Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Whilst stuck in early morning traffic on the way to Manchester airport last Monday I found myself listening to BBC Radio 5 live’s morning broadcast. The programme understandably focused mostly on the weekend’s terror attacks in Paris and one feature particularly notable to Israeli ears was the effort made to personalise and humanise the victims. 

Listeners were given a range of information which typically included names, ages, occupations, family statuses, places of birth and education and in some cases also heard of the reactions of loved ones. Such information of course enables the listener to get beyond mere casualty figures and goes some way towards helping audiences appreciate the individual personal tragedies of victims and their families.

A week on from the attacks, that trend continues to be a feature of BBC content, with an article titled “Paris attacks: Who were the victims?” appearing on the homepage and World page of the BBC News website on November 20th and the BBC News Twitter account promoting a Facebook post devoted to tributes to the victims.

BBC News Twitter paris Victims 1

BBC News Twitter Paris victims 2

BBC News FB Paris victims

By way of contrast, the BBC’s descriptions of five victims of terror murdered in two separate attacks on November 19th in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion are notable for the paucity of personal details. TA & Gush attacks 19 11

“Five people have been killed in two attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, officials say.

In the first attack, two Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian man at the entrance of a shop that serves as a synagogue in the city of Tel Aviv.

Later, a third Israeli, a Jewish American and a Palestinian were killed in an attack near a Jewish settlement.” […]

“One of the victims, a man in his 20s, was declared dead at the scene by the Magen David Adom ambulance service. The second was rushed to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.” […]

“Hours later, an attacker in a car opened fire at a busy junction and then crashed into a group of pedestrians, killing three people and injuring several others, the Israeli military said.

Two of the dead were identified as Jewish – an 18-year-old American tourist and a 50-year-old Israeli. The third was a Palestinian.”

Rabbi Aharon Yesayev, 32, from Tel Aviv, Reuven Aviram, 51, from Ramle, Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Massachusetts, Yaakov Don, 49, from Alon Shvut, and Shadi Arafa, 40, from Hebron were not even named by the BBC in its report on the two incidents – even though that information was in the public domain by the time its final version was updated. Their photographs and personal stories are not featured in any dedicated BBC article or Facebook post.

Predictably, the BBC article on the attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion does not mention the word ‘terror’ whilst the article about the victims murdered in Paris opens with the words “Tributes have been paid to the 130 people who lost their lives in the Paris terror attacks”. Evidently the BBC’s two-tier system of reporting terror attacks is not only confined to the use of language.

BBC Trending, Saudi Arabia and the missing link

On September 23rd an article by BBC Trending appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “The young Saudi who could be executed at any time“.

Trending Saudi story on ME pge

The article relates to social media interest in the case of a Saudi Arabian citizen sentenced to death in May 2014.

“Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr could be beheaded at any time, and now activists are rallying to highlight his case online. He’s accused of a variety of crimes against the state, all stemming from protests he took part in against the Saudi government. His appeals against a death sentence are exhausted.”BBC Trending Saudi Arabia

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“… the trend really spiked big on Wednesday. Al-Nimr’s name has now been mentioned 15,000 times in English and 21,000 times in Arabic over the past few days, with liberal and secular activists and human rights organisations leading the charge. “Our leading ally in the region crucify government critics,” tweeted one British blogger. “Wake up world.” Under Saudi law, the punishment of crucifixion to which al-Nimr was sentenced is actually a beheading, followed by the public display of the body. Others online linked the case with the recent appointment of a Saudi ambassador as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council. “Saudi Arabia chosen to head UN’s human’s rights panel & yet they’re about to behead 21yr activist,” one user commented.”

However as readers will see if they follow that link about the election of Saudi Arabia to a UN Human Rights Council panel, the writer of this article had to link to a report on the subject from the Independent – presumably because to date the BBC has refrained from producing any reporting of its own on that matter.

Quite why the BBC did not consider it newsworthy when one of the worst human rights abusing regimes in the world bagged a top position at a UN body it regularly quotes and promotes  (including on Gaza Strip casualty figures during the summer 2014 conflict) is of course a question in itself.

But the timing of this particular example of BBC self-censorship is all the more remarkable because just last week the BBC News Press Team saw fit to promote a particular quote from the latest article by a Carnegie Europe employee (there has been at least one other) extolling the virtues of the BBC World Service on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy.

