How Pavlovian BBC responses can lead to inaccurate reporting

On January 22nd the BBC News website published a report titled “Syrian arrested in Germany over UN kidnapping” which opens as follows:Syrian arrested art

“A Syrian has been arrested in the south German city of Stuttgart on suspicion of helping to kidnap a UN peacekeeper in Damascus, prosecutors say.

The peacekeeper escaped in October 2013, eight months after being captured in Syria’s capital.

Germany’s federal prosecutors say al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group affiliated to al-Qaeda, was behind the kidnapping.”

The article goes on to state:

“The peacekeeper, whose nationality was not named, had been based in the demilitarised zone on the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and it is not known why he was in Damascus.” [emphasis added]

As anyone familiar with the region will know, the area still known as the demilitarized zone (although it long since ceased to meet that description) is not “Israeli-occupied” at all and has not been throughout more than four decades of its existence.Camp Faouar

But a closer look at this story demonstrates even further how the Pavlovian response “Israeli-occupied” to the term “Golan Heights” from a BBC journalist led to inaccurate reporting.

Whilst the German authorities may indeed not have mentioned the UN peacekeeper’s identity and nationality, as other reports on the story note, the only person of that description to have escaped his kidnappers in October 2013 after eight months in captivity was the Canadian national Carl Campeau who acted as a legal advisor to UNDOF.

And – as noted in several interviews given by Mr Campeau after his ordeal – at the time of his kidnapping he was actually based in Syria – at UNDOF’s Camp Faouar which is located to the east of the demilitarised zone.

In other words, there was no reason whatsoever for the term “Israeli-occupied” to appear in this report.  

BBC reports on 2015 internet ‘falsehoods’ – but not its own

Promoted using the heading “Fakes and Falsehoods” and with the sub-heading “Eight ways the internet lied to you in 2015”, the BBC News website published an article on December 27th similarly titled  “How the internet misled you in 2015” which opens with the words “it was another busy year for journalists debunking fake or misleading images on social media.”Internet fakes art

It was also another busy year for those “debunking” inaccurate and misleading content on the BBC News website and on the corporation’s additional platforms. Here (in no particular order) are a few examples of some of the ways in which the BBC misled its audiences in 2015.

1) In September the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen repeatedly told audiences that refugees fleeing Syria were doing so because of ISIS and whitewashed the Assad regime’s attacks on its own civilians.

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

More BBC amplification of the ‘ISIS worse than Assad’ meme

2) In March the BBC told its audiences that the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran brought “plenty of positive side-effects” for women in that country.

How the BBC whitewashed the issue of women’s rights in Iran

3) In July the BBC’s Razia Iqbal told audiences that Iran does not threaten Israel.  

No wonder BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal got Iranian threat to Israel wrong

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

4) In August the BBC told audiences that “Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

BBC News website corrects inaccurate administrative detention claim

BBC responses to complaints on accuracy failures

5) In April the BBC News website told audiences that Israeli forces had fired 88 mortar rounds at a school in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

BBC article on UN Gaza report includes inaccurate representation of its content

BBC amends inaccurate claim on Gaza mortar fire

6) In August the BBC told audiences that Jerusalem has a “secular majority” and, in October, that the city is not Israel’s capital.

The figures behind the BBC’s claim of a ‘secular majority’ in Jerusalem

BBC News website corrects Jerusalem “secular majority” claim

BBC News gets Israel’s capital city right – and then ‘corrects’

7) In September and October the BBC repeatedly misrepresented Temple Mount by describing it as “the Al Aqsa Mosque” and “a Muslim site”. Audiences were even misled by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad on the issue of the status quo regarding prayer at the site.

A worldwide platform for incitement from BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

8) In July the BBC told us that terror attacks in Israel are “not comparable” to terror attacks in Tunisia or Kuwait and that the stories are “very different”.

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

9) In June the BBC yet again misled audiences with regard to the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and reports produced throughout the year continued to mislead on the issue of why reconstruction there is so slow.  

BBC’s English and Arabic flotilla reports promote inaccurate information

BBC News website corrects Gaza Strip naval blockade inaccuracy

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

Yolande Knell’s political campaigning continues in BBC ‘Gaza anniversary’ coverage

10) Also in June, the BBC told audiences that the first suicide bombing carried out by a British citizen abroad took place in 2014. 

BBC News inaccurately claims first suicide bombing abroad by a British citizen was in 2014

BBC News website corrects ‘first British suicide bomber’ claim

Readers are invited to add other examples to the list in the comments below. 

