Context-free reporting on the BBC News website

The BBC News website Middle East section published the article below on November 8th at 19:49 GMT.

The report’s distinguishing features are its lack of concrete facts and context.

The headline reads “Gaza: Palestinian boy ‘killed by Israeli gunfire’ “, with the inverted commas presumably intended to inform the reader that its writer cannot be sure of that information.

The strap-line reads “A Palestinian boy has been killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources say“.

Next, we learn that:

“The boy, reportedly aged 13, was hit by shots from an army helicopter, the sources said.

The Israeli army said it was checking the report, Israeli media said.”

Towards the end of the report, the picture becomes even less clear:

“It was unclear how the boy was hit in Thursday’s incident, but one report said soldiers had found explosive devices near a border fence east of the town of Khan Younis and opened fire.

Another report said the boy was fatally wounded during a clash involving militants and Israeli helicopters.”

[all emphasis added]

So are readers any the wiser as to what happened in Khan Yunis on Thursday? Not really – but they are clearly intended to take away the impression that a Palestinian boy (named as Hamid Younis Abu Dika, or Daqqa, and in some Palestinian reports aged 11) was somehow killed by the Israeli army, with the reporting of any accompanying context apparently being considered of less urgency by the BBC. 

What the BBC article fails to report fully is the following

“Earlier on Thursday, IDF soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian terrorists from Gaza.

According to initial reports, a work crew came under fire near Kibbutz Nirim on the Gaza border and the soldiers returned fire.

Tanks and attack helicopters were dispatched to the scene and opened fire toward suspicious areas.”

That incident was claimed by the Popular Resistance Committees. The website of the PRC’s ‘Salah a Din Brigades’ also takes credit for mortar fire at IDF forces.

Later on Thursday evening, an Israeli soldier was wounded by an explosion claimed by Hamas (and described as an IED) in ‘response’ to the boy’s death. 

IDF troops had entered the Gaza Strip after the discovery of a large underground cross-border tunnel packed with explosives. 

“Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening after finding a large tunnel filled with explosives running beneath the border fence with the Hamas-controlled enclave.

Soldiers conducting routine patrols of the border near the town of Nirim found a smuggling tunnel 4 meters deep and almost 5 meters wide burrowed beneath the border, the IDF Spokesperson said.

Nirim was the scene earlier in the day of an incident in which terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired on a work crew and IDF troops returned fire.

The patrol that discovered the tunnel crossed into the Gaza Strip to search for explosives, and, on their return, while repairing the border fence, an “extremely large” amount of explosives detonated on the Gaza side of the border. One soldier was very lightly injured, and an IDF jeep was damaged by the blast that reportedly launched it 20 meters.”

Whilst the exact circumstances of Hamid Younis Abu Dika’s injury remain at present unknown, what is obvious is that there is considerably more context to the story than the BBC’s account makes clear. The decision by terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip to launch repeated attacks on IDF border patrols and maintenance crews inevitably endangers civilians in the area and that point is not made adequately clear in BBC reports.  


As pointed out in the comments below (thank you, Sue), the BBC report has been revised since this article was published. The newer version can be found here.


7 comments on “Context-free reporting on the BBC News website

  1. ‘the inverted commas presumably intended to inform the reader that its writer cannot be sure of that information’

    Presumably. Though they use them so much (and I’m not sure of the difference accorded ‘singles’ and “doubles” if any) it may be best simply to refer to whatever it is they do on the same basis as: ‘reporting’ the ‘news’ by a ‘trusted’, ‘professional’, ‘objective’ ‘genetically impartial’ broadcast monopoly (I’ll give ’em that one). All, of course, are quotes, albeit from them about them, bar that last one. They appear to feel that other media are monopolies but they are not. Mind you, the Trust Chairman, in theory acting in the interests of licence fee payers, feels that the BBC only gets to hold others to account, and no one gets to ask questions of them, so the uniques to pile up.

    The passage from what they wish to convey in headline (using favoured ‘sources’) to the accuracy of the actual facts via such a technique is risible.

    Often they will try and excuse it by claiming that space (for truth or accuracy, presumably) is limited, often on the basis that their preferred social media audiences can only cope with brief summaries or their devices can’t cope.

    They can be held to account (if rarely – )

    Sadly, the use of ‘quotes’ of what is basically anyone saying anything that suits is now so pervasive it will be near impossible to see held up as the abuse of impartiality it should be, especially with (again, a huge effort, and hard to measure) comparisons using ‘reporting’ of both sides to a conflict.

  2. Sadly the BBC has to be paid for via the TV Licence . Which means , in effect , that all who hold a TV Licence , HAVE to take on board what they report . Which is most people . If the BBC were a newspaper , I would not buy it .

  3. In my experience the reason the people of Gaza return fire into Israel is because they were fired on first. The last sentence above which refers to Terrorist factions is as unsubstantiated as the points made in the BBC article, the link refers to:
    Earlier on Thursday, IDF soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian terrorists from Gaza.This constant reference to people from Gaza as terrorists and people from the IDF as soldiers does nothing to clarify the situation.

    According to initial reports, a work crew came under fire near Kibbutz Nirim on the Gaza border and the soldiers returned fire.

    What initial reports and from whom?

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