Press Team tweet

Surely one would expect a media organization which touts its credentials as an agent of freedom and democracy to be among the first to report on the fact that a UN panel responsible for selecting officials who shape international human rights standards has been placed in the hands of a non-democratic, human rights abusing regime which employs medieval-style punishments

BBC editorial guidelines breached in report on Hebron incident

On September 23rd a Tweet sent from the BBC News account suggested that the most important thing audiences needed to know about a woman who tried to stab an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron was that she was a “student”.

Hebron incident BBC World tweet

That Tweet linked to an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Clashes after funeral of Palestinian shot in West Bank” and opened with interesting use of a revealing adjective:Hebron incident art

“There have been clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the West Bank after the funeral of a woman shot at a checkpoint on Tuesday.

The youths threw stones at the troops in the divided city of Hebron, who fired stun grenades and tear gas.” [emphasis added]

Readers are not informed that the arrangements in Hebron, whereby Israel controls Area H2 and the PA controls Area H1, are the result of the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, signed by the representatives of the Palestinians within the framework of the Oslo Accords.

One hundred and thirteen words of this 487 word article are given over to the IDF’s account of the incident.

“The Israeli military said Hadeel al-Hashlamun, an 18-year-old student, was killed after she pulled out a knife and attempted to stab a soldier. […]

The Israeli military said that Ms Hashlamun was walking through a checkpoint dividing the Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled parts of Hebron on Tuesday when a metal detector went off.

“Forces called for her to halt, which she ignored, and she continued moving while also pulling out a knife,” a statement said.

“At this point, forces fired at the ground, then at her lower extremities in attempts to stop her advancement. The perpetrator continued and at this point, recognising a clear and present danger to their safety, the forces fired toward her.””

Double that word count – 226 words – is devoted to promotion of a contradictory account of the incident and statements from the attacker’s family. Readers are told that:

“Photographs of the incident published by Palestinian activists show a veiled woman believed to be Ms Hashlamun standing in front of two soldiers who are aiming their rifles at her.”

The article includes a photograph similar to the above description which is credited to ‘Youth Against Settlements’ but – not for the first time and in breach of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality – the BBC refrains from informing audiences of the political agenda of that group and its “activists”.

Notably, despite its generous amplification of the messaging of ‘Youth Against Settlements’ (which included claims that she was not carrying a knife) the BBC did not find it appropriate to show readers another available photograph showing the knife carried by the attacker.

Hebron incident ABD tweet

Earlier on in the report readers are accurately informed that:

“Ms Hashlamun’s death came shortly after that of another Palestinian, who the Israeli military said was killed when a bomb he was trying to throw at soldiers blew up in a village near Hebron.”

Notably however, the BBC refrains from informing readers that the man – Dia al Talahmeh – was a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and that misinformation concerning that incident was also promoted by Palestinian sources, with false claims that he had been shot by Israeli forces circulating widely.

It is worth recalling that the opaquely funded group ‘Youth Against Settlements’, which is actually the source of the narrative amplified in this report, has previously been given BBC platforms (see related articles) from which to promote the claim that last summer’s search and rescue operation in Hebron following the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers was “a kind of revenge against the Palestinian civilians” and the notion that “Israeli society is getting more aggressive and extreme”.

As long as the BBC continues to promote messaging from political NGOs without informing audiences of their underlying agenda as its editorial guidelines demand, it cannot of course meet its remit of enhancing audience understanding of international issues.

Related Articles:

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Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ of teens’ kidnappings breaches BBC editorial guidelines


BBC exploits European migrant crisis for political messaging on ‘educational’ site

BBC produced content is of course widely used by researchers, academics, educators and teachers as well as members of the general public seeking factual information. One of the corporation’s projects is a website called ‘iWonder’ – billed as “the BBC’s new factual and educational site” at the time of its launch in 2014.

As we have had occasion to note here before (see related articles below), one might expect that a website with such a mission statement would make all the more effort to ensure that its content is historically accurate, factual and impartial.

In the midst of its recent special coverage of the migrant crisis in Europe, BBC News offered audiences a link to additional content on the topic of migrants.

Tweet iWonder link

That link leads to the iWonder website and a feature titled “The Longer View: Migrant crises” which is introduced as follows:

“Echoes through history

The current migrant crisis in Europe has made headlines around the world as millions seek refuge in countries across the continent.

The scale of the crisis in 2015 has not been seen since the end of World War Two, but tackling mass migration has proved to be an almost constant concern. From Biafra to the Balkans, solutions are rarely straightforward.”

