Weekend long read

1) Israeli journalist and author RonenBergman writes about the ongoing investigation into the 1994 AMIA centre bombing.Weekend Read

“Investigating Judge Rodolfo Canicoba was appointed to handle the case in Nisman’s place, and he embarked on a world-wide journey in the wake of Ali Velayati, the former Iranian foreign minister, who was one of the suspects on the Interpol arrest warrant that had been issued at Nisman’s request. Each time over the past year when Canicoba heard that Velayati was about to visit another country outside Iran, he asked its government to extradite the Iranian. The most recent of these was Iraq, to which he submitted a demand on October 21, 2016.

Extradition has not yet been executed, and it is doubtful that any country, especially Iraq, will ever risk getting into trouble with Iran by arresting and extraditing so senior a figure as Velayati. But the fact that Argentina has made it clear that it will not drop the matter — together with the warrants dangling over the heads of senior Iranian officials — has a symbolic significance. The case remains one of the most intriguing and dramatic clashes between terrorism and international law in history.”

2) At the Middle East Quarterly, Professor Richard Landes discusses Edward Said’s impact on Western understanding of the Middle East.

“Whether one views the impact of Edward Said (1935-2003) on academia as a brilliant triumph or a catastrophic tragedy, few can question the astonishing scope and penetration of his magnum opus, Orientalism. In one generation, a radical transformation overcame Middle Eastern studies: A new breed of “post-colonial” academics, boasting a liberating, anti-imperialist perspective, replaced a generation of scholars disparaged by Said as “Orientalists.” Nor was this transformation limited to Middle Eastern studies: Said and his post-colonial paradigm assembled a wide range of acolytes in many fields in the social sciences and humanities.”

3) At the NYT, Kenan Malik takes an interesting look at the topic of ‘fake news’.

“In the past, governments, mainstream institutions and newspapers manipulated news and information. Today, anyone with a Facebook account can do it. Instead of the carefully organized fake news of old, there is now an anarchic outflow of lies. What has changed is not that news is faked, but that the old gatekeepers of news have lost their power. Just as elite institutions have lost their grip over the electorate, so their ability to define what is and is not news has also eroded.”

 

 

BBC ignores latest Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza civilian district

Over the past two and a half years the BBC has produced numerous reports from or about the Gaza Strip district of Shuja’iya, many of which have focused on the topic of structural damage resulting from the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas while playing down the issue of the terror infrastructure in that neighbourhood. For example:Tunnel shafts Shujaiya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

“This is the Shuja’iya neighbourhood and the destruction here is immense. Wherever you look buildings have been either hit or they’ve got bullet holes in them. Windows have been blown out and there is rubble all around me. Israel’s army says it went against this neighbourhood because it believed that Palestinian militants were digging tunnels from here to go across the border into Israel and that those militant groups led by Hamas were also carrying out rocket strikes from here.” [emphasis added]

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

“One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.” [emphasis added]

Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

“There’s a single bulldozer working to clear a path through an enormous pile of rubble in Shuja’iya in Gaza. The scale of destruction here is overwhelming. Last month this area was pounded with tank fire and airstrikes as the Israeli military said it set out to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border raids and storing rockets. Dozens of local people were killed and thousands were left homeless.” [emphasis added]

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

“Yes, it’s interesting they use the word ‘massacre’ because Israel calls it a targeting of military sites. But for the people here; so many died they do call it a massacre.” [emphasis added]

Concurrently, since the end of that conflict the BBC has produced little content of any value in contributing to audience understanding of the issue of Hamas’ reconstruction of cross-border attack tunnels.

BBC News sidesteps the real issues in Hamas tunnel collapse story

Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel

Patchy and selective BBC News reporting of Gaza border incidents

In April 2015 the BBC’s Middle East editor told audiences that:

“Israel has walled and fenced Gaza so Hamas opened up another front – underground.”

