Inaccuracies in BBC’s Jabhat al Nusra profile

The BBC News website’s profile of Jabhat al Nusra (aka al Nusra Front) recently appeared as one of the related articles suggested to readers on its Middle East page.

Profile al Nusra on HP

 

Titled “Profile: Syria’s al-Nusra Front“, the article is dated April 10th 2013 and has apparently not been updated in the past eighteen months.

Included in the profile is the following paragraph: [emphasis added]

“The Front’s leading figure, Abu Mohammed al-Jawani, assured Syrians that the “good behaviour” they had experienced from al-Nusra on the ground would continue unchanged.”

Accepted spellings of the nom de guerre of the Nusra Front leader include al-Julani, al-Joulani, al-Jolani, al-Jawlani and al-Golani, with the name being a reference to the Golan Heights. Later on in the profile a side box appears in which – confusingly for readers – the name is presented differently and without the above spelling error.

Profile al Nusra sidebox

The profile informs BBC audiences that:

“Al-Nusra’s connection to al-Qaeda has led the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opposition to distance itself from the movement.

“We don’t support the ideology of al-Nusra,” FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said.

“There has never been and there will never be a decision at the command level to coordinate with al-Nusra.”

Mr Meqdad did, however, acknowledge that that [sic] there had been co-operation between FSA brigades and the Front on “certain operations”.”

Reports on recent fighting in south-western Syria, however, present a somewhat different picture than the one promoted in this BBC profile.Profile al Nusra

“The Free Syrian Army has recently allied with Islamist rebels fighting in al Harah, a town in the southern Syrian province of Deraa. Elements from the Free Syrian Army coordinated their efforts with the Islamist Syrian Revolutionaries Front, the Islamic Front, and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, to take the al Harah Hill and the surrounding town.

The Free Syrian Army utilized several BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles during the fighting, which the United States supplied to “vetted groups” in April. […]

The Long War Journal has previously noted that Western-backed groups continue to operate with the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, and the wider Islamic Front coalition. Last month, the moderate Syrian Revolutionaries Front coordinated efforts with Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham to take several villages in Quneitra province. In August, elements from the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Free Syrian Army worked with Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham to take the Quneitra border crossing with the Israeli-held Golan Heights.”

Obviously the BBC’s profile of al Nusra Front is in need of both updating and correction.

 

 

 

BBC still promoting the myth of a demilitarized zone that doesn’t exist

October 1st saw the appearance of a report titled “Syria peacekeeping ‘impossible’ – Philippines leader” on the BBC News website’s Asia and Middle East pages. The article relates to statements made by the President of the Philippines at a welcoming ceremony for his country’s soldiers formerly stationed with UNDOF in the Golan Heights.UNDOF Phil Pres art

“President Aquino on Wednesday raised the possibility the Philippines would no longer deploy Filipino troops in UN peacekeeping operations during ceremonies in Malacañang where he led a hero’s welcome for soldiers pulled out from the Golan Heights where they had battled Syrian rebels late last August. [...]

The President criticized the United Nations for rejecting requests to provide additional firearms for Filipino peacekeepers, who faced what he called “mission impossible” in the Golan Heights. [...]

“When the situation changed, when rebels began to show up in this area of disengagement, [the United Nations] should have addressed the situation and said there was a new mission,” he said.”

Since late August the BBC News website has produced numerous articles on the topic of the UNDOF mission – see here, here, here, here and here . This latest report brings the total number of articles on the subject published in the five weeks between August 28th and October 1st 2014 to nine.

Most of those reports include standard statements along the lines of this one from the latest article:

“Israel seized most of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau in south-western Syria, during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The two countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which the UN Disengagement Observer Force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.

It has 1,224 lightly armed military personnel from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.”

As this latest report and a quotation in the BBC’s September 1st article both illustrate, countries contributing personnel to UNDOF are well aware of the fact that the situation on the ground has changed significantly in the past couple of years and the terms of 1974 armistice agreement cited by the BBC are no longer being upheld.

” “I’ve made it very clear that I’m not going to continue to commit Irish troops to this mission unless there’s a very fundamental review of how it’s going to operate. Clearly this is no longer a demilitarized zone,” Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney told RTE radio.”

Recent reports from the UN Secretary General and the Security Council both reflect the changes brought about by the fact that the UN’s presence failed to keep the DMZ demilitarized.