The first item in that feature is titled “Exodus” and includes an archive video which does nothing to clarify to audiences that the British policy of restricting immigration of Jews to Palestine began long before July 1947 and fails to explain the legal basis of Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine.

iWonder Exodus

Those following the link titled “Watch: People of the Exodus” arrive at content produced by film-maker – not historian – Adam Curtis (who has a blog hosted by the BBC) headlined “21 Miles Off The Coast of Palestine“.

The post was written on June 2nd 2010 – and the significance of that soon becomes apparent. The article begins:

“Here is a strange echo from history.

It is a documentary made by the BBC in 1973 about the story of the ship, the Exodus.

It was the ship full of Jewish refugees – many of them survivors of the Holocaust – that tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in 1947. The participants from both sides appear and describe in detail how British soldiers boarded the ship 21 miles off the coast of Palestine killing 3 of the refugees and wounding others.

It caused an international scandal and was a PR disaster for the British government. It is seen in Israel today as one of the most significant events that led to the founding of the modern Israeli state.

The shock was compounded when the British took most of the refugees back to Germany and put them on trains and sent them to internment camps.”

But then the material promoted by BBC News as educational background to the current migrant crisis takes a sinister turn as Curtis continues:

“As you watch the film – it raises complex reactions and thoughts in your mind. But it is ironic that, although the two events are in many ways completely different, the Israelis are now preventing Palestinians and supporters of Hamas from doing what the Israeli defence organisation – the Haganah – tried to do over 60 years ago.” [emphasis added]

Yes – BBC ‘educational’ content on the subject of Holocaust survivors trying to reach Mandate Palestine really does promote a politicized and totally redundant comparison between the story of the ‘Exodus’ and the agitprop of the Mavi Marmara incident which took place two days before Curtis published this post.

The third item on this feature’s homepage is titled “Palestinians in exile”.

iWonder Palestinians in exile

There too audiences see highly partisan archive material which fails to explain to viewers why refugees who received Jordanian citizenship and were at the time living in territory occupied by Jordan were still the holders of refugee status. Those clicking on the link titled “Obstacles to Arab-Israeli peace: Palestinian refugees” arrive at the highly problematic article of the same name dated 2010 (but actually produced by Martin Asser quite some time before that) which was previously discussed on these pages here and here.

The failure to meet editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality is of course a grave issue at any time but when content specifically described as “factual and educational” fails to live up to those standards and is further employed as a platform for political messaging, it is time to ask some serious questions about the BBC’s role as a provider of educational material.

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BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble


BBC India provides another example of BBC double standards on terrorism

h/t J

Last month we noted on these pages that whilst in its coverage of the June 26th attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait the BBC made ample use of the word terror, that term was absent from its coverage of the November 2014 attack on worshippers at the synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem – as is generally the case in BBC reporting on terrorism in Israel.

Despite the professed policy of “achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism” which appears in the BBC’s Guidance concerning “Language when Reporting Terrorism“, there is in fact a lack of consistency in the corporation’s coverage of that subject, as has been recorded here on numerous occasions.

And whilst the guidance claims that “[w]e try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution” and “we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves” on the grounds that “[t]he word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding”, the BBC’s coverage of the recent memorial services for the victims of the 2005 London terror attacks rightly did not “avoid the word”.

BBC 7 7 tweet

On July 27th the BBC India Twitter account promoted an article about that day’s attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab with the following oddly worded Tweet.

BBC India tweet Punjab

The dozens of angry replies to that Tweet are worthy of note.

According to the local police:

“….the attackers first targeted a roadside eatery and took off in a white Maruti 800 with Punjab registration number. They shot dead a roadside vendor near Dinanagar bypass.

They opened fire on passengers of a moving Punjab roadways bus before targeting a community health centre adjacent to Dinanagar police station.

The gunmen barged into the Dinanagar police station and opened indiscriminate fire. The terrorists also targeted another part of the complex where the families of police personnel reside and hurled grenades.” 

In other words, the attacks on civilian targets including a bus, an eatery and a health centre indicate that the method used to carry out this attack was terrorism.

Once again we see that the BBC fails to distinguish between method and aims and as has been noted here previously:

“The result of that is that when a perceived cause is considered acceptable and justifiable, the description of the means is adjusted accordingly.

Until BBC editors do indeed begin to separate the means from the ends, it will of course be impossible for the corporation to present a consistent, uniform approach to the subject of terrorism, to adhere to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality and to fulfil its purpose to educate and inform.” 