Jeremy Bowen also misled audiences with an inaccurate description of the purpose of the tunnels:

“Hamas says the tunnels were part of an active defence aimed at military targets.”

On December 7th Hamas announced the deaths of two of its operatives working in a tunnel in Shuja’iya about half a kilometer from the border with Israel. Additional operatives are apparently missing since the tunnel’s collapse.

“Two Hamas terrorists were killed while working on an attack tunnel intended for an infiltration from Gaza into Israel collapsed in the territory near the border with Israel, according to a statement issued by the group.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said another Palestinian was injured in the incident. Hamas said they were working in a “resistance tunnel.””

This latest evidence of Hamas’ efforts to reconstruct its terror infrastructure in civilian neighbourhoods has once again gone unreported by the BBC and audiences continue to be deprived of the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of past or future Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, BBC News did find the time and the column space this week to ensure that its audiences were made aware of some short-lived “guerrilla artwork” in Tel Aviv.  

Related Articles:

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

BBC Gaza bureau’s Abu Alouf hides the Hamas tunnel elephant

 

 

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

Early on the morning of December 7th reports began to emerge from pro-Assad and pro-Hizballah sources concerning an explosion at the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus.

““Residents of the capital Damascus awoke at approximately 4:00 a.m. to the [sound] of explosions and rising flames and smoke inside the Mazzeh Military Airport,” Al-Mayadeen reported Wednesday morning, citing a statement issued by the Hezbollah-affiliated War Media.

“It is almost certain that Zionist rockets targeted the Mazzeh Military Airport from Lebanese airspace,” the statement said, adding that the Syrian government has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.

Explosions rocked the facility for half an hour while ambulances rushed to the scene, according to the statement carried by Al-Mayadeen, a Beirut-based network that staunchly supports the Bashar al-Assad regime. […]

Meanwhile, a pro-Assad news page based in the regime’s coastal heartland was one of the first to claim that Israeli raids targeted the Mazzeh facility.

“Two Israeli raids targeted the Mazzeh military airport… a number of people have been martyred and injured,” the Al-Bahluliyah News Agency alleged in a post that included footage purporting to show blasts rip through the airport. […]

However, another claim circulated on pro-regime social media outlets held that the explosions were merely the result of an accidental discharge in an arms depot located within the airport.”

Later on in the day, Syrian state media made similar claims, peppered with the usual regime propaganda.

““At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

SANA said the missiles were fired from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada,” a mountain in the Israeli Golan Heights known as Mount Avital in Israel.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.”

Other Arabic media, including al Jazeera and al Arabiya, confirmed that a large explosion had occurred at the airport. Some reports said the fire was caused when a weapons depot exploded.”

Despite the unreliability of those obviously partisan sources and the absence of any confirmation of the allegations, some 17 hours after the event visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page were informed that “‘Israeli missiles’ hit Damascus airbase”.

me-homepage-damascus-airbase

The article to which that link leads is headlined “Syria conflict: ‘Israel missiles’ hit Damascus military airport” and tagged ‘Syrian civil war’ despite the fact that its subject matter is not connected to that topic.damascus-airbase-art

“Syrian state media say an Israeli missile strike has targeted a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus.

The attack in Mezzeh is reported to have caused fires, but no casualties.

The Israeli military has made no comment, but it is the second time in a week that it is alleged to have carried out a strike on Syrian territory.”

The BBC’s report uncritically amplifies the Syrian regime allegations:

“Syria’s state news agency, Sana, cited a military source as saying that a number of surface-to-surface missiles landed around Mezzeh airport at 03:00 (00:00 GMT).

They were reportedly fired by Israeli forces from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada”, a mountain in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights known as Mount Avital to Israelis.”

It then goes on to unquestioningly amplify Syrian regime propaganda:

“The military source said the attack was part of Israel’s “desperate attempts” to support “terrorist groups and raise their deteriorating morale”, an apparent reference to recent losses on the battlefield by Western-backed rebel forces.”

