BBC News misleads on Covid 19 cases in Bnei Brak

On April 3rd the BBC News website published a report headlined “Coronavirus: Ultra-Orthodox Israeli town of Bnei Brak under lockdown” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Readers of the report were told that:

“A senior health official said almost 40% of the town’s 200,000 inhabitants probably had the virus.”

And:

“Bnei Brak is only second to the much larger city of Jerusalem in terms of the total number of coronavirus cases.

On Thursday, the head of a health service used by about half the population of Bnei Brak said about 38% of residents were likely to have the virus, and that there were probably tens of thousands of cases which had not been officially confirmed.”

That health service is called Maccabi and – as reported by the Times of Israel – the BBC’s portrayal of its CEO’s statement is inaccurate.

“Bnei Brak has become widely known as the city where one in three people has coronavirus, but the medical experts behind the figure say it is based on a misunderstanding.

Ido Hadari, senior executive director at Maccabi Healthcare Services, told The Times of Israel on Sunday that his organization actually has “no idea” how many Bnei Brak residents have coronavirus, despite it having become the source for the figure that is being discussed across media and social media. […]

Ran Saar, CEO of Maccabi, the HMO [health maintenance organization] for one in two Bnei Brak residents, was widely quoted on Thursday [April 2nd] telling a Knesset committee that 38 percent of people in the city are infected with coronavirus. But Hadari said that Saar wasn’t giving numbers for the general population of the ultra-Orthodox city, but rather discussing a very different statistic: what percentage of people there who felt unwell and went for a test in recent days actually had coronavirus.”

The Times of Israel also notes that the day before the BBC published its article, Ha’aretz had already reported that:

“…the Health Ministry had revised the numbers with Maccabi and discovered that the figure was erroneous.

While indeed some 35% of the virus tests in Bnei Brak had been positive, those who were tested had mostly been people with symptoms of the illness, and cannot be seen as a representative sample of the city’s population.

Therefore, the report said, while the true number of virus patients in Bnei Brak was significantly higher than in most of the country, it was likely far from the one cited by Saar, and could be ten times lower.”

In other words, by the time the BBC News website published this report, the statements it attributes to the CEO of Maccabi had been shown to be inaccurate but the BBC published them nevertheless.

BBC Watch has contacted the corporation on this issue.

BBC ME editor makes Gaza Strip ventilators disappear

On March 30th the BBC announced that:

“Some of BBC News’ best-known voices are reading their favourite poems of comfort and hope as part of a series on Radio 4’s Today programme.”

On April 3rd it was the turn of the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen (from 2:28:42 here) and, as he himself Tweeted, he used that opportunity to bring up the Gaza Strip.

Bowen: “And, you know, I’m going to be as cheerful as possible because this is a very hard time and is miserable for so many and people are dying. But you know we’re gonna get through it. Ahm…there have been some comparisons made with this fight against the virus and a war and I think that’s valid, without the bullets. Now a reason why this is so shocking is because usually in this country and in most other developed countries we have pretty secure – most of us – and stable lives and in wars that mass security gets taken away. I’ve seen it all over the world many times and that’s what the virus is doing. Now it’s not a competition of course but many people around the world never have that kind of safety and security that usually we’re used to. Untimely death is always part of it for them. And so think about all that and the fact that, you know, we have the NHS and many countries don’t and figures I’ve seen lately: 40 ventilators in Gaza for 2 million people, 3 ventilators in the Central African Republic for 5 million. So it’s a time to count our blessings I suppose is what I’m saying.” [emphasis in italics in the original]

As of the day on which those statements by Bowen were aired, over 3,600 people had died of Covid 19 in the UK. In the Gaza Strip there had been no fatalities.

On March 13th and 14th listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told by a World Health Organisation representative that there are “between 50 to 60 ventilators” in the Gaza Strip.

On March 25th BBC Radio 4 listeners were informed by a doctor in the Gaza Strip that “throughout Gaza we have 63 ICU beds fully equipped with ventilators and respirators and the health professionals to serve on these units”.

On March 26th listeners to BBC World Service radio heard the UNRWA director in the Gaza Strip say “what I’ve been told is we have at maximum 60 ICU beds”.

