On the afternoon of December 7th the BBC News website published an article now titled “Israeli jets ‘strike near Damascus’ – Syrian army“. Changes made to the various versions of the report can be seen here and its initial version read as follows:
In addition, a filmed report by Beirut correspondent Jim Muir was broadcast on BBC television news and appeared on the website under the title “Israeli jets ‘strike near Damascus’ – Syrian state TV“.
With Israel having declined to comment on the claims made by Syrian media and officials, both reports follow the format of previous ones on similar events, relying upon unconfirmed hearsay and conjecture. Notably, even after BBC News found itself under severe criticism nineteen months ago for uncritical repetition of the Assad regime’s propaganda (see here, here and here), the written article states:
“”This afternoon, the Israeli enemy targeted two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the Damascus International Airport,” the military statement said.
It described the air strikes as “direct aggression” carried out to help the Syrian government’s opponents.” [emphasis added]
No effort is made to inform audiences of the redundancy of that Syrian regime propaganda.
But both these reports are in fact far more notable for what they do not include than for what they do. Neither of them informs audiences of Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization, with the written article stating:
“The Israeli air force has conducted several air strikes on Syria since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
They appear to have been mainly aimed at preventing weapons transfers to Syria’s allies in Lebanon, the militant Hezbollah movement, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from Beirut.”
“…which would be the fourth time that the Israelis have struck inside…erm…Syria since the war there began in 2011 – mainly attacks aimed at hitting or preventing weapons being transferred to Hizballah, according to the evidence that came out later. That’s of course Israel…Syria’s ally here in Lebanon.”
So, from international criminal and terrorist organization, Hizballah has been upgraded by Muir to the status of “Syria’s ally”, meaning of course that BBC audiences are being told a very selective part of the story. Interestingly, the BBC’s profile of Hizballah (faulty as it is) was not included in the ‘more on this story’ links presented at the side of and below the main article.
Neither was any effort made in either of the two reports to inform audiences of the highly relevant fact that, according to UN SC resolution 1701 all militias – including Hizballah – should have been disarmed and the sale or transfer of weapons to non-state actors is prohibited.
That factor, along with Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization, is crucial for proper audience understanding of the story as it is presented. The BBC, however, elected not to provide the information to its audiences.