This is the second time in a week – and at least the tenth time in the last three years – that the BBC has given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

The BBC clearly needs to explain to its funding public why they are being serially fed unqualified, inaccurate Syrian regime propaganda that obviously hinders understanding of this particular “international issue“.  

Related Articles:

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

 

 

 

 

BBC still mum on Hizballah’s human shields in south Lebanon

Back in August we reviewed the BBC’s coverage of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolution 1701 throughout the ten years since it was passed.

“The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?”

As was noted in that review:

“In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.”

The IDF recently released a declassified map showing Hizballah’s assets in part of southern Lebanon.

“The map, according to Channel 2 News, features over 200 towns and villages which the organization has turned into its operations bases, and shows over 10,000 potential targets for Israeli strikes in the event of a new war with the terror group.”

idf-map-hizb-assets

BBC audiences, however, remain unaware of this issue and will therefore be incapable of understanding the context to any future Israeli actions which might be necessary to protect the civilian population of northern Israel.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder which underwent extensive editing during the ten days following its original publication and is currently available online under the headline “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?“.backgrounder

As was noted here at the time, the backgrounder failed to provide BBC audiences with a comprehensive view of its purported subject matter.

“The question posed in its headline is addressed in a relatively small section of the report (fewer than 200 words) which actually does little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fueling the current wave of terror, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.” 

Moreover, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism on official social media accounts belonging to Fatah was downplayed in another section of the backgrounder: [emphasis added]

“The stabbing attacks seem to be spontaneous and although they have been praised by militant groups and supporters of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on social media, Mr Abbas has said Palestinians are not interested in a further escalation.”

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. The first article opened with the following interestingly punctuated statement:FB art technology

“Government ministers in Israel have accused Facebook of failing to tackle “inciteful” posts against the country on the social network.”

In the second of those reports the BBC found it appropriate to amplify a statement from Hamas:

“Hamas called the lawsuit an Israeli attempt to blackmail Facebook. […]

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of trying to turn it [Facebook] into a spy tool against Palestinians. […]

“The real test for the owners of Facebook is to reject this pressure,” he said.”

Despite quoting a report by the Quartet which “identified “the spreading of incitement to violence on social media” by Palestinians as a key issue” (an aspect of the report downplayed in previous BBC reporting), the second article nevertheless used the frequently seen qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to describe the links between incitement on social media and acts of violence.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement on social media has fuelled a wave of attacks since October, which have killed 35 Israelis and four people of other nationalities.

In October 2016, listeners to a programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

To date – notwithstanding recognition of the issue by the Quartet and Facebook – the BBC has yet to provide its audiences with information which would broaden their understanding of the connection between official and unofficial Palestinian incitement and terrorism.

In contrast, on December 6th 2016 BBC Technology produced an article titled “EU criticises tech firms for slow action on hate speech“.eu-social-media

“Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are falling short of a commitment to tackle hate speech quickly, research suggests.

The European Commission looked into whether the tech giants were meeting a pledge to remove hate speech within 24 hours of it being reported. […]

The pledge was made in May when the firms signed up to a “code of conduct” brokered by the Commission.”

Notably, the BBC did not find it necessary to amplify statements made by those posting online hate speech and incitement in Europe suggesting that the monitoring and removal of such posts amounts to “a spy tool”.

In the link directing readers to the EU’s press release concerning the “code of conduct”, BBC audiences find the following:

“Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said, “The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. […]

Following the EU Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in October 2015 on ‘Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating Antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe’, the Commission initiated a dialogue with IT companies, in cooperation with Member States and civil society, to see how best to tackle illegal online hate speech which spreads violence and hate.

The recent terror attacks and the use of social media by terrorist groups to radicalise young people have given more urgency to tackling this issue.”