Related Articles:

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The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

The BBC’s guidance on “Language when Reporting Terrorism” states: [emphasis added]

Our policy is about achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism. We recognise the existence and the reality of terrorism – at this point in the twenty first century we could hardly do otherwise. Moreover, we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.

We also need to ensure that when we report acts of terror, we do so consistently in the stories we report across our services. We have learnt from the experience of covering such events in Northern Ireland as much as in Israel, Spain, Russia, Southern Africa or the many other places where violence divides communities, and where we seek to be seen as objective by all sides, that labels applied to groups can sometimes hinder rather than help.”


“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. [….]

We also need to ask ourselves whether by using “terrorist” we are taking a political position, or certainly one that may be seen as such.”

However, as has frequently been noted on these pages the BBC’s reporting on terrorism is in fact anything but consistent and the corporation’s reporting on the wave of terror attacks which took place in three countries on June 26th provided another example of that phenomenon.

When two terrorists armed with a gun, knives and axes walked into a Jerusalem synagogue in November 2014 and slaughtered early morning worshippers, the BBC did not categorise that incident as a terror attack.

“One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.”

When at least one terrorist armed with a rifle walked onto a beach in Tunisia in June 2015 and gunned down equally unsuspecting tourists, the language used by the BBC in some of its coverage was very clear.

Tunisia 1

Tunisia 2

Coverage of the other attacks which took place on the same day in France and Kuwait also employed the word terror.

France 1

France 2

BBC terror attacks 1

One can only imagine what the public and parliamentary reaction would have been if – as it did following the January terror attacks in Paris – the BBC had promoted the view that the word terrorist was too “loaded” for use in coverage of the murder of British holiday makers in Tunisia.

But the fact that in this case appropriate use of the word terror was seen in some of the BBC’s coverage of these attacks only serves to further highlight the inconsistency of its practice and the absence of universality in its professed avoidance of making “value judgements”.

Related Articles:

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The pattern continues: no coverage of Gaza missile attacks in English but BBC Arabic reports Israeli response

For the third time in less than two weeks, missile attacks from the Gaza Strip aimed at Israeli civilians were not reported on the BBC’s English language website but the Israeli response to those terror attacks was covered on the corporation’s Arabic language site.

At around 9:30 p.m. on June 6th residents in the Ashkelon and Hof Ashkelon areas of southern Israel had to run for cover as air-raid sirens sounded a warning of incoming missile fire from the Gaza Strip. One projectile landed in a field in the Hof Ashkelon area, fortunately causing no injuries. Overnight Israel responded with strikes on terror infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip’s Bet Lahia region and it was announced that the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings would not be opened on June 7th. In addition to the Iron Dome missile defence batteries already deployed two days earlier in southern Israel due to the recent rise in missile fire, a further unit was deployed near Rehovot.

As was the case after the previous attack three days earlier, the missile fire was claimed by a Salafist group in the Gaza Strip and Channel 10’s Hezi Simantov reported that a senior figure in the group told the paper ‘Al Quds’ that such attacks against Israel would continue as long as Hamas continues to hold members of the group under arrest and to ‘persecute’ Salafists in the Gaza Strip.

Whilst the BBC has made a habit of concealing the fact, last summer’s fifty-day conflict between Hamas and Israel also began with attacks by other, smaller, terrorist groups and Hamas’ decision to join in the missile fire was prompted by issues by no means exclusively related to Israel, such as the PA’s refusal to pay the salaries of Hamas employees and the closure of the Rafah border crossing by Egypt.

One might therefore have thought that the BBC would have shown some interest in reporting a second missile attack in three days – and the third in less than two weeks – not only because of the inevitable resulting rise in tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip, but also (especially considering that only two months ago it enthusiastically promoted Khaled Masha’al’s claim that “There is no Daesh [ISIS], no IS or Al Qaeda in Palestine. There are some lone wolves but they are isolated. We don’t allow such thoughts in Palestine”) from the angle of the infighting within the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ failure to prevent other factions from breaching the ceasefire.

However, the BBC’s English language website once again carried no coverage whatsoever of this latest attack. On the other hand, the 1.7 million followers of the BBC Arabic Twitter account were told that “Israeli warplanes bombed the site of the Qassam Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip”.

BBC Arabic 7 june tweet

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website found the same context-free headline in an article which once again leads with the effect rather than the cause.

BBC Arabic 7 june art

As we see, a pattern has been established with regard to the reporting of missile fire from the Gaza Strip. Whilst audiences using the BBC’s English language website are not told of the attacks at all, readers of the BBC Arabic website get to hear first and foremost about the Israeli responses to such attacks.

