As media outlets return to work after the weekend, the news (reported here last week) that a recent UN HRC report determined that the BBC’s much promoted version of the tragic death of Omar Masharawi on November 14th 2012 was the result of a missile fired by Palestinian terrorists rather than an Israeli air-strike – as claimed by the BBC – is gaining traction.
The Washington Free Beacon has had it confirmed by a UN official that the incident described in the report indeed referred to that in which Omar Masharawi – son of the BBC employee Jihad Masharawi – was killed.
For clarity’s sake, it is worth revisiting the chronology of the spread of the story.
On the evening of November 14th 2012, soon after the incident had happened, BBC Arabic in Gaza broke the story when it interviewed Jihad Masharawi as he held his son’s body. That film footage was used the next day in a report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news and can be seen here.
On the same evening, BBC employees began Tweeting about the event, including for example the BBC’s correspondent in Washington who sent the following Tweet – retweeted by others 3,441 times:
On the day after the incident – November 15th – the head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and chair of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, arrived in the Gaza Strip and visited the Masharawi house from where he began sending a series of Tweets which – less than 24 hours after the event and with no credible professional investigation having been carried out – unequivocally determined that the incident had been the result of an Israeli attack.
As BBC Watch documented last November, Danahar gave permission for the photographs he had Tweeted to be used by Max Fisher at the Washington Post. Other media outlets which ran with the story on the same day – some directly citing the BBC as their source and all unquestioningly giving an Israeli attack as the cause of the infant’s death – included the Guardian, the Huffington Post , the Daily Mail, the Sun and many more. The story was of course also picked up by a plethora of anti-Israel blogs and websites.
On November 24th 2012, the BBC ran Jon Donnison’s now infamous version of the story on its ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ programme on Radio 4, and also later on the World Service. A written version of that same report was placed on the BBC News website and at the time of writing is still there.
Within less than two weeks, the BBC had ensured that an unverified story based purely upon evidence-free speculations by its own journalists had made its way round the entire world.
The fact that a story which in no way met the standards of accuracy laid down in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines managed to get past the BBC’s entire system of checks and balances including the Jerusalem Bureau editor, the Middle East Editor, the Head of News, the website Editor- together with no small number of producers along the way – indicates the existence of an organisational culture which clearly renders the BBC incapable of self-regulation.