A Tweet from the ‘accurate’ and ‘impartial’ BBC’s Paul Adams

On February 13th the BBC’s world affairs correspondent Paul Adams sent this Tweet to over ten thousand followers.

Adams tweet 13 2

As readers can see for themselves, the video purporting to show the “West Bank barrier” is in fact a loop of the same footage shown over and over again in which the same graffiti appears repeatedly every few seconds.

Over 90% of the anti-terrorist fence is exactly that: a fence constructed from wire mesh. Only a small proportion is constructed from concrete slabs of the type shown in Adams’ manipulated video.

Those familiar with the reports produced by Paul Adams when he was ‘parachuted’ into the Gaza Strip during last summer’s conflict will not be very surprised by this inaccurate, misleading and context-free representation of the anti-terrorist fence. Apparently a previous Twitter gaffe by Adams in which he hastily promoted inaccurate information to his followers, leading them to believe that the son of a BBC employee in the Gaza Strip had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, did not prompt him to refresh his knowledge of BBC guidelines on the use of social media.

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.”

The BBC’s reputation for integrity and impartiality is not strengthened when, apropos of nothing, a BBC correspondent decides to upload to his Twitter account intentionally edited video footage bereft of any context and misrepresenting a politically contentious issue.  

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended viewing from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau chief

Following publication of the news that veteran CBS ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Bob Simon had died in a car accident in New York, the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau sent this tweet:

Colebourn tweet Simon

The report recommended by Richard Colebourn to his Twitter followers is titled Christians of the Holy Land and it dates from 2012. Rather than being “unusually nuanced and robust”, it in fact includes basic inaccuracies such as this:

“Israel built the wall over the last 10 years, which completely separates Israel from the occupied West Bank. The wall was built to stop Palestinian terrorists from getting into Israel. And it’s worked. Terrorism has gone down 90 percent.

At the same time, the wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the “little town” where Christ was born into what its residents call “an open air prison.” ” [emphasis added]

A critique of Simon’s report by CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile can be seen here.

If it seems odd that Richard Colebourn’s tribute should highlight that particular piece of reporting out of all Bob Simon’s work, it is worth remembering that the BBC has produced its own similarly distorted reporting on the same topic. Perhaps that is why the corporation’s Jerusalem Bureau chief seems to have difficulty differentiating between “robust” and inaccurate, “nuanced” and partial. 

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

Since its brief – and revealing – dabble with the topic of the pending general election in Israel at the beginning of December, the BBC has to date refrained from producing any further content on that topic.elections

However, we can of course expect that as the date of the election (March 17th) approaches the BBC will be producing no small number of reports on the subject. We can perhaps also assume that its Hebrew-speaking staff based in Israel will have a part to play in helping their colleagues who do not speak the language in which the election is being conducted to make sense of it all, and that those understandings will then be passed on to BBC audiences worldwide.

As Israeli readers cannot have failed to notice, one election-related topic currently featuring prominently in the country’s media is that of assorted allegations concerning the wife of the current prime minister and among the plethora of articles, reports and op-eds on that subject is a scathing item written by Israeli journalist Ben Caspit which appeared in Ma’ariv Online on January 26th  under the title “Silence of the lambs: when the truth about Sara Netayahu will come to light”.

BBC News producer Michael Shuval saw fit to promote that article to his followers on Twitter in Hebrew on January 28th, together with the added comment:

“An important document, and if there is no truth in it, let the prime minister’s office sue Ben Caspit and the paper Ma’ariv Online.”

Tweet Shuval Netanyahu

BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality 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.”

It will be worth remembering that Tweet when we read, watch and hear the ‘impartial’ BBC coverage of the Israeli elections just around the corner. 

BBC response to Willcox complaints: he sent a Tweet

Below is the response received by a member of the public in reply to his complaint concerning remarks made by Tim Willcox during the BBC’s coverage of the January 11th march in Paris. Others have informed us that they have been sent the exact same reply.

Response Willcox complaint

It is worth noting once again that the majority of the millions of people who watched that BBC broadcast do not follow Tim Willcox on Twitter.

One of the problems with the response from BBC Complaints – and with Willcox’s Tweet – is that he was not asking a “poorly phrased question” at all. He in fact interrupted his interviewee to make a statement. And whilst Willcox may indeed have had “no intention of causing offence”, he did just that because the notion he found it so urgent to promote to viewers is based on the antisemitic premise that Jews anywhere in the world hold collective responsibility for the perceived actions of the State of Israel.