 

 

 

BBC radio stations mangle Samir Kuntar story – part two

h/t DK

The December 20th edition BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Rebecca Kesby – included an interview with Smadar Haran Kaiser (from 04:11 here) which was promoted as follows at the start of the show.

“Coming up on the programme today we’ll have reactions to the death of the Hizballah leader from a woman whose entire family was killed in a raid he took part in. It’s a compelling story from a woman with every reason to hate but who refuses to do so.”Newshour 20 12 Kesby

The synopsis appearing on that programme’s webpage promotes the item as follows:

“Israeli widow remembers Hezbollah attack”

Kuntar and his three associates did not of course carry out the terror attack in Nahariya in 1979 on behalf of “Hezbollah” (which – according to the BBC’s own profile of the organization – did not even exist at that time) but as Palestine Liberation Front operatives.

In her introduction to the item, Kesby upgraded Kuntar’s status within Hizballah ranks and predictably failed to inform listeners that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization.

“Now, one of the most senior leaders of the Shiia militant group Hizballah has been killed in Damascus. Samir Kuntar died when missiles hit a residential building in the Syrian capital. The Lebanese-based group blames Israel for the attack. They haven’t confirmed or denied it, although an Israeli minister did welcome the news of his death earlier today. Several rockets were later fired into northern Israel – perhaps in retaliation for the assassination – and we understand mortars were then fired from Israel into Lebanon.”

The subsequent part of the introduction indicates that Kesby had no idea who she was interviewing and her ignorance concerning the circumstances of the Nahariya attack obviously misleads listeners.  

“Well Samir Kuntar had previously been jailed by the Israelis for a notorious attack on a police officer and his family back in 1979. We’ll be hearing from that policeman’s widow in just a moment…”

Smadar Haran Kaiser is of course the widow of Danny Haran who was murdered by Kuntar and his group together with their four year-old daughter Einat. The murdered policeman was Eliyahu Shahar.

Kesby continued:

“… but first, Rami Khouri is a senior fellow at the American University in Beirut. He told me more about Samir Kuntar.”

Khouri was given a platform from which to whitewash terrorism against Israelis by means of inaccurate rebranding.

“He joined a Palestinian group in Lebanon called the Palestine Liberation Front and in 1979 he was involved in a guerilla operation in Israel which the Israelis called a terrorist operation…” [emphasis added]

A “guerilla operation” would by definition be directed against regular military forces. Kuntar’s cell targeted a civilian apartment building after killing a policeman who happened upon them by chance and then murdered a father and his small daughter. Kesby made no attempt to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impression given by Khouri and notably listeners were not told of the circumstances of Einat Haran’s death.

“Well Smadar Haran Kaiser’s husband was murdered by Samir Kuntar and her two daughters were also killed in that attack.”

Fortunately, Smadar Haran Kaiser proved to be more than capable of dealing with Kesby’s statements-cum-questions – several of which do not relate to the terror attack itself.

“The Israeli authorities haven’t confirmed or denied that they were responsible for this assassination today. Do you think they were and do you support it?”

“Is there a danger that this kind of attack provokes yet more violence?”

But in addition to the inaccurate information given to listeners, what is notable about this item is that (like most of the corporation’s coverage of this story) it focuses audience attention on the past, avoiding all mention of Kuntar’s more recent activities as an operative for Hizballah and Iran in Syria. That information is of course much more relevant to BBC audiences trying to understand the story.

Related Articles:

BBC radio stations mangle Samir Kuntar story – part one

Resources:

BBC World Service contact details

 

Terrorist murderer of four Samir Kuntar dubbed ‘militant’ by BBC News

A terrorist convicted by a court of law for the murders of four people was downgraded by the BBC to the status of “militant” on December 20th.

Kuntar on ME pge

Such terminology is also seen in the body of the article titled “Lebanese militant Samir Qantar killed in rocket strike in Syria” and the international terror organization with which Kuntar was most recently associated is described in similarly euphemistic language.

“Key Lebanese militant Samir Qantar has been killed in a rocket strike near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Hezbollah has said.

The Lebanese Shia militant group blamed Israel for the air strike.” [emphasis added]

The BBC also found it appropriate to amplify a denial by Kuntar – despite the existence of forensic evidence to the contrary.  

“He was convicted of murder over an attack on a civilian apartment block in Nahariya in 1979, carried out when he was 16.