UN SC UNDOF

The widely reported infiltration of a Syrian military aircraft into Israeli territory on September 23rd was only covered by the BBC News website in the form of a brief announcement on a live page being run that day on the subject of US airstrikes against ISIS. 

Syrian aircraft infiltration 23 9

BBC audiences continue to remain in the dark with regard to the significant changes and developments in that particular part of the Middle East due to the fact that the corporation continues to use long redundant template descriptions of the region in its articles and its area profile, hence impeding audience understanding of current and future events. 

Not just about journalism: BBC editorial guidelines and the wider public interest

As is of course to be expected, the horrific murder of one British charity worker by ISIS last weekend and the accompanying threat to behead another has been extensively covered by the UK media.Nye Jul 14 a

According to the Times:

“The security services are investigating whether kidnappers who abducted two Britons on aid missions to Syria were acting on insider tip-offs.

As part of efforts to build up a picture of the network around the British kidnap gang that has been executing westerners, MI5 and MI6 are trying to establish whether they had help in identifying victims. […]

It is thought unlikely that the gang, which could have as many as 20 western hostages, were able to conduct so many kidnappings without the help of informers on both sides of the border.”

The Daily Telegraph informs us that:

“Alan Henning was kidnapped within half an hour of entering Syria after he unwittingly became involved with a charity with links to alleged extremists, it has emerged.

Mr Henning, 47, now threatened with beheading by jihadists, ignored pleas from friends, colleagues and local guides not to cross the Syrian border, telling them he was determined to make sure the supplies he was carrying were delivered safely to the right people.

Mr Henning was driving an ambulance on behalf of Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raised money on behalf of Al-Fatiha Global, a registered charity currently under investigation by the Charity Commission after one of its leaders was photographed with his arms around two hooded fighters carrying machine guns. […]

There is no suggestion Mr Henning, a father of two from Eccles, Greater Manchester, knew of the apparent links between the charities and extremism. Al-Fatiha Global was only placed under investigation in March – three months after Mr Henning was kidnapped – after Adeel Ali, the son of one of its trustees, was pictured with gunmen on the front of The Sun newspaper.”

Among the BBC’s recent coverage of the issue is a filmed interview with Catrin Nye of the BBC Asian Network which was aired on BBC television news programmes on September 14th and also appears in a written report currently featured on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.  Nye met Alan Henning whilst she was making several reports for numerous BBC platforms on the topic of British aid convoys to Syria. Henning’s later participation in one of those convoys led to his kidnapping in Syria in late December 2013.Nye Jul 14 b

As was noted here at the time, Catrin Nye’s numerous reports – aired in November and early December 2013 – refrained from addressing the topic of the extremist links of some of the charities and individual activists involved in organizing those convoys. Catrin Nye produced additional reports on the same subject in July 2014 which once again failed to adequately inform audiences of the convoys’ organisers links to extremists, even though one of the charities involved in previous trips was already under investigation by the Charity Commission when the report was being made. Nye’s latest interview likewise fails to inform viewers on the same issue.

Notable too is the fact that Orla Guerin produced a report from Gaza on August 13th which was based on the claims of an ISM activist with additional links to the same UK charity currently under investigation.

It is all too clear that BBC promotion of the activities of NGOs and charities without the required disclosure of their ideologies, political agendas and any extremist links not only breaches the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality, but also goes against the wider interests of the British public in general. 

Victim of Golan Heights terror attack unnamed in BBC News report

On the afternoon of June 22nd the BBC News website published a report on its Middle East page under the rather clumsy title “Israeli teen ‘killed by Syria firing’ in Golan Heights“.Golan incident main

The report states:

“A 15-year-old boy has been killed in the occupied Golan Heights by firing from Syria, Israel says.

Officials say he was with his father in a truck which took a “direct hit”.

The father and another contract worker are reported to have been injured. They were was [sic] carrying out maintenance work on the border fence,

It is unclear whether Syrian rebels or government forces were behind the incident, but Israel responded with tank shelling into Syria.

The exchange took place in the Tel Hazeka area, near the Quneitra crossing, the Israeli defence ministry said.”

Although details of the event were released for publication around half an hour after this BBC report was published, it has so far not been updated to include the victim’s name or correct age. In fact, Mohammed Karakra was thirteen years old; not 15 as initially reported and he had accompanied his father to work on the first day of his summer holidays from school. Mohammed’s father – from the village of ‘Arrabe in the Galilee – is part of a team of contractors working on the border fence in the Golan Heights on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.  He was seriously injured and is currently hospitalized in Haifa. Two other workers were also injured in the cross-border terror attack which took place at around 11 a.m. near Tel Hezeka, in the vicinity of the community of Alonei HaBashan.