On March 31st listeners to the same radio station heard from an Oxfam representative that “the number of ICU beds are hardly 87 if we count the private and the public hospitals”. 

So with the BBC having reported for weeks that there are between 50 and 87 ventilators in the Gaza Strip (the head of the regional WHO mission says 87 – i.e. 43.5/million people), where did Bowen get the considerably lower number of 40? That is unclear because he refrained from providing a source for the claim he promoted on prime-time BBC radio.

In mid-March it was reported that NHS Scotland had about 190 “Level 3 Intensive Care Unit beds with ventilatory support in addition to other organ support” for that country’s population of 5.5 million – i.e. 34.5/million. While efforts have been made to improve that ratio, ITV reports that in the Hebrides, where three cases of Coronavirus have been diagnosed:

“There are no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds with ventilators on the islands, it’s a long, long way to the nearest hospital, and any medical evacuation to the mainland could be weather-dependent.”

Nevertheless, Jeremy Bowen thought it appropriate to promote his unsupported chosen political narrative while telling the BBC’s domestic audiences to count their blessings.

BBC R4 sidelines editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality

BBC Radio 4 has been running a series called ‘Eighteen’ which it describes as follows:

“Eighteen explores the lives, dreams and creative world of six brilliant young artists from the fields of visual art, folk music, slam poetry, opera, contemporary dance and punk rock.

Their stories take us from a teenage Icelandic punk band to an Aboriginal Australian contemporary dancer, from an award-winning Nigerian slam poet to a Palestinian visual artist, and from a South African opera student to a transgender Scottish folk musician.

Presented in immersive binaural stereo, these are the tales of remarkable young people at the dawn of their careers. Told largely through personal testimony and sound montage, Eighteen offers a unique opportunity to hear their voices and stories without mediation – as the intoxicating soundscapes of Cape Town, Lagos, Glasgow and Reykjavik create an intimate portrait of their world.”

The third episode of the series, aired on March 31st, includes an artist called Malak Mattar (06:00 to 12:00 and 16:25 to 24:30)

“Meanwhile, in Istanbul, the young Palestinian artist Malak Mattar (20) is preparing for an exhibition in Holland – and thinking about life back home on the Gaza Strip.”

The fact that the producer of this series, Steven Rajam, chose to present it “without mediation” means that no effort was made to provide objective background information (such as the rocket attacks and cross-border tunnels which prompted the 2014 conflict) relating to statements heard by listeners such as the following:

“I had this art professor who was coming to my show and he told me Malak it’s good but it’s sad. You are only 15, why so sad? I say why would I be happy? I survived three wars and I’m not yet 16 years old.”

“The day I started painting was actually during the 51 days attack on Gaza Strip in 2014.”

“Malak is of her time and of her generation, brought up in confinement…”

“…the more I travel the more it actually makes me feel so sad that I can’t see anything to indicate my country on the screen that shows people’s destination. What does that mean if I can’t go home?”

The result is BBC Radio 4 listeners were provided with a picture made up of subjective and politicised statements which they were unable to place in their correct context because accuracy and impartiality were sidelined in this programme in favour of “personal testimony…without mediation”.

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2020

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) throughout March 2020 shows that throughout the month a total of 89 incidents took place: 50 in Judea & Samaria, 37 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and two in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 74 attacks with petrol bombs, five attacks using pipe bombs, three arson attacks, one shooting attack, one stabbing and three incidents of rock throwing and two grenade attacks. In the Gaza Strip sector two rocket attacks were recorded.

Five people – three civilians and two members of the security forces – were injured during March. Four of them were injured in attacks with petrol bombs in Jerusalem and one was injured in a rock throwing attack in the Binyamin district.

The BBC News website did not report any of the incidents which took place throughout the month, including the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on March 27th.

Throughout the first quarter of 2020 visitors to the BBC News website saw coverage of 8.5% of the terror attacks against Israelis which actually took place.

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores rocket attack from Gaza Strip

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2020

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2020

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2020

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Dr Shimon Shapira explains ‘How Hizbullah Is Dealing with the Coronavirus’.

