palestinian factions which rejected the Oslo accords.

On July 26th listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ heard Paul Adams. That item is available from 00:50 here and includes the following. [all emphasis in bold added]

“Generations have experienced nothing but occupation, embargo, blockade, war and death. It’s had a slow, brutalising effect. Perhaps that’s why some of them are seized by such a furious desire to tunnel out and seek revenge. For Gaza is a giant prison surrounded by a wall, watch towers and the most sophisticated military in the Middle East.”

Although he makes no effort to inform listeners of the fact that nine years ago, when Israel withdrew, Gaza stood at a crossroads which could have taken it in a very different direction had its leaders not chosen terrorism as their raison d’être, notably Adams does tell of things which – like the rest of his colleagues – he failed to report whilst he was in Gaza

“Of course it would be wrong to suggest that this prison 66 years in the making is full only of the innocent. There are men of violence here. Men who will never, ever accept Israel’s right to exist in the land they still regard as theirs. Men who will store weapons in mosques and schools and take great pride in launching almost entirely indiscriminate rockets from the midst of populated areas, hoping – in the name of resistance – to cause death and fear on the other side. During a week in Gaza I caught occasional glimpses of them; weapons stuffed under shirts, furtive in civilian clothes, moving with purpose through the ravaged streets of Shuja’iya looking for a fight. But when so many of those dismembered and burned by Israeli rockets and shells are not the fighters but women, old people and especially children, then it’s really, really hard not to conclude that the Palestinians are being collectively punished.”

The August 2nd edition of the programme included an item by Chris Morris, available here from 00:42 or here. In addition to Morris’ very graphic descriptions, audiences hear the following. [emphasis added]FOOC Morris

“Because things have got worse; much worse. Could anyone have imagined that twenty years on this would be their fate? Bombed from land, sea and air. Stuck inside the world’s largest prison with nowhere to run. […]

That’s why Hamas’ main demand is now in tune with public opinion: lift the siege of Gaza, open the borders, give people a chance to live.”

Like his colleagues, Morris of course makes no attempt to explain to listeners that it was Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians which brought border restrictions into being.

On August 9th listeners heard a report by Tim Whewell: the first (and last) making any attempt to portray the Israeli side of the story. That item can be heard here or here from 00:45. Especially, given the track record of his BBC colleagues as far as promoting the notion of a mythical ‘siege’ and failing to report on the context and background of border restrictions is concerned, one interesting part of Whewell’s report is this:

“Why, they [Israelis] demand, don’t you – foreign correspondents – ever report that? And again and again I slip into the same argument. We do report the reasons but we also have to report the results and then much of the audience for our reporting concludes that being afraid or traumatized like Honi [phonetic] is bad, but not nearly as bad as being dead – as so many more Palestinians now are. We’re talking now uncomfortably about hierarchies of suffering and Israelis reply ‘so what do you want? More dead Jewish children? Do we also have to die just to make you report the story fairly?’ “

The August 16th edition of the programme featured a report by Kevin Connolly on the children of Gaza already discussed here and with the audio versions available here from 06:00 or here.

As we see, between July 17th and August 16th six editions of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 included items pertaining to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Only one of those items presented an Israeli point of view, with the other five not only presenting the opposite viewpoint, but often promoting the terminology of a terrorist organization and failing to provide essential context.

Surely even Andrew Roy cannot possibly claim that any attempt was made to “give fair balance to each side” in that series of programmes.

Related Articles:

BBC pats itself on the back for its ME coverage

Half a picture, half a story: how the BBC compromises its own impartiality in Gaza

 

 

 

What do BBC journalists think you should be reading?

Among the recommended reading on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip which BBC employees have recently promoted to their followers on social media is an article by Jeremy Bowen in the New Statesman.

Tweet Ghattas Bowen art

In that article Bowen makes no attempt whatsoever to adhere to those famous BBC values of accuracy and impartiality. Moreover, he further amplifies the line he already began promoting whilst on the ground in the Gaza Strip, claiming that he saw “no evidence” of Hamas’ use of the local population as human shields.

“I was back in London for my son’s 11th birthday party by the time all those people were killed in Shejaiya. But my impression of Hamas is different from Netanyahu’s. I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys. Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told me that Hamas, whatever you think of it, is part of the Palestinian DNA.

I met Sourani first when he was condemning abuses by Yasser Arafat’s men. He has taken an equally tough stance on Hamas. Now he says Israel is violating the laws of war by ignoring its legal duty to treat Palestinian civilians as protected non-combatants.”

Bowen refrains from informing readers that Raji Sourani is far from the impartial human rights campaigner he portrays, but in fact one of those currently leading the lawfare campaign against Israel. Bowen, it is all too apparent, has elected to lend his own clout to that campaign.

“Hamas, human rights groups say, also violates the laws of war by firing missiles at civilians. […]

But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza.”

It is of course worth remembering that those words – and in particular that ‘scorecard’ of suffering – were written by the man ultimately responsible for the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the BBC’s reporting on the Middle East. 

Another article which proved popular with BBC employees was written by Channel 4’s Jon Snow. 

Tweet Swift Snow art

Snow – who incidentally supports a ‘charity’ banned in Israel because of its ties to Hamas – makes little effort to put up any kind of show of journalistic impartiality either and he too appoints himself as judge and chief awarder of points in the league tables of suffering invented by Western journalists.

“I could see the young Israeli IDF guards peering at me through the steel room’s bullet-proof glass. They were the same women who, from another glass window, had barked commands at me though a very public address system.

