On several occasions in the past we have documented the difference between the terminology used by the BBC in its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict and in its coverage of the Western Sahara conflict (and others).
Another example of that double standard appeared on the BBC News website on February 27th in a report titled “Western Sahara: Morocco to pull out of UN buffer zone“.
In the caption to the image at the top of the article, readers are told of a “dispute”:
“As a result of the dispute over Western Sahara, thousands of people have been living in refugee camps in Algeria.”
That terminology is also found in the report itself.
“Morocco is to pull out of a UN buffer zone in the disputed Western Sahara territory, an official statement says.”
A map shows readers “Morocco-controlled territory” – with the term ‘occupied’ avoided.
The term ‘controls’ is also used in the text, with none of the accompanying comment concerning legality or ‘international law’ that is standard in reports concerning Israel and no information regarding the absence of international recognition of Morocco’s annexation of the territory.
“Western Sahara is a sparsely-populated area of mostly desert situated on the north-west coast of Africa.
It was annexed by Morocco in 1975 – a move resisted by the Polisario Front.
A 16-year insurgency ended with a UN-brokered truce in 1991 and the promise of a referendum on independence.
But this has yet to take place and Morocco still controls two-thirds of the territory, while thousands of refugees live over the border in Algeria.”
The only use of the term ‘occupation’ comes in quotation marks.
“Mr Guterres’ predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, infuriated Rabat by describing Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara as an “occupation” – a remark he later apologised for.”
Once again the BBC’s presentation of Western Sahara as “disputed” territory contrasts markedly with its inevitable – and specified – portrayal of Judea & Samaria, parts of Jerusalem and even the Gaza Strip as “occupied”.
As long as that double standard in terminology persists, the BBC cannot be surprised that its impartiality is called into question.