On May 16th 2015 the BBC News website ran a story titled “Pope Francis calls Palestinians’ Abbas ‘angel of peace’” which was discussed here. A link to that article was included in an additional report that was published the following day.
Two days after the appearance of the original article – on May 18th 2015 – a follow-up article was published under the headline “Vatican clarifies Abbas ‘angel of peace’ comments” but as was noted here at the time, no action was taken regarding the two previous articles.
“The section of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on accuracy which deals with the subject of ‘managing online content’ states that:
“Unless content is specifically made available only for a limited time period, there is a presumption that material published online will become part of a permanently accessible archive and will not normally be removed.
For news stories, the archive is intended to act as a permanent public record.”
Given that and the appearance of this latest article, one would of course expect to see clarifications appended to the two previous reports in which the inaccurate claim was promoted. At the time of writing, no such clarification appears in either article.”
The consequence of that failure to clarify inaccurate information in a timely manner to both BBC audiences and BBC staff was apparent in a report which appeared on the BBC News website on January 14th 2017 under the title “Mahmoud Abbas: US embassy move to Jerusalem would hurt peace“. There, the ‘angel of peace’ theme – which the BBC itself reported as being misleading twenty months ago – is repeated.
The link in that paragraph leads to a filmed report by the BBC’s Vatican correspondent David Willey dating from May 17th 2015 which also does not include any notification based on the BBC’s subsequent report clarifying the Pope’s remarks. Viewers are told:
“Prominent among the guests at the Vatican ceremony was Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine. He was told by Pope Francis that he’s an angel of peace. […]
The saints are the first from Palestine to be named by the church since the earliest days of Christianity.” [emphasis added]
The BBC Academy’s style guide of course advises the corporation’s staff that:
“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel. […]
But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).
So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”
An additional noteworthy aspect of the January 14th report is its portrayal of the comments made by Mahmoud Abbas which are reflected in its title.
“Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has warned that peace could suffer if President-elect Donald Trump carries out plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. […]
On Saturday, President Abbas reiterated his concern over President-elect Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said he had written to Mr Trump to warn him of the risks of such a move.
“If this is the decision, to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem, it will not help peace and we hope it doesn’t happen,” President Abbas told reporters outside the Vatican.
Palestinian officials say the plan would undermine chances of a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution, in which Palestinian and Israeli states would live side-by-side.
“Not only would this move deprive the United States of all legitimacy in playing a role in conflict resolution, it would also destroy the two-state solution,” Mr Abbas was quoted earlier as saying in French paper Le Figaro.”
Remarkably, the BBC made no effort to provide audiences with information which would help them reach their own conclusions concerning the veracity of Abbas’ claim that relocation of the US embassy to seemingly any location in Jerusalem would “undermine” the chances of a peace agreement and did not update this report to include later related threats made by a Fatah spokesman.
Seeing as the BBC regularly informs its audiences – including in this report – that “the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state”, it would of course have been appropriate for this article to clarify why Mahmoud Abbas should object to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.