“The coronavirus in Lebanon has put Hizbullah in a complex and sensitive position. Immediately after the first infected individuals were identified, Hizbullah was accused of conveying the disease to the country from Iran. Air traffic from Tehran to Beirut had continued without letup as Lebanese students and their families fled the universities in Iran, particularly the madrasas of Qom where thousands of Lebanese students learn, and returned to Lebanon without being checked or put in quarantine, thereby spreading the disease from Iran to Lebanon.

These accusations sparked fear as well as intense anger at Hizbullah, which claimed that the virus had broken out in the Jesuit monasteries of Beirut and Bikfaya in Lebanon. Hizbullah thereby sought to place the blame at the heart of the Maronite Christian community.”

2) The ITIC reports on the steps taken by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

“On March 31, 2020, the number of Palestinian COVID-19 cases rose to 117, 107 in Judea and Samaria and 10 in the Gaza Strip. The cases most recently detected in the PA were a Palestinian worker who returned from Israel and seven Palestinians in the village of Qatanna, northwest of Jerusalem. The village and the Bethlehem area are focal points for the spread of the disease: there are 39 COVID-19 cases in Qatanna and 46 in the Bethlehem area. So far 18 Palestinians have recovered and one has died.”

“The ministry of health in the Gaza Strip announced another case of COVID-19 among the people quarantined in the Gaza Strip. This brings the number of COVID-19 patients in the Gaza Strip to 10, all in stable condition. According to the ministry’s statement, the newly identified patient arrived from the Rafah crossing. He entered quarantine immediately upon arrival and did not come in contact with anyone. According to the spokesman for the health ministry in the Gaza Strip, there are 1,769 people in 25 quarantine centers, including 1,006 patients with background illnesses.”

3) Khaled Abu Toameh reports that ‘Despite Coronavirus, Jihad Against Israel Continues’ at the Gatestone Institute.

“While many international media outlets and human rights organizations, including the United Nations, are warning of a “catastrophe” in the Gaza Strip after the discovery of nine coronavirus cases there, Hamas and PIJ – the two dominant groups that have been ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007 – seem to care less about the safety and health of their people.

For these groups, the “struggle” against Israel is manifestly more important than the fight against the immediate threat of a pandemic.

On March 27, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward the Israeli city of Sderot. The rocket, which fell in an open area, did not cause any casualties or property damage. This was the first rocket attack on Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”

4) Fathom Magazine carries an article by Oren Kessler about the Peel Commission.

“In this fascinating dive into the archives Oren Kessler reveals the dramatic exchanges that shaped Lord Peel’s 1936 proposal to partition Mandate Palestine. Kessler examines testimony given to the Royal Commission, to which Peel lent his name, from Chaim Weizmann, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, George Antonius, Winston Churchill and others. He assesses why the commission decided that only a ‘clean cut’ into two states for these two peoples, Jews and Arabs, had any chance of forestalling a descent into near-permanent conflict. The following is an excerpt from Kessler’s forthcoming book Fire Before Dawn: The First Palestinian Revolt and the Struggle for the Holy Land.”

 

The BBC, Coronavirus and population density

On March 31st an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Coronavirus: A ticking time-bomb for the Middle East” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

The article is made up of comment on a number of locations in the region, including Israel, the Palestinian Authority administered territories and the Gaza Strip. [all emphasis added]

Israel:

“The virus has already arrived in the region. Israel – a country with a sophisticated Western-style health system and a significant capacity to mobilise resources – is already beginning to struggle with the potential consequences of the pandemic.

It is facing the self-same problems as experienced in Western Europe and the United States.”

Marcus did not provide any information to illustrate or substantiate his claim that Israel “is already beginning to struggle”.

“However, the Middle East has some specific problems that may exacerbate the crisis. Ways of life governed by religion, for example, play a significant part in the lives of many countries’ citizens.

Such communities may often be insular and slow to change their practices.

It is perhaps no accident that in Israel, its ultra-Orthodox Haredi community has been slow to adopt the recommended social distancing measures and has suffered disproportionately from the virus.”

While rates of infection have indeed been higher than average in some ultra-Orthodox communities, Marcus’ attribution of that solely to “ways of life governed by religion” ignores additional relevant factors such as poverty, population density and the difficulties of effective isolation for members of large families.