If Tim Willcox and the BBC do not understand why his statement – and the thinking behind it – constitutes a problem and why an apology in 140 characters or less repeated in a generic e-mail from BBC Complaints is unsatisfactory, then obviously there are considerably deeper issues here. 

Willcox’s Twitter apology does not abrogate the need for an on-air statement from the BBC clarifying the issue to audiences who watched that programme.

Should BBC News allow its agenda to be dictated by social media?

December 28th saw the appearance of a filmed report in the technology section of the BBC News website (also apparently shown on that day’s edition of BBC Breakfast on BBC One and the BBC News channel) under the title “What news event got us tweeting and posting in 2014?“.

Regarding what he described as “the top three news events shared on social media this year”, presenter Graham Satchell told audiences:

“At [number] three, the month-long bombardment of Gaza: a conflict with Israel seemingly without end.”

Those words were presented with a background of two images: notably both black and white photographs whilst the rest of the report is of course in colour.

Satchell filmed image 1

Satchell filmed image 2

No further context was provided. Probably much like the Tweets and posts which made this topic the third most shared of the year, Satchell’s report made no effort to inform audiences that “bombardment” of Israeli villages, towns and cities also took place throughout the fifty days of the conflict or that what led to its outbreak were over 280 incidents of missile fire by Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations at Israeli civilian targets between June 14th and July 8th and the later discovery of cross-border tunnels constructed for the purpose of terror attacks.

Social media is of course by nature both superficial and easily manipulated to create a level of ‘noise’ way beyond the actual significance of a story by focusing on its eye-catching sound-bites alone. How many of the Tweets and posts which placed the “bombardment of Gaza” in third place actually originated from a small number of political activists and how such activism serves the interests of Hamas’ PR war is not a topic which Satchell saw fit to address.

Satchell stated:

“What we like, share is now influencing everything – including the news.”

That of course can only be the case if news services allow social media to influence their agenda. Among the questions BBC audiences may be asking is why they even need the mainstream media to act as an intermediary between them and what they can already discover for themselves (for free) and do they actually want the content provided by their news service to be dictated by the Tweets and Facebook posts of interest groups and anonymous subscribers to those services and others.

The BBC’s contract with its funding public obliges it to “inform, educate and entertain“. The issue of whether context-free amplification of topics popular on social media – as seen in this report – can be said to meet the terms of that remit is one which readers are invited to discuss in the comments below.

Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

On the morning of December 19th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol region of the Western Negev in the third such incident since the ceasefire in late August which brought the fifty-day summer conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organisations to a close. Like those previous incidents of missile fire, this one too was not reported by the BBC at the time.

During the night between December 19th and 20th, the Israeli air-force launched a retaliatory strike against a Hamas military installation near Khan Yunis. That event was considered news by the BBC.

With no mention of the obviously crucial context of the preceding missile attack some hours earlier, the BBC World Twitter account informed its 8.22 million followers:

KY strike bbc world tweet 1

Jerusalem bureau correspondent Quentin Sommerville did inform his 24 thousand followers that the Israeli action came in response to missile fire, whilst taking the opportunity to revive the well-trodden BBC theme of “home-made rockets”. There is no evidence to suggest that Sommerville was at the scene of the impact and hence his ‘diagnosis’ of the missile’s nature is apparently based on guess-work. Equally questionable is Sommerville’s geography: there is no city called Eshkol: that name refers to a regional council. Nevertheless, that inaccurate information was retweeted by the BBC World Twitter account.

KY strike Sommerville tweet 1

KY strike Sommerville tweet 2

More context-free ‘last-first’ reporting was seen on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of December 20th where visitors were informed that “Israel launches an air strike on an alleged Hamas site in Gaza, in the first such action since the declaration of a truce in August”, but with no mention in the headline or sub-heading of the missile attack several hours beforehand.

KY strike on HP

That headline leads to an article titled “Israel launches Gaza air strike on ‘Hamas target’” which fails to clarify to BBC audiences that this latest missile attack was the third since the end of August.

Readers will note that one of the recommended articles presented on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with that article is headed “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” which was discussed here. Whilst the BBC has put much effort in recent months into the production of numerous ‘reporter in the rubble’ items showcasing the topic of damage to houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (see some additional examples here, here and here), it has refrained from carrying out any reporting whatsoever on the subject of Hamas’ reconstruction of its military infrastructure, including cross-border tunnels and missile capabilities.