Two policemen, a man and his four-year-old daughter were killed. A baby girl was accidentally smothered by her mother as she hid in a cupboard.

He was accused of killing the four-year-old girl with a rifle butt, which he denied.” [emphasis added]

The article goes on to state:Kuntar vers 1

“His release in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 was highly controversial.”

Audiences are not informed that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were “captured by Hezbollah” and killed in an unprovoked cross border raid into Israeli territory.

Whilst the BBC’s report focuses on the attack committed by Kuntar in 1979, it does not inform readers that at the time he was an operative for another designated terrorist organization – the Palestine Liberation Front.

That focus on Kuntar’s past comes at the expense of the provision of obviously relevant context concerning his more recent activities, which this article condenses into the following opaque statement:

“Qantar is believed to have become a key figure in Hezbollah since his release.”

Whilst refraining from reporting adequately on that topic in its own words, the article quotes a US State Department announcement from three months ago which the BBC did not find newsworthy (in English, at least) at the time.

“In September, the US state department designated him a terrorist saying he had become one of Hezbollah’s “most visible and popular spokesmen”.

“Since Qantar’s return, he has also played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights,” it said.”

A caption to one of the images illustrating the article states “[a] number of other people were killed in the air strike” but BBC audiences are not provided with any further information.

“Syrian media said that among the dead was Farhan Shaalan, a commander in the National Defense Forces, a Syrian anti-Israel resistance group founded by Kuntar and others. Those reports said that senior Hezbollah members were also present in the building at the time of the attack.”

Readers are not provided with detail about the obviously relevant issue of Kuntar’s recent operational roles with Hizballah and Iran– as documented in an article earlier this year from the Washington Institute.

“Meanwhile, Israel is also contending with terrorist threats from locals — including Druze — recruited by Hezbollah to place roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near the Golan security barrier. Israeli military officials pointed to at least fifteen such attacks from March to December 2014. As one general told the New York Times last November, using locals provides plausible deniability; “Hezbollah gives them the IEDs and the Iranians give them the inspiration,” he noted. In January, an Israeli airstrike killed Jihad Mughniyah, son of the late Hezbollah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyah, as he took a “commanders’ tour” of the area; an Iranian general and several other operatives were killed as well. Since then, Jihad’s brother Mustafa has taken on a more prominent role in this part of Syria.

Although neither Hezbollah nor Iran wants to draw Israel into Syria at the moment, both feel compelled to maintain their credentials as pillars of the “resistance” against Israel. Accordingly, Hezbollah has used Samir Kuntar — a Lebanese Druze convicted for murdering an Israeli family in 1979 and released in a 2008 prisoner swap — to actively recruit Druze youths for terrorist attacks. Kuntar reportedly started off recruiting local militias to defend Druze villages from JN and other rebels. He then privately approached a few trusted recruits from Khadr to attack Israel, including two youths who originally came from Majdal Shams across the border.

Recruiting Druze, let alone Israeli Druze, put the entire community in a precarious position. Making matters worse, Kuntar’s cell carried out an IED attack on April 27, which fell during the major Druze holiday of Ziyarat al-Nabi Shuayb. Furious over the incident, one Druze leader reportedly made a youth publicly disavow his involvement in Kuntar’s group while standing in front of his whole village.”

Readers may recall that the April incident was also the subject of some confusing BBC reporting which made liberal use of the term “militants” and was as unsatisfactory as most of the previous BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights. However, whilst those incidents were not mentioned in this report, the writer did find it necessary to inform readers that “Israel is believed to have carried out a number of attacks inside Syria during its civil conflict, targeting Hezbollah”.

At least one Hizballah-linked figure has already threatened Israel following Kuntar’s death. If – or more likely when – such an attack comes, BBC audiences will of course be too under-informed to understand its context. 

Weekend long read

This week’s long read focuses on recent Middle East related stories which did not appear on BBC channels.Weekend Read

Having ignored recent reports of a visit by the head of ISIS’ Sinai branch to the Gaza Strip, the BBC also refrained from covering reports concerning financial transactions between it and Hamas. Alex Fishman at Ynet reports:

“Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip has been transferring tens of thousands of dollars a month to the Islamic State group’s Sinai branch over the past year, via one of its emissaries. […]

Hamas is paying the Islamic State militants in Egypt to secure weapons shipments being smuggled through the Sinai to Gaza.

The shipments primarily consist of explosive propellant material that Hamas needs in order to make rockets. As such the money is going towards smuggling both military equipment and material needed to build Hamas’ military infrastructure.”