Ms Jourova is also quoted twice in the body of the article itself:

‘”The last weeks and months have shown that social media companies need to live up to their important role and take up their share of responsibility when it comes to phenomena like online radicalisation, illegal hate speech or fake news,” said Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova in a statement. […]

“It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online,” said Ms Jourova. “While IT Companies are moving in the right direction, the first results show that the IT companies will need to do more to make it a success.”‘

Notably, the BBC did not find it necessary to qualify the EU’s statements describing such social media posts as incitement or to question the EU’s linkage between online hate speech and violence. Indeed, the caption to the image illustrating the article informs readers that:

“Terror attacks in Europe led the Commission to seek support from tech firms in tackling hate speech”

Neither did this report find it appropriate to portray racist posts on social media as “narrative” or to suggest to audiences that hate speech might be seen as “telling the truth”.

While Israel and the EU are both trying to tackle the problem of online hate speech and incitement to violence in similar ways, we see that the BBC’s approach to the story differs according to geography. 

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s ‘explanation’ of the current wave of terror

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

BBC still portraying incitement as an ‘Israel says’ story

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

A common feature of accepted definitions of antisemitism is their recognition of the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination as a form of antisemitism.

For example:

The US State Department definition of antisemitism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist”.

The EUMC working definition of antisemitism (used in the UK by the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and in the College of Policing Hate Crime Operational Guidance (2014))

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitionof antisemitism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC does not currently use any of those accepted definitions (including when addressing relevant complaints). However – and notwithstanding its own record – the corporation has in the past produced content purporting to inform its audiences on the topics of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Another production in that genre was aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Beyond Belief’ on November 28th with the synopsis stating:beyond-belief-28-11

“A new term of abuse has emerged on social media, Zio, a shortened form of Zionist. Meanwhile the evidence suggests that anti Semitism is on the rise in Britain. There have been high profile cases of politicians who have been disciplined for anti Semitic comments. There appears to be some confusion even within the Jewish community over what Zionism means, whether a distinction should be drawn between anti Semitism and anti Zionism and what the relationship is between Judaism and Zionism. Ernie Rea brings together three Jews to discuss these issues.”

In his very similar introduction, host Ernie Rea likewise alleged that there is “confusion over what Zionism means” and asked “is there any distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?”, claiming that “there are different views even within the Jewish community”.

In other words, the BBC continues to fruitlessly ‘discuss’ issues previously addressed by expert bodies, while failing to inform its audiences of the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism which have already answered the question of whether anti-Zionism – ie the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – is an expression of antisemitism.

Another notable feature of this programme was its misleading portrayal of the Palestinian people as entirely passive actors.

At around 11:50 listeners (the majority of whom will not of course be familiar with the relevant history) heard Ernie Rea say: [emphasis added]

“Well let’s move on. We’ve mentioned Balfour I think twice. 1917 – he declared in the Balfour Declaration that there should be a homeland for the Jewish people. It opened up the possibility for the first time of a homeland for the Jewish people. Subsequent to that we had the rise of the Nazis in Germany. We had the Holocaust with six million Jews losing their lives and then at the end of that there was a State of Israel declared in 1948 with – it has to be said – pretty dire consequences for the Palestinians.”

Later on – from around 18:27 – listeners heard guest Robert Cohen say:

“…what the Jewish community in Britain needs to understand is that Zionism is not…is not a project that was…that could be carried out in all innocence without it having a catastrophic effect on another people. So if you want to pursue the idea that Zionism is part of Judaism then you end up saying that Judaism is responsible for some very terrible things that have happened to another group of people in the land that we call holy.”

And from around 23:50 listeners heard Cohen claim that Zionism is different from “other nationalisms” because:

“It involved mass migrations. It had to involve transfers of people from Europe back to Palestine and you were only going to get a Jewish majority if the indigenous Arab Palestinian people became displaced one way or another.”