Interestingly, the BBC has repeatedly cited those three factors in its many reports on Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and later on in his article Marcus himself referred to that territory’s population density.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, population density in the Gaza Strip was 5,453 persons/km2 in mid 2019. The population density in Bnei Brak – one of the locations in Israel most seriously affected by Covid 19 – was 26,368 persons/km2 at the end of 2017 but apparently Marcus did not consider it necessary to inform readers of that fact. 

Towards the end of the article readers were told that:

“Even in democratic Israel, the pandemic has sparked a constitutional crisis with political repercussions. The need to tackle the coronavirus looks like forcing opposition leader Benny Gantz into a national unity government under Benjamin Netanyahu (something he said he would never do and a move which has split his new party asunder).

And the closure of the courts has delayed the corruption trial of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who looks like soldiering on in office.”

Israel of course has no written constitution and so the claim of a “constitutional crisis” is debatable. The political deadlock in Israel which has not been resolved by three general elections has been ongoing for a year and was not “sparked” by the pandemic.

As we have previously had cause to note, the courts in Israel have not been closed. Activity has been reduced in line with Ministry of Health instructions and the Judiciary’s website states:

The courts and employment tribunals will function under emergency measures whereby only urgent hearings will be held.”

PA controlled territories and Gaza Strip:

Marcus gave a politicised portrayal of the Gaza Strip – from which Israel disengaged in 2005 – and the areas which have been under Palestinian Authority control for two and a half decades as “Israeli-occupied”, despite going on to later contradict himself by describing the PA as a governing body and Hamas as “rulers”.

“Even in places where there is the absence of full-scale war, there are some alarming potential coronavirus crisis-points. The Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are a case in point.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs in about 40% of the West Bank, is struggling with limited means to curtail the initial outbreak, with fears that close economic ties – workers travelling between Israel and the West Bank – have potentially been one vector for the spread of the virus.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the Palestinian Authority’s continued prioritisation of the payment of salaries for terrorists is one of the factors contributing to its “limited means”.

Marcus went on to give a qualified explanation of the reason for the counter-terrorism measures adopted by Israel and Egypt while whitewashing that terrorism by use of the euphemism “militants”. He failed to clarify that the Gaza Strip was transferred to Palestinian control almost 15 years ago and in theory – though not in practice since the violent Hamas coup in 2007 – is run by the Palestinian Authority.

“But the densely populated Gaza Strip presents an altogether more worrying case. The population there is isolated; the Palestinians are under effective blockade from both Israel and Egypt, who say it is a necessary security measure against militants.

There has been a long-running debate between Israel and the international community as to its abiding responsibilities for the territory. Israel’s troops have left and it insists that it is no longer responsible for events there, which is now the job of the Hamas rulers.

But if the pandemic sweeps through Gaza this may become a very difficult case to argue given the grip that Israel still retains from outside.

No wonder there have been calls from Palestinian experts and humanitarian agencies for the so-called Israeli “blockade” to be lifted, and for Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Israelis to make common cause to fight the pandemic.”

Marcus made no effort to analyse the political motivations behind those “calls” (which, revealingly, do not appear to extend to Egypt) or to examine their validity in light of the fact that there is no restriction on the entry of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. Neither did he bother to address the obviously relevant issue of what would happen were the blockade lifted, given that Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip clearly have no intention of renouncing the terrorism which caused its implementation and indeed continue to issue threats.

“The head of Hamas in Gaza warned Israel if more ventilators for coronavirus patients were not brought into the Palestinian enclave then his terror group will “take them by force.”

“If ventilators are not brought into [Gaza], we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis,” said Yahya Sinwar, according to Hebrew media reports.”

Marcus went on to describe well-reported (though not by the BBC) actions which have been publicly praised by the UN as “behind the scenes”.

“It would be nice to think that rivalries could be set aside for the time being during this period of global crisis. Behind the scenes Israel has been transferring some equipment to the Palestinians in the West Bank, and training courses have been running for medical personnel.”