At the Washington Institute, Ehud Ya’ari writes on the same topic:

“Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment. Hamas relies on Bedouin guides to avoid detection by the Egyptian army and reach the few tunnels that have survived Cairo’s aggressive flooding and closure campaign. In this manner, IS Sinai acquired the advanced Kornet antitank missiles it has used to sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of al-Arish and destroy several tanks and armored carriers stationed in the peninsula’s northeastern sector. Hamas has also provided training to some IS Sinai fighters and assisted with the group’s media campaign and online postings.”Belgian rifle art

Interestingly, a recent BBC report which supposedly “tracked” the journey of weapons from Libya to the Gaza Strip did not actually explain to readers the mechanisms of arms smuggling through Sinai.

Also at the Washington Institute, Aaron Y. Zelin and Oula A. Alrifai report on ISIS in Southern Syria.

“Much attention has been given to the Islamic State’s military and governance activities in northern and eastern Syria, but there has been less focus on its slow and steady growth in the southern theater. Since July 2013, it has been building a presence in a number of locales around Damascus, with the eventual goal of taking the city. While such aspirations are still far beyond the group’s military capabilities, it has actively rolled out soft-power strategies. Focusing on the Islamic State’s activities in the north and east of Syria could prevent a complete understanding of what it is attempting to accomplish.”

The Tower reports from the US on the ‘Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015’.

“A bill that seeks to impose mandatory sanctions on banks that knowingly conduct business with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 425 – 0 on Wednesday, The Hill reported. The proposed legislation is now heading to the White House, where President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

The measure would direct the Obama administration to report on the Lebanon-based terror group’s drug trafficking and organized crime activities, as well as outline its global support networks

It would also require the administration to determine any telecommunications companies that contract with Al-Manar, a TV station affiliated with Hezbollah.”

And at the Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff writes about Hizballah’s changed approach to publicizing its casualties in Syria.

“The Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has seen between 1,300 and 1,500 of its fighters killed in battles in the Syrian civil war, which means that together with the wounded it has lost as much as a third of its fighting force, according to Israeli estimates.

Some 5,000 of the organization’s members have been injured in fighting alongside regime troops against rebel groups, including the Islamic State.[…]

Recently, Hezbollah has been publishing details of its members killed in Syria and is not trying to hide its losses, in contrast to its policy during the early years of the Syrian civil war, which broke out in 2011.”

 

No BBC News follow-up on Golan paraglider story

Given the BBC’s longstanding – but recently intensified – preoccupation with ISIS and considering that on October 25th it published a report titled “‘Israeli Arab paraglider’ sparks Syria border operation“, it was surprising to see that BBC News chose to ignore the follow-up story to the incident portrayed in that article.Paraglider art

On November 18th the Israeli security services released a statement concerning the indictment of members of a cell of ISIS sympathisers from Jaljulia.

“Security forces services recently busted a group of six Israeli Arab men who planned to travel to Syria with the intention of fighting alongside the radical Islamic State group. A seventh member of the group succeeded in flying across the Israel-Syrian border on the Golan Heights on a hang glider last month.

In a statement Wednesday, the Shin Bet security service said the six suspects, all residents of the northern Israeli-Arab town of Jaljulia, had been planning for months to make their way to Syria. […]

The seventh member of the group, Nadal Hamad Salah Salah, 23, flew a hang glider across the border from the Golan Heights and into Syria on October 24, setting off an intensive investigation by security services.

As a result of the initial investigation, later the same evening two brothers were arrested, Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala, 26 and Ahab Nadal Yousel Hagala, 22.

The brothers were known to police as supporters of the Islamic State group, the Shin Bet said. The elder brother, Jihad, spent six months in Syria in 2013 fighting with IS and was arrested after his return to Israel. He was tried, sentenced to prison, and released in November 2014.

During the investigation, it emerged that the brothers had helped Salah to make his exit to Syria to join IS, the indictment said. In recent months Salah had allegedly agreed with Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala to use hang gliders to get to Syria. The pair planned to glide over the border because Hagala was concerned that, due to his history, he would be flagged and stopped by Israeli security if he tried flying out of Ben Gurion Airport on a commercial flight.”

Notably, the BBC also refrained from reporting on a previous story concerning an ISIS cell in northern Israel which came to light at the beginning of October.