Beyond the fact that no effort was made by the programme’s host to make listeners aware of the hundreds of thousands of Jews displaced from Arab and Muslim lands who found refuge in Israel, it is remarkable that throughout this programme, Zionism is portrayed as a movement which brought “dire consequences” and a “catastrophic effect” on “displaced” Palestinians with absolutely no context offered concerning the part played by Arab nations in those events.

Obviously such a context-free and inaccurate portrayal of historic events does not meet the BBC’s remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

Superficial BBC portrayal of proposed ‘Regulation Bill’

On the morning of December 6th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel advances bill to legalise West Bank settlements”. Around five hours later the article was completely re-written and the headline changed to read “Israeli MPs advance bill to legalise West Bank outposts”.

As long as a decade ago, the BBC’s ‘style guide’ alerted the corporation’s journalists to the difference between ‘settlements’ and ‘outposts’.

“Outposts

Be careful that you don’t mean settlements. They are very different.

Outposts are usually little more than a few caravans occupying a hilltop. They serve a dual purpose: firstly to create new facts on the ground and expand the land included in the adjoining settlement; secondly to defy the Israeli government and show the strength of the settler movement.

Some of these outposts are called ‘unauthorised outposts’ by the Israeli government – generally meaning no permission was granted for them. You can describe an outpost as unauthorised by the Israeli government if that is accurate and relevant to the specific case you are considering.”

The current version of the BBC’s article informs audiences that:

Version 2

Version 2

“Israeli MPs have given preliminary backing to a controversial bill to legalise thousands of unauthorised Jewish homes in the West Bank. […]

The bill, which would legitimise about 4,000 settler homes, still needs to pass three readings in Israel’s parliament to become law.”

BBC audiences are not told that the Attorney General has voiced his opposition to the bill or – as the Times of Israel explains in a useful backgrounder – that:

“Even if the bill makes it through the first, second and third readings, many analysts believe that the Supreme Court will eventually rule that the law is unconstitutional.”

Readers are provided with the usual partial and blinkered BBC mantra concerning ‘international law’, together with uncritical amplification of PLO demands.

“The international community regards all settlements as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Palestinians see settlements as a major obstacle to a peace deal with Israel.

They want all settlements and outposts to be removed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they seek for a future Palestinian state.”

No effort is made to inform BBC audiences of the details of the bill.

“The bill — if it passes three more readings in the Knesset and is not subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court — would legalize housing units built by settlers on private Palestinian land, if the construction was carried out in good faith: If the settlers did not know that the land they were building on was privately owned by Palestinians, and received some kind of assistance from the state, they would be allowed to remain there. […]

The bill, sponsored by Jewish Home MKs Betzalel Smotrich and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Likud MKs David Bitan and Yoav Kisch, allows the government to appropriate land for its own use if the owners are unknown. If the owners are known, they will be eligible for yearly damages amounting to 125 percent of the value of leasing the land or a larger financial package valued at 20 years’ worth of leasing the plots, or alternate plots.”

Neither are readers given any insight into the political background to the bill in this highly superficial report which does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue.

BBC ignores a good news story from Gaza

Last year the BBC World Service’s business department produced a series of highly politicised reports concerning the economy in the Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Notably, the BBC appears to be less interested in reporting some recent good news on the Gaza economic front.

“The Coca-Cola Company inaugurated its first bottling plant in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a facility which will eventually employ 270 people and indirectly support hundreds of households. […]

The new plant currently employs 120 workers, spans more than 15,000 square meters and contains a single bottling line capable of filling up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Over the next three years the company plans to introduce a second line and expand the number of workers to 270.”

The plant also provides additional employment opportunities:

“Expectations were high in the Gaza Strip in the months leading up to the opening of the plant not only because it meant an end to the import of coke products through border crossings, but also because of the 120 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs the plant brings to workers, suppliers and distributors.”

To date there has been no BBC reporting on that story. 