However one wishes to describe this ongoing editorial policy, the appropriate title is certainly not accurate and impartial journalism.

Related Articles:

Another Gaza Strip missile attack goes unreported by the BBC – in English

BBC News ignores missile attack from Gaza but BBC Arabic reports response

Sniper attack on Gaza Strip border fails to make BBC news in English but reported in Arabic


Contact and Complaints – BBC News online

Contact – BBC Arabic




BBC News ignores missile attack from Gaza but BBC Arabic reports response

On June 4th the 1.69 million people who follow the BBC Arabic Twitter account were sent the following (translated) context-free Tweet.

BBC Arabic 4 june tweet

The link contained in that Tweet leads to an article on the BBC Arabic website which similarly informs audiences of “Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip, no injuries” in its headline. Like the Tweet, that article is illustrated using a picture which has nothing to do with the events being reported and, according to a reverse image search, appears to have been photographed in August 2014.BBC Arabic 4 june art

Only in the article’s fifth paragraph (out of a total of eight) did readers discover that something actually occurred before the Israeli airforce’s actions took place.

“The Israeli army announced on Wednesday evening, three rockets fall in open areas Council  of settlements, “poet Negev” [Sdot Negev – Ed] , near Ashkelon, without final confirmation because of the failure to find remnants of the rocket.”

So what did actually happen on the night of June 3rd?

“Three rockets were shot at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip Wednesday night, police said, sending residents hurrying to bomb shelters for the second time in a little over a week.

The Israel Defense Forces said two rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave and sirens were heard in Netivot and Ashkelon. Police later said three projectiles struck Israel.

The rockets landed in open areas in the Sdot Negev region bordering the northern Gaza Strip, according to media reports.”

Israel later responded to those missile attacks, which were claimed by a Salafist group.

“A radical Islamist Salafist group – the Omar Brigades – claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to Hamas killing an Islamic State supporter.”

The BBC News website’s Middle East page had not carried any coverage of that June 2nd incident.

“A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza said Hamas forces shot Younis al-Honnor dead after he resisted arrest at his home, where he had illegally stockpiled munitions. Witnesses said there was a shoot-out at the site.”

So, as we see once more, the BBC is aware of missile attacks against Israeli civilians being launched from the Gaza Strip but fails to report them on its English language website. However, Israeli responses to those attacks are reported on the corporation’s Arabic language website, but in ‘last-first’ style which focuses audience attentions on effect rather than cause.

This is the sixth missile attack since the ceasefire came into effect at the end of August 2014 and users of the BBC News website have not been informed about any of those attacks at the time of their occurrence.

It is time for the BBC’s funding public to be told why that is the case.

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BBC responds to complaint about Jeremy Bowen’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet

Readers no doubt recall the Tweet below which was sent by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen whilst he was covering the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the US Congress on March 3rd 2015.

Bowen tweets speech 1

A member of the public who made a complaint on that matter has received a response from the Complaints Director at the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit – Richard Hutt – which includes the following:

“You have said that this was profoundly offensive and served to trivialise the Holocaust. Reviewing the tweet it did not seem to me that Mr Bowen was referring to the Holocaust as a mere political card to be played, but rather suggesting this is what Mr Netanyahu was doing. I would accept that this is a fine distinction, and one which the medium may not be best suited to convey. However, the sense I took from it was that Mr Bowen felt Mr Netanyahu had introduced the Holocaust in reference to Iran as a means of influencing the decisions of America’s policy makers about that country. Earlier in Mr Netanyahu’s speech he had drawn direct parallels between Iran and Nazi Germany and in his acknowledgement of Elie Wiesel he returned to that comparison – referring to “dark and murderous regimes” and saying that:

And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The characterisation of those references and that comparison (between Iran now and Nazi Germany in 1938) as the playing of a card does not itself serve to demean the Holocaust or reduce it to a political tool. In fact, accusing another of doing so might suggest quite the opposite.

Some who complained about the tweet have said that it offers evidence of bias, and that the facts regarding Iran support Mr Netanyahu’s decision to bring the holocaust [sic] into the discussion. I appreciate that it might be argued that the denial of the Holocaust by some in Iran, coupled with their belligerence regarding Israel, makes Mr Netanyahu’s reference appropriate. Conversely, some have pointed to profound differences between Iran now and the Nazi state in 1938. It is not, however, for me to pass judgement on the extent to which this reference was apposite, but only on whether Mr Bowen’s characterisation of it amounted to a breach of the BBC’s standards. I cannot say I think it was. The BBC’s guidelines do not prevent correspondents from using their judgement in characterising events and offering their knowledge and experience to offer informed perspectives on them – and this, it seemed to me, was what happened here.

