The cornerstone of BBC Editorial Guidelines on accuracy reads as follows:
“We must not knowingly and materially mislead our audiences with our content. We may need to clarify the nature of some content by labeling (for example, verbally, in text or with visual or audio cues) to avoid being misleading.”
That might seem like stating the obvious for a media organization which describes itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” and claims that its standards of accuracy and impartiality are what make it “the most trusted and objective international news provider” capable of delivering its remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.
Consider then the following report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was broadcast on BBC television news programmes on October 13th and promoted in two separate links on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Bethlehem clashes: Protesters on streets during day of unrest” as well as being embedded into a written report titled “Three Israelis killed in Jerusalem attacks“.
Reporting from Bethlehem on what had been declared a ‘Day of Rage’ by Palestinian factions, Yolande Knell opens her item with the standard BBC portrayal of violent rioters as ‘protesters’.
“There are currently scenes like this taking place across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Here in Bethlehem there have recently been clashes every single day and it’s taken a familiar pattern. The Palestinian protesters come down the street – they’ve been throwing stones – and the Israeli soldiers go out firing teargas and rubber bullets. I’ve been speaking to one Palestinian protester about why the violence has been escalating.
Knell then allows an unidentified masked man to promote a highly inflammatory, dangerous and completely fabricated libel – along with other blatant falsehoods – with none of the above-mentioned “labeling” to inform viewers (not least those in the Middle East) that the claims are entirely baseless.
Voiceover: “It’s because of the invasion of our Al Aqsa Mosque and disrespecting the Palestinian holy sites. This is a red line and we won’t allow it. All our lives we’ve been dealing with Israeli occupation as a political struggle. But now, they’re fighting our religion. There is pressure on people’s lives, on our economy already. This wall [the anti-terrorist fence – Ed.] is a symbol of racism. There are also incursions of our city every day. Arrests, people being taken to prison and martyrs. This all puts pressure on the Palestinian man. Until now, this is not a full uprising. But, God willing, it will be soon.” [emphasis added]
Knell then asks:
“Is anyone from the political leadership telling you to go out on the streets?”
Masked man voiceover: “In my opinion politics doesn’t interfere in what we are doing. All incidents – whether they are stabbings or shootings – are personal decisions; not decisions by politicians. What you see on Facebook, sometimes it pushes young Palestinians forwards and shows us what’s happening in all of Palestine. When people post things they are not trying to order people what to do.”
Failing to inform audiences of the very relevant issue of the daily incitement coming from assorted Palestinian sources and factions including Hamas, Fatah and the highest ranks of the Palestinian Authority, Knell also manages to erase the second Intifada and Mahmoud Abbas’ recent UN speech telling Palestinians that they are no longer bound by existing agreements from the picture presented to BBC viewers.
Knell: “So what’s happening on the streets isn’t yet organised in any meaningful way. There’s no clear and unified goal. But many of these young Palestinians don’t respect their leaders. They’re a generation that’s grown up with the failure of peace talks to deliver an independent Palestinian state and there are feelings of anger and humiliation. And for all of those reasons, it’s very hard to predict what happens next and whether those who are trying to bring this situation under control really can do so.”
To date, the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has refrained from carrying out any serious reporting which would inform its audiences of the very significant role played by incitement and glorification of terrorism in fuelling this latest wave of terrorism against Israeli civilians.
Moreover, we are seeing a rising number of BBC reports which uncritically amplify the libel-cum-conspiracy theory which is the main rallying point in this current wave of terrorism: the claim that Israel is changing the status quo on Temple Mount and seeks to ‘destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque’. We have also recently seen BBC correspondents promote the related false narrative that the entire Temple Mount compound is the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Such reporting not only irresponsibly amplifies very dangerous myths and contributes to the atmosphere of incitement, but clearly fails to meet the BBC’s declared standard of “not knowingly and materially mislead[ing] our audiences with our content”.
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