BBC Academy touts Jeremy Bowen Gaza report as model journalism

Under the heading “Journalism Skills Reporting”, the BBC Academy published a video of a report produced by Jeremy Bowen in 2009 as an example of best practice when “Describing the scene”.academy-bowen

“At its most basic, journalism is about telling people what you’ve found out, what’s around you, and what you can see. You’re there – the audience isn’t. Some of the most powerful reporting is cast in this mould.

It’s tempting, especially when you’re reporting from an extraordinary scene, to overload your audience with how you feel about the events whose aftermath you’re witnessing.

It’s also easy to leap to considering the causes or context. Sometimes that’s important; often it gets in the way.

Watch Jeremy Bowen as he reports from a bomb site in Gaza in 2009. His commentary on what he sees as he walks around the room is cool, clear, dispassionate, and powerful.”

Like the BBC Academy’s portrayal of the circumstances in which the report was made, Bowen’s commentary is completely devoid of the context behind that story.

“The IDF concluded Wednesday that Israeli tank shells caused the deaths of four Palestinian girls, including three daughters of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, when his house was accidentally attacked on January 16, during Operation Cast Lead. Following the investigation, the army confirmed that two shells had hit the building. […] The IDF said that a Golani Brigade force was operating near Beit Lahiya when it came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives. After determining that the source of the fire was in a building adjacent to Abuelaish’s home, the force returned fire. While the IDF was shooting, suspicious figures were identified in the top floors of the doctor’s house, and the troops believed the figures were directing the Hamas sniper and mortar fire, the army said. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures, and it was from this fire that his three daughters were killed, said the IDF. Once the soldiers realized that civilians, and not Hamas gunmen, were in the house they ceased fire immediately, continued the army. […] The IDF Spokesman’s Unit stressed that in the days prior to the incident, Abuelaish – who had worked before at Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center and had very good connections with Israelis – was contacted personally several times by officers in the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration to urge him to evacuate his home because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days. In addition to the personal contact made directly with the doctor, the IDF issued warnings to the residents of Sajaiya by dropping thousands of leaflets and by issuing warnings via Palestinian media outlets.”

While the BBC Academy apparently holds the view that “context […] often… gets in the way”, it is difficult to see how BBC journalists can fulfil the corporation’s remit of building “understanding of international issues” if context is deemed an optional extra.

Related Articles:

Context erased from BBC report concerning 2009 Gaza incident

What does the BBC Academy teach the corporation’s journalists about Judaism?

BBC’s new foreign language services raise an old question

As readers may be aware, the BBC recently announced the expansion of its foreign language services.ws-expansion

“The BBC World Service will launch 11 new language services as part of its biggest expansion “since the 1940s”, the corporation has announced. […]

The new languages will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.”

With that announcement meaning that the BBC will be broadcasting in forty foreign languages,  the longstanding issue of the accuracy and impartiality of content produced by the BBC’s foreign language services is obviously of interest.

The BBC World Service Operating Licence published in November 2016 does not clarify the mechanism by which adherence to the four relevant BBC public purposes or compliance with editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality are to be ensured for broadcasts in foreign languages although the licence does state that:

“As far as is relevant, the editorial standards that apply to the BBC’s UK Public Services apply equally to the BBC’s international services.”

The BBC World Service webpage directs members of the public wishing to make complaints to the general online complaints form. However, in our experience when complaints have been made about foreign language reports (for example, this one in Persian), the BBC complaints department has declared itself unable to deal with the complaint and suggested contacting the department which produced the programme.

With OFCOM set to take over later stage handling of complaints from the BBC next year, the issue of the technical ability to handle complaints concerning foreign language content at both early and advanced stages is clearly one which needs to be addressed and clarified to members of the BBC’s funding public.

Related Articles:

BBC headlines for same story differ according to target audiences

BBC Arabic misleads on naval blockade of Gaza Strip

Why is BBC Arabic feeding its audiences politicised terminology?