I would accept that this might have been better worded. However, this was not an in-depth article but a single tweet, one of many published over the course of a live event, and the necessary brevity of that format makes extra background impossible – a limitation which I think audiences understand and a context in which it must be judged. I don’t think anyone would look to the tweet for a full understanding of the nuances of the situation in Iran or the speech as a whole but rather a (live) shorthand summary of one aspect of it, as analysed by Mr Bowen. His analysis reflected his particular interpretation of Mr Netanyahu’s comments but as I say such interpretation is allowed and indeed expected of correspondents, particularly from their own Twitter accounts. I don’t therefore believe this amounted to bias.

The BBC’s guidelines do not promise that content will never offend. They do however require that where it might, some editorial justification exists. In this case, I think the informed analysis I describe above would offer that justification, and as I say I do not think this served to belittle the Holocaust in any way. While I recognise and regret that you found this offensive I do not believe it is in breach of the BBC’s standards.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The accepted definition of the idiom ‘play the card’ is to exploit a specific issue for political advantage. In other words, Bowen is accusing Netanyahu of cynically making use of the memory of six million murdered Jews for his own political gain and his use of the words “once again” indicates that Bowen is of the opinion that this is a regular practice on the part of the Israeli prime minister.”

The BBC, it seems, would have us believe that is an ‘informed perspective’ which has “editorial justification”.

Related Articles:

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Commentary on BBC ME editor’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet widens

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

The BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet recently engaged in a Twitter conversation on the subject of her organisation’s reporting of the topic of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels. Some threads from that conversation can be seen here, here and here but readers will get the gist from the screenshot below.

Doucet tunnels twitter convo

Quentin Sommerville’s two reports (previously discussed here) actually related more to the subject of PIJ rearmament than to the reconstruction of tunnels. As for Doucet’s claim that she “mentioned tunnels in many live broadcasts” – that is true as long as one sticks to the dictionary definition of the word ‘mention‘.

In one of her filmed reports from February 25th Doucet said:

“Six months ago there was a welcome, there was a celebration among Gazans, among Israelis – particularly in southern Israel – that a ceasefire had been reached. But look at this now. It’s like a wasteland. You could be forgiven for thinking there’d been a natural disaster here. But this was the result of 51 days of war as Israeli forces entered on the ground and carried out airstrikes and artillery fire looking for the network of underground tunnels in what they had described as a Hamas stronghold.”

In her other filmed report from the same day Doucet said to Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:

“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”

As we noted here previously, Doucet displayed “no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from”.

In an item for the February 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (available here from 2:45:28) Doucet said:

“….where I’m speaking to you from – I’m essentially standing on a huge mound of rubble with slabs of concrete and twisted wire rods, fragments of children’s clothing threaded through these stones and rubble and dirt. But this is what most of Shuja’iya looks like. It still lies in ruins six months after that ceasefire was reached. It lies very close to Gaza’s border with Israel. It bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes, artillery fire and the ground offensive as Israel said it was searching for Hamas tunnels and Hamas military targets.”

In an audio report for the February 25th edition of BBC World Service’s ‘Newshour’ (available from 30:00 here), Doucet introduced an extended version of this item as follows:

“Well there’s a warm winter sun today in Gaza after days of cold rain but I have to say it’s one of the few bright spots – the only bright spot really – you’ll find here in Gaza. I’m in Shuja’iya which lies very close to the border with Israel. And this was a place which bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire as well as the ground invasion as Israeli forces came into this area to destroy the underground tunnels of Hamas and to target – they say – Hamas targets. But the devastation is all around us: the witness to what really happened here around the Gaza Strip.”

So yes: Doucet did “mention” tunnels. She did not, however, present BBC audiences with the comprehensive picture of the threat those tunnels posed to Israeli civilians in the summer of 2014 which would have enhanced their understanding of the actions taken by Israel and the scenes Doucet now reports with so much pathos. Given that most of the reporting produced by Doucet and her colleagues on that subject whilst the conflict was ongoing was similarly lacking – see examples here, here and here – that omission is obviously very significant.

But no: Doucet did not provide BBC audiences with anything which can seriously be described as meaningful reporting on Hamas’ reconstruction of tunnels since the end of the conflict in any of her many recent reports (see related articles below) from the Gaza Strip.

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BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two