On July 23rd 2014 a member of staff at the Guardian decided to use a certain photograph to illustrate that particular day’s letters page and, by way of a caption, added the following amended quote from one of the letters (ironically complaining about BBC impartiality) published on the same day.
‘For Palestinians, Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.’
With the subject of that sentence being “Israel’s attacks”, one might have expected that the image chosen would have some sort of connection to that topic. However, the photograph selected actually shows a Palestinian father holding the body of his infant son who was killed in November 2012 by a rocket misfired by one of the Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.
So why would that Guardian staffer believe that the picture showed the aftermath of “Israel’s attacks”? Well, like other members of the BBC’s audience, he or she was for months mistakenly led to believe by the BBC that Omar Masharawi was killed by an Israeli airstrike.
“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.
It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”
Clearly, twenty-one months on, what still remains in people’s memories is the BBC’s extensively promoted inaccurate story – not the subsequent belated correction.