Mohammed Karakra photo credit: alarab.net

Mohammed Karakra
photo credit: alarab.net

The BBC report continues:

“It is the first time an Israeli has been killed by firing from Syria in the Golan Heights since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

Israeli military spokesman, Lt Col Peter Lerner, told AP news agency the firing from Syria was “clearly intentional” but it was unclear whether it was the result of mortar fire, a roadside bomb or shelling.”

The Israeli media reports that it is now believed that an anti-tank missile was fired at Mohammed’s father’s vehicle. Whilst the vicinity on the other side of the border where the incident took place is currently controlled by anti-regime forces, it is not yet known which of numerous organisations operating in the area – which include Hizballah – is responsible for the attack.

The BBC article then goes on to present readers with its standard insert to any report relating to the Golan Heights.

“The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, was seized by Israel from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East War.

The two countries remain technically in a state of war, and UN observers are deployed to monitor a 70km-long (44-mile) demilitarised zone.”

Of course the BBC has done little to keep audiences informed of changes to UNDOF’s operations in recent months or of the full scale of cross-border incidents in the area. 

BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ moves Syria; editor ‘too tired’ to notice

Here is a map which appeared on TV screens throughout the UK during the June 12th edition of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight‘.

Newsnight map

Now of course the BBC regularly tells its funding public how committed it is to rigorous standards of accuracy, but apparently those standards become somewhat more flaccid when the editor is feeling a tad dozy on the job.

Katz tweet

On the bright side; Ian Katz is the editor of a TV show – not a neurosurgeon or a pilot.   

 

 

Reader complaint prompts correction to BBC portrayal of Israel’s stance on Syria intervention

h/t JD

Late last August, when the US president’s ‘red lines’ on chemical weapons use by Bashar al Assad’s forces seemed to be about to lead to military intervention in Syria, the BBC News website produced a backgrounder titled “Syria crisis: Where key countries stand”.

As we noted here at the time, that article misrepresented Israel’s stance on the issue of military intervention in Syria, with the text of the original version reading as follows:

August Syria art orig

That text was subsequently amended, but inaccuracies remained:

Syria art version 2

The original article also included a misleading map which presented Israel as one of the countries “for” intervention in Syria.

Syria art map

A complaint regarding that map was made by Mr Joe Davidoff in September 2013 on the grounds that it misrepresented Israel’s stance. The reply Mr Davidoff received from the BBC News website’s Middle East desk informed him that:

“We have reviewed the item in question and agree that the map did not accurately reflect the various countries’ positions on military intervention in Syria. We have now replaced the map with a photograph.”

And indeed, that erroneous map no longer appears in the article as it currently stands on the BBC News website, with the entry for Israel having been amended yet again to read as follows:

Syria article current version

However, no footnote is appended to this article to clarify that an amendment has been made or that its previous versions “did not accurately reflect” Israel’s stance on the issue and the continuing lack of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website obviously means that audience members who read the original version of the report have no way of knowing that the information provided in it was misleading.

One must of course wonder how that original misleading portrayal of Israel’s stance on the topic of military intervention in Syria made it through the BBC editorial process in the first place, considering that only two weeks after the initial publication and following Mr Davidoff’s complaint, it was deemed inaccurate. 

 

Newsnight introduction of Asim Qureshi again breaches BBC editorial guidelines

Earlier this month we noted yet more breaches of the BBC editorial guidelines which require interviewees and guests on BBC programmes to be adequately introduced so that audiences can determine “when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”.  

We also noted that in October of last year, the BBC’s Editorial Standard’s Committee stated that it had reminded BBC News producers of “the importance of clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organization”.

That earlier post related to two occasions on which Asim Qureshi of ‘Cage’ had been inadequately introduced to audiences before being interviewed on the issue of British Muslims travelling to Syria to fight with insurgent groups.

The same subject came under discussion on the May 20th edition of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ under the heading “Why shouldn’t British Muslims fight in Syria?” and the programme can be seen by readers in the UK for a limited period of time here. The specific segment can also be viewed here.

Asim Qureshi was again one of the guests invited by ‘Newsnight’ to discuss the topic and once more presenter Jeremy Paxman’s introduction of him did nothing to fully and appropriately inform audiences of Qureshi’s “standpoint” on this subject.