 

 

BBC does damage control after Bowen’s Assad advocacy

In an article titled “Bashar al-Assad is still the problem” which appeared recently in the Telegraph, Shiraz Maher and Nick Kaderbhai observed that:

“The idea that the Assad regime’s violence is somehow morally or strategically different to that of jihadist actors in Syria has become fashionable among some sections of the Western media. Perhaps a symptom of fatigue or sympathies forged during time spent as guests of the regime, mainstream commentators such as Patrick Cockburn and Peter Oborne have been at the forefront of this trahison des clercs.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 95 per cent of all civilian deaths in the conflict have come from the regime. The refugees now fleeing to Europe do so as a direct result of Assad’s policies.”

As readers are already aware, the BBC – and in particular its Middle East editor – also appears to have been afflicted by that particular trend.Bowen tweet Syria mukharabat

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

More BBC amplification of the ‘ISIS worse than Assad’ meme

However, it would appear that following Jeremy Bowen’s repeated uncritical promotion of Bashar al Assad’s agenda earlier this month, some damage control was deemed appropriate and that came in the form of an article by Charles Lister which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 28th under the title “Viewpoint: West ‘walking into abyss’ on Syria“.

Mr Lister writes:

“Amid recent geopolitical machinations, one simple reality appears to have been forgotten or purposefully ignored: Assad is not and should never be seen as a better alternative to IS. […]

Meanwhile, the Assad regime has conducted a consistent policy of intentional mass killing of civilians – first with air strikes and ballistic missiles, then with barrel bombs and widely alleged use of chemical weapons.

Bashar al-Assad has professionalised and industrialised the use of detention and torture to “cleanse” his own population, while imposing dozens of medieval-style sieges on vulnerable populations. He has consistently flouted UN Security Council resolutions and according to some sources, has been responsible for 95% of all 111,000 civilian deaths since 2011.”

Of course BBC audiences – who only a short time ago were informed that “the Syrian army has never, ever attacked or initiated any attack against a city or against a village” and that “the real threat in Syria is Islamic State, not the country’s leader” – may well find that this latest article only adds to their confusion seeing as it contradicts everything they were told in Jeremy Bowen’s numerous reports.

Rather than helping audiences to form a clear picture of what is happening in Syria and why so many people are fleeing to other countries as its public purpose remit demands, the BBC’s indulgence of Jeremy Bowen’s partisan reporting serves only to muddy audience understanding of this topic.

BBC’s pattern of Gaza reporting migrates north

September 26th saw yet another incident of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria in the northern Golan Heights.

“A rocket launched from Syria fell in open territory in the northern Golan Heights on Saturday evening, causing no injuries or damage. Air raid sirens were not triggered in the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that it was likely a result of errant fire from the ongoing civil war in the neighboring country. There have been numerous such incidents since the war began in March 2011.”

The following day a similar incident occurred in the same area.

“A rocket fired from war-torn Syria strayed into the Israeli sector of the Golan Heights on Sunday, the Israeli army said, in the second such incident in as many days.

The Israeli military said the rocket crashed into a field without causing any casualties or damage.

It said that it was the result of Syria’s conflict in which various factions are fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as each other.”

Neither of those incidents was covered by BBC News. Later on the evening of September 27th Israeli forces responded to the two incidents.  

“An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that the IDF had conducted two artillery strikes on Syrian positions on the outskirts of Quneitra following earlier rocket strike in the Golan on Sunday night.

The spokesman had said that the IDF “viewed the Syrian army as responsible for any fire emanating within its territory, and that the IDF will not allow any attempts to harm Israel’s sovereignty or citizens.””BBC Arabic Quneitra 27 9

Whilst that event was also ignored by the BBC’s English language services, as has often been the case when Israel has responded to missile fire from the Gaza Strip in recent months, the Israeli action was the focus of an article appearing on the BBC Arabic website on September 27th under the inadequate headline “Israel bombed military sites belonging to the Syrian army“.

Related Articles:

BBC yet again ignores Gaza missile fire – in English

More BBC amplification of the ‘ISIS worse than Assad’ meme

Just three weeks ago the synopsis to a filmed report appearing on the BBC News website told its visitors that:

“Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, has said that the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe is the direct result of terrorist aggression against Syria.

He blamed Islamist militants for forcing thousands from their homes and said the government had helped millions of displaced people.”

In the report itself, BBC audiences heard Faisal Mekdad say:

“The Syrian army has never, ever attacked or initiated any attack against a city or against a village and if you see at least the most recent attacks you will see them initiated by the terrorist factions and when these terrorist groups attack villages and cities you see a very big flood of people leaving those areas.”