Once again licence fee-payers relying on the BBC to meet its half of the bargain by providing them with reporting which will enhance their understanding of international issues are being sold short. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the corporation’s continuing policies of ‘last-first’ reporting and framing by omission. 

BBC Trending warns of misrepresented photo, BBC correspondent Tweets it

h/t A

On December 16th BBC Trending produced a brief report about a photograph of a toddler’s blood-soaked shoe which was being promoted on social media as having been taken at the scene of the terror attack in Peshawar on the same day. As was pointed out, the photograph was in fact taken in 2008 in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon after a missile attack from the Gaza Strip.

The next day, BBC Trending uncovered more information about the photograph and updated its report. The article appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the amended title “Israeli photographer ‘horrified’ at use of bloody shoe photo“.BBC Trending shoe art

The article states:

“BBC Trending tracked down the photographer, Edi Israel, who says he took the photo while working as a freelancer in Ashkelon in May 2008. In that incident, a rocket was fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza into Israel, injuring dozens.

“I’m horrified to know that the picture has moved to Pakistan, and that it’s being used like that,” Edi Israel says. “This is a known phenomenon that people take a photo from one place and use it like it was elsewhere.”

The “recycling” of shocking photos is indeed common on social media in the wake of attacks – for instance we reported on the sharing of old images under the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack earlier this year.”

However, the image in question was not only misleadingly promoted on social media on December 16th as having been photographed in Pakistan. A Dutch journalist inaccurately claimed that it was actually taken in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 and his disinformation was in turn retweeted by the BBC’s correspondent in Libya Rana Jawad.  

Rana Jawad Tweet

Once again it is clear that the BBC’s social media guidelines are not effective in preventing breaches of accuracy and impartiality by its correspondents on the ground. 

Update:

Rana Jawad has put out a correction to the inaccurate retweet. 

 

Yet another problem Tweet from the BBC’s Jon Donnison

Despite having relocated to Australia some eighteen months ago, the BBC’s Jon Donnison continues to Tweet energetically about Israel-related issues, frequently breaching his employer’s editorial and social media guidelines in the process. Some examples from the past year alone can be seen here, here, here and here.editorial guidelines  

Honest Reporting has the story of yet another Tweet sent by Donnison on December 10th.

“Now Donnison, despite currently being posted to Sydney, Australia, has weighed in with this tweet about the death of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein from a heart attack while confronting Israeli soldiers.”

The rest of the story can be read here.

So much for the  BBC Editorial Guidelines - again. 

“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.” 

BBC’s favourite Norwegian doctor given multiple platforms for medical agitprop

On November 14th the Twitter account linked to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ promoted a segment from that day’s broadcast as a stand-alone item.

OS Tweet Mads Gilbert

That podcast can be heard here. The programme from which it is taken can be heard here for a limited period of time, with the relevant item beginning at 36:55. Presenter Chloe Tilley introduced the item as follows:

“Now, people who listen regularly to ‘Outside Source’ may be familiar with the name Mads Gilbert. He’s a Norwegian doctor who has spoken to us lots on the programme and he’s been told he’s been banned from Gaza for the foreseeable future over Israeli government claims he poses a security threat. Dr Gilbert’s been travelling to Gaza to treat patients for over 15 years and he told Outside Source’s Louise Webster what had happened.”

Of course Mads Gilbert has not only been frequently featured on the BBC World Service, but on a variety of other BBC platforms too and, as has so frequently been the case in the past, in this item no attempt whatsoever was made to correct the misleading impressions received by BBC audiences as a result of Gilbert’s promotion of unchallenged propaganda.OS podcast Mads Gilbert

“The fundamental reason for the ill-health in the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing.”

“The siege of Gaza of course has to be lifted. We cannot accept the siege is now also including international medical staff who seek to support the medical sector in Gaza. That is totally unacceptable.”

“Well, I think – you know – the siege of Gaza has been going on for seven years now and they have been denied all sorts of daily commodities; building material, medical supplies and so on. And it seems like the Israeli authorities are also trying to limit the number of foreigners who are allowed to travel through Israel to Gaza. So what is lost is actually the flow of information about the realities in Gaza and we need to know what is the circumstances and the situation for the population in Gaza.”