“We’re also joined by Asim Qureshi from the campaign group Cage which works on behalf of those accused of terrorist offences.”

Notably, Jeremy Paxman’s introduction of the item itself included a comparison between British Muslims fighting with Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and British Jews who enlist with the IDF.

“Let’s take first off this comparison there that was raised at the end of that report. People from this country went and fought in the Spanish civil war and many people felt rather fondly and proudly towards them. People from this country have gone off and fought with, for example, the Israel Defence Forces. In what respect is this particular offence of going to Syria an acute matter which deserves being sent to jail for?”

Of course Paxman neglects to clarify that British-born IDF soldiers would have to have either permanent or temporary residency status in Israel before joining the army of that sovereign country.

In light of Paxman’s inadequate introduction of Qureshi and his organization, it is particularly relevant that Qureshi’s misleading and inaccurate claim – at 02:15 in the video version above – goes uncorrected and unchallenged.

“But I think the vast majority…well I think there isn’t really a single voice here in the UK at least that’s encouraging them to go there.”

Here is Asim Qureshi himself speaking at a rally in London in 2012 alongside Shakeel Begg and other known Islamists, delivering  what some might consider to be a fairly “encouraging” message.

“Every time you stick on BBC you see what’s going on in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in Palestine. And what: you think you’re seeing all of that stuff, that knowledge is coming to you and that Allah will not hold you accountable for it? […]

This should be the beginning; the reason why we’ve gathered here today is to say to ourselves that we need to do more. We need to gather together and do something about the situation. […]

We’ve got brothers here who’ve turned up in vans. They’ve turned up in order to give you the opportunity to help through your wealth, through your bodies, through anything that you can.” [emphasis added]

And can it really be that both Asim Qureshi and Jeremy Paxman just forgot to mention the activities of that other frequent BBC guest Anjem Choudary?

 

 

 

 

 

Off the BBC radar: an Israeli paramedic on the Syrian border

Since it became known about fifteen months ago that Israel is providing medical care to injured Syrians in a field hospital in the Golan Heights and in civilian hospitals throughout the north, the BBC has covered that story twice – see here and here – with both reports focusing on the patients.

Now, via Elder of Ziyon, we can hear the side of that story as told by IDF paramedic Staff Sgt. Noga Erez who was recently honoured by Israel’s President at the traditional Independence Day awards for outstanding soldiers.

Related Articles:

BBC throws mud over repatriation of Syrians

BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic

At last: an accurate and impartial BBC report on Syrian patients in Israel

Northern exposure: what the BBC isn’t reporting about the Israel-Syria border

Another example of inadequate BBC adherence to impartiality guidelines

Readers no doubt recall that last October the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit recommitted to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which 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.”

Specifically regarding BBC News, the ECU stated:

“The production team have been reminded of the importance of clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organisation.”

In the video below – filmed in London in 2006 at a Hizb-ut-Tahrir rally– the speaker makes his “standpoint” very clear.

“We embrace the mercy. We embrace every single thing that is set upon us and we deal with it because we have no fear. So when we see the example of our brothers and sisters fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan then we know where the example lies. When we see Hezbollah defeating the armies of Israel, we know what the solution is and where the victory lies. We know that it is incumbent upon all of us to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the west.”

The speaker is Asim Qureshi of the organization formerly known as ‘Cageprisoners‘ and recently revamped as ‘Cage’, which was founded by Moazzam Begg who currently awaits trial in the UK on terrorism charges.

Here is how the BBC’s Huw Edwards introduced Qureshi and his organisation on BBC News recently:

 “…Asim Qureshi, who’s research director of ‘Cage’ and that is a charity that campaigns for those detained on terrorism charges.”

Here is how Qureshi and his group were introduced by James Menendez on the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’:

“…Asim Qureshi who’s research director for the human rights group ‘Cage’ that has a particular focus on the war on terror.”

In both these interviews the subject under discussion was an initiative by the British police to prevent British Muslims from going to fight in Syria.

 It was therefore obviously necessary for representatives of an organization which claims to be committed to “clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant”, to make it clear to audiences in the introductions that Mr Qureshi – in his own words – sees it as “incumbent…to support the jihad” of insurgents in Iraq or terrorists in Gaza, Lebanon or Kabul whom he regards as “an example”.

That, however, did not happen.

Related Articles:

Cageprisoners, Rowntree Trust and “Jews did 9/11”   (CiF Watch)