On September 21st the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages carried a filmed report by the corporation’s correspondent in Moscow, Sarah Rainsford, which was promoted under the headline “Russia says Islamic State, not Assad, the danger in Syria” and that message was repeated in the synopsis:Rainsford report Russia

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Moscow to voice concerns over reports of a Russian military build-up in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The US has already warned that Russian action risks complicating the conflict further.

However Russia says that the real threat in Syria is Islamic State, not the country’s leader.” [emphasis added]

In the report itself viewers heard Rainsford say:

“Russia’s line is clear: the real danger in Syria today is Islamic State.”

They then heard from a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson:

“Absolutely for sure we know that [the] terrorist threat in Syria is something very dangerous and it’s very dangerous not only for [the] Middle East region but also for Europe and also for Russia.”

It is of course perfectly reasonable for the BBC to report statements from interested parties such as the Syrian deputy foreign minister or his regime’s Russian and Iranian allies just as long as audiences are also given the background facts which would enable them to put such statements into their correct context.

These two examples join previous reports in which no such background information has been provided, with the result being that BBC audiences are being steered towards a grossly simplistic and distorted view of the conflict in Syria which does nothing to meet the corporation’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

 

More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

Last week we discussed several reports produced by Jeremy Bowen during the time he recently spent in and around Damascus and took note of the fact that BBC audiences were provided with a very one-sided portrayal of the situation in Syria which exclusively reflected the Assad regime’s interests.

One feature seen in that round of reporting by the BBC’s Middle East editor was unchallenged amplification of a Syrian government deputy minister’s claim that the regime had never targeted its own civilian population. In that and all of his later reports Bowen failed to inform audiences of the fact that there is ample evidence to contradict that claim.Bowen written 14 7 Damascus

After having left Damascus, Bowen produced some further reports. A written article titled “Syria conflict: No sign of Assad regime crumbling” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 14th. At least in that piece (in contrast to the reports produced previously) the man whose job title was created with the aim of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” finally got round to making a brief mention of the support supplied to the Assad regime from Iran and its Lebanese proxy.

“But President Assad has his vital trio of supporters: Russia, Iran and Hezbollah from Lebanon. Russia seems to be increasing its military support for the regime.

Hezbollah men are fighting along the border with Lebanon. Iran provides vital financial and military assistance.”

However, Bowen managed to place the responsibility for the Syria refugee crisis at the door of parties other than Bashar al Assad.

“The war exports trouble, violence and refugees. Half of Syria’s pre-war population has fled from the fighting. Eight million are still in Syria, displaced, refugees in their own country. Four million have left Syria.

Britain and others hoped that helping with a relief effort for refugees would encourage them to stay put.

But hopes among refugees that the war would end relatively quickly disappeared as the killing went on. […]

It was even worse when it sunk in that they might face years more in camps in Jordan and Turkey, or even worse, in informal shanty towns and the slums of Lebanon.

What made matters worse was that the rich countries that funded the relief effort led by the UN agencies have made big cuts to their contributions.”

Bowen also produced two filmed reports for BBC television news – both of which also appeared on the BBC News website. “Syria crisis: Jeremy Bowen on the subterranean battle in Damascus” – September 14th – repeated a theme also seen in Bowen’s above written report.

“They do not look like a beaten army. I think those people who are predicting the fall of the Assad regime once again will once again be guilty – certainly in the foreseeable future – of wishful thinking.”

In a report from the same location dated September 15th – “Syria: On the front line in Damascus” – Bowen once again provided an unchallenged platform for Syrian regime propaganda – this time from an officer in the Syrian Republican Guard.Bowen filmed 15 7 Damascus

Bowen: “The colonel and his men say they are patriots fighting terrorists. He rejects accusations that the Syrian army targets civilians. The claim is that more civilians are killed by the Syrian army than by any other armed force here in Syria.

Col. Sultan: “This is all propaganda to slander the reputation of the army. It’s all lies. We were brought up not to harm peaceful civilians. We only kill people we see with our own eyes holding a weapon.”

Bowen made no attempt to challenge that obvious falsehood on camera and neither was any qualifying statement reminding audiences of the numerous incidents which contradict Sultan’s claims added to Bowen’s voice-over in later editing.

Interestingly, the keen interest in alleged breaches of the laws of armed combat displayed by Jeremy Bowen in his reporting from the Gaza Strip in July 2014 appears to have completely evaporated upon his arrival in Damascus.