As we see, while the BBC has repeatedly promoted the topic of population density in the Gaza Strip in its coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic, curiously that factor was completely ignored in Jonathan Marcus’ portrayal of outbreaks of Covid 19 in Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

More Corona-hooked Gaza Strip messaging on BBC WS radio

BBC News Channel grossly misleads on Israeli courts

Density is not destiny: Economist tweet misinforms on Gaza COVID-19 woes  (UK Media Watch)

More Corona-hooked Gaza Strip messaging on BBC WS radio

As regular readers know, since mid-March the BBC has produced several reports (see ‘related articles’ below) on the topic of the Gaza strip and the Coronavirus pandemic; some pre-emptive and some after the first cases were diagnosed. Most of those reports focused on the population density and poor healthcare services in the Gaza Strip, with some falsely claiming that Israeli counter-terrorism measures are responsible for the latter.

BBC audiences have however been told next to nothing about Hamas’ prioritisation of terror over public services for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the shortage of medicines and equipment in hospitals in the Gaza Strip or the part played by Israel in delivering Coronavirus testing kits and medical supplies to the territory.  

In early March the Hamas terror organisation which controls the Gaza Strip told residents not to travel abroad and later closed the crossings into Israel and Egypt. Hamas also began building quarantine facilities and as of April 1st there were twelve Covid 19 cases in the Gaza Strip. Between March 22nd and March 28th, 68,275 tons of goods were delivered to the Gaza Strip including 12,423 tons of food and 145 tons of medical supplies.

The March 31st evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Paul Henley – included yet another Gaza-Corona item (from 09:01 here): an interview with Najla Shawa who who works for the NGO Oxfam and was previously an UNRWA employee. Since 2015 she has been repeatedly interviewed by the BBC, more often than not without proper identification and with no information given to BBC audiences concerning her “particular viewpoints”.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “Let’s take a look now at the view from Gaza because the United Nations warns that poverty and a debilitated health system in the Palestinian territories would make an outbreak of Coronavirus particularly disastrous. There are only a handful of confirmed cases in Gaza so far. I’ve been talking to Najla Shawa who’s food security manager of Oxfam in Gaza.”

Shawa: “Unfortunately we are very concerned. As you know this pandemic is spreading widely around the world and in a place like Gaza, that’s a huge concern. And yes, very much so it might be a beginning and it’s very worrying for a place like Gaza.”

Henley: “You’ve Tweeted that for a start, stockpiling is not an option for people who live in Gaza, haven’t you?”

Shawa: “Actually Gaza is already in a very dire situation in terms of the very basic living. I think everybody would be following the [unintelligible]. Gaza has 37% unemployment, 62% of Gazans don’t know their next meal where is it going to come from. And you’re speaking about population that is also…it’s a very highly populated area in a very vulnerable situation to be honest. So even before the Covid 19, things were already very fragile and very, very challenging for most of the people in Gaza.”

Henley: “So the people’s resilience there has already been tested pretty much to the full.”

Shawa: “Exactly and I think now more and more I think the population have basically depleted all their resources. There’s a sense of solidarity that brings people together to support each other. However the resources are just diminishing. People already don’t have jobs, already don’t have incomes. We already locked down and there is no movement, there’s no real economy. There are no basic services and looking at the health services for example, it’s a very weak system already.”

Henley made no effort to inform listeners of the crucial context of the rift between Hamas and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in relation to that “weak system” of healthcare.

Henley: “What are people saying about the threat of the pandemic?”

Shawa: “People are very much aware of what’s going on in the world and they are very concerned. And currently like everyone is just waiting by the hour to hear the news about any new cases. So those who have some capacity to stock up some food or some essential items are doing so. However most of the population don’t have this capacity unfortunately. You know the majority of Gaza people depend on aid for life-saving assistance that is provided by humanitarian organisations.”

In light of those claims Henley could of course have raised the question of the efficacy of NGOs working in the Gaza Strip for the last decade and a half since Israel disengaged from the territory (Oxfam, for example, claims to have spent 75 million Euros in the Palestinian territories since 2014) but instead brought up another standard BBC talking point.

Henley: “And it’s well known already that people live in very close proximity to each other in Gaza.”

Shawa: “Absolutely. 5,000 persons per square kilometre. I mean you’re talking about 2 million people in this place and the number of ICU beds are hardly 87 if we count the private and the public hospitals. So this is a very worrying situation to be honest. And the extreme weakness of the system; there’s real need to very basic support to the population already from before. There are like more than 1,700 who require treatment outside of Gaza and they’re not able to access that since the lock-down. And for the lock-down I mean Gaza has been always locked down. We totally know what this means. We can empathise of course with everyone in the world and this is a moment where everyone is kind of thinking about the other in this sudden crisis. But we Palestinians have known that for many, many years unfortunately.”

