A May 16th 2013 article by Yolande Knell entitled “Israel starts process of authorising new West Bank settlements“, which appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website, once again promotes the views of the NGO ‘Peace Now’ without any genuine attempt being made (in contradiction of BBC editorial guidelines) to inform readers of that organisation’s political stance.
“It’s legalising illegal action and creating a possibility of more illegal construction. This gives a green light to the illegal establishment of outposts because it shows permission can be sorted out retrospectively,” says Melanie Robbins, a spokeswoman for Peace Now.”
This is the third time in less than ten days that articles appearing on the BBC News website (including another one also written by Knell) have been used as a platform from which to amplify the ‘Peace Now’ agenda on the subject of communities in Judea and Samaria.
The BBC is of course entitled to quote whoever it sees fit, but it is also obliged to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which clearly state that a contributor’s “viewpoint” – i.e. political outlook and motivations – must be made clear to audiences.
We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”
BBC journalists make common practice of quoting or soliciting opinions from the plethora of political NGOs active in Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories, but rarely if ever do they provide audiences with the all-important background information about those NGOs (including political views and aims, funding – often foreign – and in some cases even terror links) which would enable those watching, hearing or reading BBC content to form their own judgements as regards the reliability and impartiality of the information promoted.
A count of the number of instances in which locally operating NGOs were promoted in just the small proportion of BBC content covered by BBC Watch over the last six months – including interviews with or contributions from individuals connected to those NGOs, but not always identified as such by the BBC and NGO-produced content promoted on Twitter by BBC journalists – shows 13 different NGOs being showcased in 24 instances.
Emek Shaveh – here. Gisha – here, here, here, here and here. Addameer – here, here, here, here and here. ACRI – here and here. ICHAD – here. Machsom Watch – here. Adalah – here. PCHR – here. Peace Now – here (2) and here. Yesh Din – here. Rabbis for Human Rights – here. Al Haq – here. Land Research Centre – here.
Looking further afield to foreign-based NGOs and organisations, we find that in the same six month period, the limited amount of BBC coverage of Israel and the Middle East monitored by BBC Watch showcased the views of seven different organisations on twelve different occasions.
Human Rights Watch – here, here, here, here and here. Conflicts Forum – here and here. Amnesty International – here. Avaaz – here. International Solidarity Movement/Free Gaza – here. Stop the War Coalition – here. UNRWA – here.
As anyone with even a passing familiarity with any or all of the above organisations will be aware, the amplification of their political stances and individual campaigns is not conducive to providing BBC audiences with a balanced and impartial view of the Middle East. That is particularly the case when the relevant information regarding their raison d’etre is often concealed from BBC audiences or when individuals belonging to those organisations are provided with a platform by the BBC without full disclosure of their affiliations.
The continuation of such practices can only further damage the BBC’s already severely battered reputation with regard to accuracy and impartiality in Middle East reporting.