In fact the main causes of death in the Gaza Strip are cardiovascular disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease. There is, of course, no “siege” on the Gaza Strip, but nevertheless the BBC still continues to energetically promote that particular falsehood. As we had cause to note here on numerous occasions during this summer’s conflict, the issue of shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip has nothing to do with the restriction on the entry of dual-use goods imposed by Israel as part of counter-terrorism measures and in fact arises from long-standing disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Clearly too, Gilbert’s hysterical claim of a limit or ban on foreign medical staff travelling to Gaza is a gross distortion.

So yet again we see the BBC providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert to promote his usual deliberate misinformation.

In the full version of the item, Gilbert’s monologue was followed by Chloe Tilley informing listeners that:

“…an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman told Outside Source that an investigation was underway into Dr Gilbert, who he described as a ‘Jekyll & Hyde figure hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor’. He said there was strong suspicion that he had been involved in matters relating to supporting terror activities. An investigation is underway and Dr Gilbert’s position would be reassessed when it came to a conclusion.”

That statement was omitted from the version of the item promoted on Twitter, a link to which also appeared in a written article titled “Israel bans Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from Gaza” published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 14th. That article further amplified Gilbert’s inaccurate “siege” propaganda:Gilbert on website

“”The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing,” he said.”

It also told readers that:

“In July, Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.”

Notably, the BBC made no effort to inform audiences of the controversy surrounding that letter when two of Gilbert’s co-signatories were found to have a history of disseminating antisemitic material or of the Lancet editor’s subsequent comments on the issue.

The BBC knows full well that there is no “siege” on the Gaza Strip and it should by now also be aware of the fact that Israel does not pose any limitations on the entry of medical supplies. However, it continues to mislead BBC audiences worldwide by providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert’s promotion these falsehoods, thus clearly breaching its own supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

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

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

Amnesty International is one of several organisations which have sadly deviated from their original important purpose by allowing politics to dominate their agenda in the Middle East. AI’s anti-Israel reports – now legend for their bias and faulty methodology - are frequently promoted and quoted by the BBC. During this summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip, BBC news reports repeatedly used statements from AI to advance the notion of Israeli wrongdoing.

Amnesty International’s latest report was published on November 5th and as usual is based on subjective ‘eye witness’ accounts. Predictably the report reaches the conclusion that the incidents it examined are evidence that: “[t]he repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law”.

Of course any objective assessment of whether or not a specific Israeli action adhered to principles of proportionality is dependent upon the assessor being familiar with their target and perceived military benefit. There is no evidence to suggest that the writers of this AI report were privy to such information.

Amnesty International further concludes that:

“Given the failure of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to independently and impartially investigate allegations of war crimes, it is imperative that the international community support the involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Amnesty International is renewing its calls on Israel and the Palestinian authorities to accede to the Rome Statute and grant the ICC the authority to investigate crimes committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The organization is also calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Israel and the OPT to the ICC so that the prosecutor can investigate allegations of crimes under international law by all parties.”

With Amnesty International being one of the NGOs involved in political warfare against Israel, it is hardly surprising to find it promoting such assertions. And with the BBC having made its own frequent contributions to advancing the agendas of those NGOs engaged in ‘lawfare’ during and after the recent conflict (see here, here and here), it was also not astonishing to see the man responsible for the BBC’s Middle East content promoting that flawed AI report on Twitter.

AI report Bowen Tweet

Another view of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip this summer provided on November 6th by a man who has somewhat more credible credentials when it comes to assessing military matters.

“The highest-ranking U.S. military officer said on Thursday that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to limit civilian casualties in the recent war in Gaza and that the Pentagon had sent a team to see what lessons could be learned from the operation.

Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged recent reports criticizing civilian deaths during the 50-day Gaza war this year but told an audience in New York he thought the Israel Defense Forces “did what they could” to avoid civilian casualties. […]

“I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties,” Dempsey told the group.

“In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties,” he added. […]

Dempsey said the Pentagon three months ago sent a “lessons-learned team” of senior officers and non-commissioned officers to work with the IDF to see what could be learned from the Gaza operation, “to include the measures they took to prevent civilian casualties and what they did with tunneling.”

The general said civilian casualties during the conflict were “tragic, but I think the IDF did what they could” to avoid them.”

Needless to say, Jeremy Bowen’s one hundred and eleven thousand Twitter followers have, at the time of writing, yet to be informed of General Dempsey’s assessment.