The Gaza Strip has not been “always locked down”: restrictions on movement into Israel were brought into place due to the Palestinian terrorism which went completely unmentioned throughout this item. Neither were listeners informed that it was Hamas which instigated the current closure of crossings.

Henley: “What about schooling for children? What’s the situation there?”

Shawa: “Schools have been closed since more than 3 weeks and universities as well. That’s definitely a problem because you have all the kids on lock-down in their homes and there is no place to go, no space, there’s no…also as I said the poverty is so dramatic that even their basic rights are not being met. More than 400 thousand children are living under poverty. And this is quite alarming too and very worrying for us as Oxfam and as all humanitarian organisations.”

Henley: “Najla Shawa in Gaza.”

As we see Henley failed to even remotely challenge any of Shawa’s talking points throughout that entire four-minute interview (an edited version of which was also posted in the ‘updates’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page) and refrained from providing the background information and context which would further audience understanding of the situation in the Gaza Strip. Of course Shawa’s talking points concerning population density, poverty and the healthcare system are exactly the same as the BBC’s own long-promoted narratives and so Henley’s soft-ball interviewing comes as no surprise.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

Density is not destiny: Economist tweet misinforms on Gaza COVID-19 woes  (UK Media Watch)

BBC Complaints: BBC programme is not BBC output

Yesterday we noted an item aired on the March 30th edition of the BBC News Channel programme ‘Outside Source’ in which audiences were given inaccurate information concerning courts in Israel and partial information concerning measures taken to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.

BBC News Channel grossly misleads on Israeli courts

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those issues, the receipt of which was acknowledged on the same day.

The following day, however, we received this response from the BBC Complaints team:

“Many thanks for taking the time to contact us. The role of this department is to respond to comment, query or criticism concerning programmes on any of the BBC’s national, regional and local television or radio services.

We also deal with issues related to BBC’s policy. As your complaint is not in reference to BBC output we are unable to investigate this further for you. If you wish to contact us in the future then we would ask that you please refer to BBC programmes, broadcasts, policy or output in your complaint.” [emphasis added]

As noted above ‘Outside Source’ is aired on the BBC News Channel. That platform is described by the BBC itself as “Britain’s most-watched news channel, delivering breaking news and analysis all day, every day”.

The BBC’s complaints webform includes the option of submitting a complaint concerning the BBC News channel. A later drop-down menu also includes the programme ‘Outside Source’ itself. 

A video of the programme was uploaded to Youtube by BBC News. The programme’s presenter circulated that video on her Twitter account – where she describes herself as a BBC presenter.

The programme appeared with the BBC logo on screen.

Nevertheless, the outsourced BBC Complaints system claimed that “As your complaint is not in reference to BBC output we are unable to investigate this further for you”.

While members of the general public may understandably have been put off by such a reply, BBC Watch of course submitted a second (Stage 1b) complaint which included the above information. We have now received the following:

One can of course but wonder about the overall efficiency of a publicly funded complaints system which sends replies “issued in error”. 

Related Articles:

How the BBC outsources its complaints system

BBC complaints procedure consultation reminder

BBC amends ‘Newsround’ Christmas feature which breached style guide

An overview of BBC Watch prompted corrections in 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2020

Throughout the month of March 2020, fourteen written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which were also published on other pages and one of which was carried over from the previous month. Partway through the month the BBC announced changes to its coverage in light of the Coronavirus crisis.   

