On July 29th Amnesty International released yet another one of its reports concerning last summer’s conflict between Israel and assorted terrorist groups based in the Gaza Strip. Predictably, the BBC News website’s Middle East page quickly came up with an article headlined “Gaza: ‘Israeli war crimes’ followed soldier’s capture – Amnesty” and viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a filmed item which was also posted on the website under the title “Gaza conflict: Amnesty report says Israel committed ‘war crimes’“.
There is of course nothing surprising about that: the BBC has faithfully and unquestioningly amplified the Amnesty International material produced on that subject since the hostilities came to a close, just as it also blindly reproduced statements made by that NGO during the conflict itself. And there was also nothing unexpected about that because Amnesty International is one of the NGOs most regularly promoted and quoted by the BBC.
Common sense would obviously dictate that if a media organization amplifies an NGO’s material it should tell its audiences what that NGO’s political agenda includes and report any relevant details concerning its connections to the subject matter. BBC journalists do not however have to rely on common sense: the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:
“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.”
None of the BBC’s Amnesty International-related material produced over the past year has informed audiences that AI is one of a group of political NGOs which launched a lawfare campaign against Israel just days after the summer 2014 conflict began. In none of that content have audiences been told that 72 hours into the conflict, Amnesty International called for an arms embargo to be imposed on a country defending its civilian population from hundreds of daily attacks by terrorist organisations and its MENA director Philip Luther (who appears in both these latest BBC reports) was already tossing around unproven accusations of ‘war crimes’.
Nowhere has the BBC informed its audiences about the all-important context of Amnesty International’s long history of obsession with Israel – which includes the production of the numerous ‘reports’ so faithfully amplified by the BBC – or of its connections with known anti-Israel campaigners and its employment of radical activists.
In this latest article published on July 29th, readers are informed that:
“Amnesty’s report says Israeli actions in the Rafah area between 1 and 4 August 2014 might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Its study was carried out with the Forensic Architecture, a research project specialising in spatial analysis, at Goldsmiths’ College in London.”
Audiences are not however informed that the academic sounding (and by implication, neutral) ‘Forensic Architecture’ also partnered Amnesty International in the production of a recently launched app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare buddies – Al Mezan and the PCHR.
Neither are they told who exactly is behind ‘Forensic Architecture’ (originally funded by the European Research Council) or that it describes itself as “a team of architects, artists, filmmakers, activists, and theorists” (in other words; not military or legal experts) and that its chief researcher is veteran political activist and BDS supporter Eyal Weizman.
In this latest amplification of AI’s pseudo-legal ‘human rights’ report the BBC once again fails to inform its audiences that Amnesty International is not a neutral observer but a player in a campaign of politically motivated lawfare. As long as the BBC fails to tell its audiences the full story behind the political agenda of Amnesty International and the many other NGOs it uncritically amplifies, its claim that it provides audiences with accurate and impartial reporting in order to meet its public purpose of building an “understanding of international issues” is clearly untenable.