“Feet apart!” they said. “Turn! No, not that way – the other!” Then, in the next of five steel security rooms I passed through – each with a red or green light to tell me to stop or go – a male security guard up in the same complex above me shouted “Take your shirt off – right off. Now throw it on the floor… Pick it up, now ring it like it was wet” (it was wet, soaked in sweat).

From entering the steel complex until I reach the final steel clearing room where I held the baby, I was never spoken to face to face, nor did I see another human beyond those who barked the commands through the bullet-proof windows high above me. […]

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

It is accentuated by suddenly being within sumptuously appointed Israel. Accentuated by the absolute absence of anything that indicates that this bloody war rages a few miles away. […]

In and out of an Israeli transit hotel for a few hours in Ashkelon, an hour from the steel crossing-point from Gaza, there were three half-hearted air raid warnings. Some people run, but most just get on with what they are doing.

They are relatively safe today because Israel is the most heavily fortified country on earth. The brilliant Israeli-invented, American-financed shield is all but fool-proof; the border fortifications, the intelligence, beyond anything else anywhere.”

Perhaps predictably, Snow closes by promoting the cringingly uninformed claim that Israel’s battle against a terrorist organization trying to destroy it (a fact he somehow neglects to mention) is in fact the cause of conflict the world over.

“This is humankind’s most grievous cancer, for its cells infect conflicts in every corner of the world.”

BBC licence fee payers might reasonably wonder what chance they have of getting anything approaching the accurate and impartial reporting they are promised if these are examples of the type of vitriolic polemics the corporation’s employees read and recommend. They might, however, have already ceased to wonder why so many UK media reports  fail to address the topic of the responsibility of terrorist organisations for the suffering of the people of Gaza. 

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

As was noted here a few days ago, on July 15th the BBC’s Yolande Knell (perhaps inadvertently) documented the use of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City as a hideout for the Hamas top brass. Other journalists have reported on that topic too and of course the bottom line is that staff and patients of a civilian medical facility (as well as visiting journalists) are being exploited by a terrorist organisation as human shields, with or without the consent of that hospital’s management.Shifa hospital

In addition to the fact that the BBC has failed to adequately clarify the issue of human shields in Shifa hospital (or anywhere else) to audiences – numerous items of BBC content have been produced in that hospital over the past two weeks – obviously with the approval of its management – and various doctors have been interviewed, quoted and presented to BBC audiences as credible witnesses of the situation in Gaza. Examples include:

A BBC television news filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 8th.

Two filmed reports by Jeremy Bowen for BBC television news on July 11th.

A BBC World Service radio report by Lyse Doucet on July 20th in which a doctor promoted the unchallenged notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

A BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ interview with Dr Belal Dabour on July 21st which also allows unhindered promotion of the notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

Perhaps rather surprisingly in the current circumstances, Dr Dabour seems to have quite a bit of spare time in which to talk to the BBC – see for example here and here.

Now of course BBC audiences hearing, reading or watching an interview with a doctor will naturally presume that they are being given an accurate, impartial, apolitical and professionally neutral view of the situation. In the Gaza Strip, however, that is not necessarily the case – as has been documented by the ‘Warped Mirror’ blog here and here. And it is particularly not the case in Shifa hospital where, on July 20th, a journalist with ABC witnessed the following reaction from ‘humanitarian’ staff to the false claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Tweet Doctors Shifa

But it is not only local doctors in the Gaza Strip whose presentation of supposedly professional observations – in fact underpinned by political motives – are facilitated by the BBC. On July 20th the BBC reached what is unfortunately not a new low by promoting and quoting none other than the infamous Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert in inserts by Yolande Knell featured in two separate written articles – see here and here.

Knell Mads Gilbert

Readers may recall Gilbert’s propaganda efforts during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. Now the doctor who thinks the 9/11 terror attacks were justified is back in Shifa hospital, promoting the same political messaging to the media under the guise of a ‘medical opinion’ – remarkably and controversially, with recommendation from another source of ‘impartial’ information frequently promoted by the BBC – UNWRA.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“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.”

So far, in nearly two weeks of reporting, we have not seen even one attempt by the BBC’s journalists in Gaza to adhere to those guidelines by alerting audiences to the Hamas connections and/or sympathy for terrorism of medical personnel they present to audiences as ‘credible’ sources.  

Will the BBC correct its insinuations of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel?

On July 17th the BBC News website published an article titled “Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder“.

The report relates to the fact that eleven days after their arrest on July 6th, three people were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Ahu Khdeir on July 2nd.

The BBC’s report correctly notes that:

“The Israeli ministry of defence meanwhile said it now recognised the killing as a “terrorist act” and had decided to recognise Mohammad Abu Khdair as a “victim of terrorism”.”

It fails to inform readers however that the Defence Ministry’s decision means that the victim’s family will receive monthly benefits from the state and that Mohammed Abu Khdeir will be included in the list of names on Israel’s Memorial Day for victims of terror attacks.

Earlier in the month, during the four days which passed between the murder and the arrests, some BBC journalists promoted the notion of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel, suggesting that Palestinians receive inferior treatment.

“… it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.” [emphasis added]

Jeremy Bowen, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, July 3rd 2014

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.”

James Reynolds, BBC News, July 4th 2014

It would of course be appropriate for the BBC to clarify to its audiences that its insinuations of Israeli state discrimination are unfounded.