(dates in brackets indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned security issues:

Palestinian teenager killed in West Bank clash (11/3/20 to 16/3/20) discussed here

Two items concerned Palestinian affairs, one of which was carried over from the previous month:

Mental health: Coping with the trauma of living in Gaza (29/2/20 to 4/3/20 and 5/3/20 to 8/3/20) discussed here

Gaza: Virus fears in crowded strip  Yolande Knell (24/3/20 to 26/3/20) discussed here

One filmed report profiled an MMA fighter from Jordan living in the US:

MMA fighter: ‘I’m the pride of Palestine’ (6/3/20 to 7/3/20 and 8/3/20 to 27/3/20)

Of ten items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, six reports concerned the general election:

Israel elections: Will the Arab Israeli vote swing the third election in a year? Tom Bateman (1/3/20 to 17/3/20) discussed here

Israelis vote in unprecedented third general election in a year (2/3/20) discussed here and here

Israel election: Netanyahu claims ‘biggest win’ amid vote count (3/3/20 to 4/3/20) discussed here

Israel election: Netanyahu seeks defectors after failing to secure majority (4/3/20 to 7/3/20) discussed here

Israel election: Gantz vows to form ‘broad’ unity government within days (16/3/20 to 19/3/20) discussed here

Israel election: Netanyahu rival Gantz ‘agrees emergency unity government’ (26/3/20 to present)

Four items related to the Coronavirus pandemic:

Coronavirus: Israel to bring in 14-day quarantine for all arrivals (9/3/20 to 11/3/20)

Coronavirus: Israel enables emergency spy powers (17/3/20 to 24/3/20) discussed here

Israel’s coronavirus patient 74 talks about her experience Tom Bateman (23/3/20 to present)

Israel’s Netanyahu tests negative for coronavirus (30/3/20 to present)

As we see over 70% of the items appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page throughout March concerned Israeli affairs. As is usually the case, usual BBC audiences saw no meaningful coverage of internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2020

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

 

 

BBC News Channel grossly misleads on Israeli courts

h/t DH, SFoI

Previously we noted that reports on BBC radio and the BBC News website relating to cell phone tracking of Coronavirus carriers in Israel had in all cases failed to inform audiences of the parliamentary and legal oversights of that step taken by the government but did choose to  amplify the claims of political NGOs.

Earlier this month we documented a BBC News website report’s unsatisfactory portrayal of the postponement of Binyamin Netanyahu’s court case.

“Readers […] would have benefited from the knowledge that the court session originally scheduled for March 17th was postponed by the judges assigned to the case.”

Both those topics came up again in the March 30th edition of the BBC News Channel programme ‘Outside Source’.

Following an item concerning steps taken by the Hungarian parliament, presenter Kasia Madera told viewers (from 14:13 in the video below):

Madera: “But Hungary’s government is not the only one in fact to increase its powers during the outbreak of Covid 19. We are in fact seeing stronger measures being implemented around the world.”

Having told audiences of media censorship, curfews and deployment of the military in Thailand, she went on:

Madera: “While compare that to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu there saying that…who was…he was set to stand trial on corruption allegations but in fact now he’s shut down the courts. He’s also permitted the tracking of Israeli citizens’ phones and the prime minister says that the move will help track individuals who’ve come into contact those who contract Covid 19 but critics argue that this could lead to a Big Brother-style society.” [emphasis added]

Once again the BBC failed to inform its audiences that the surveillance measures are in place for a period of 30 days, that there is a Knesset sub-committee overseeing them and that the High Court has conditioned the measures on legislation. Moreover, while failing to provide that highly relevant information, the BBC once again amplified the therefore context-free claims of “critics”.

As for the claim that the Israeli prime minister – and he alone – “shut down the courts”: it was in fact the Justice Minister who cut back the activity of the courts on March 15th.

“Justice Minister Amir Ohana declared a 24-hour “state of emergency” in Israel’s court system early Sunday morning, “as part of the national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

The decision means that courts can only sit for urgent hearings on arrest and remand orders, administrative detention orders, offenses under legislation “relating to the special emergency” and certain interim relief in civil matters.”

On March 21st the Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut published a press release in which she clarified that the courts continue to function throughout the country, providing essential services to the public. Her statement emphasized that the courts are not closed and that they would continue to provide services while observing the emergency restrictions issued by the Ministry of Health. She clarified that any current – and, if necessary, future – reduction in the activity of the courts due to the Corona pandemic was in accordance with her decisions as President of the Supreme Court.

In other words, the BBC’s claim that Netanyahu has “shut down the courts” is completely inaccurate and misleading to BBC audiences.

That failure to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy would of course be egregious at any time but it is all the more reprehensible at a time when the BBC is promoting itself as the ‘trusted’ antidote to Fake News concerning the Covid 19 pandemic. 

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