In which BBC News abandons all pretence of fact checking

On the morning of January 29th a Palestinian man named Mohammed Mubarak opened fire on an Israeli army position near the community of Ateret on route 465 in the Mateh Binyamin district. The soldiers returned fire and Mubarak was shot and killed. It incident Ateret alater emerged that he had earlier fired at passing civilian vehicles before attacking the army post. 

Later in the day, a report on the incident titled “Israeli troops kill Palestinian in West Bank” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Readers of that headline are of course given no clue as to the fact that Mubarak shot at soldiers and civilians before he was killed.

The report itself opens in the usual ‘last-first’ BBC reporting style, with no less typical use of scare quotes around the word terrorist.

“A Palestinian man has been shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank.

Palestinian medics identified him as Mohammed Mubarak, 22, a labourer from the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said its soldiers had opened fire on a “terrorist” after he attacked an army post near the settlement of Ofra.”

The article then moves on to the realms of second-hand rumour and hearsay.

“But Palestinian witnesses told the AFP news agency that Mubarak had not been armed, and had been harassed by the troops and made to remove his clothes.”

Obviously the BBC has not bothered to carry out any kind of fact checking before electing to repeat and promote unverified hearsay from unidentified passers-by. Over at the Israellycool blog is a photograph of Mubarak taken shortly after the incident and published by the Ma’an news agency in this article. As can clearly be seen, he is fully clothed and the weapon used lies beside him.

Maan photo

Later in the day, a Facebook posting from an advisor to the PA president described Mubarak as “a Martyr in the battlefield”:

“With the most exalted expressions of honor and pride and with symbols of Jihad and resistance, we part with piety from our heroic Martyr (Shahid) Muhammad Mahmoud Mubarak from the resolute Jalazone refugee camp, who ascended to Heaven as a Martyr in the battlefield while challenging the Zionist enemy.”

Here are some of the photographs previously posted by Mohammed Mubarak on his Facebook account:

Mubarak Facebook

The BBC’s purpose remit of building a “global understanding of international issues” and “enhancing UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” is not served by the uncritical repetition of inaccurate rumour and hearsay from any and every random passer-by. Neither can such a lazy practice be justified under the heading of a supposed commitment to impartiality.

It is the BBC’s task to provide its audiences with the facts and those cannot be established without proper fact-checking. As this report sadly shows, BBC News apparently can no longer be bothered with that most basic of journalistic tasks.

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