On March 27th the business section of the BBC News website published an interview with Qatar’s finance minister by the BBC’s economics editor, Kamal Ahmed, under the title “Qatar announces £5bn UK investment“.
“One of the largest investors in the UK has committed £5bn of new money to invest in transport, property and digital technology. […]
Qatar has already invested £40bn in the UK – it owns Harrods and a 95% stake in the Shard in London.
It also has a stake in Canary Wharf in the capital’s Docklands, as well as an interest in the Milford Haven liquefied natural gas terminal in South Wales.
It also bought the Olympic Village following the London 2012 Olympics.
“Currently the UK is our first investment destination and it is the largest investment destination for Qatari investors, both public and private,” Ali Shareef al Emadi, the country’s finance minister, told the BBC. […]
“We’re announcing an additional £5bn of investment in the next three to five years.
“Mainly this investment will focus on infrastructure sectors, technology, energy and real estate.””
The closing paragraphs of the 650-word article read as follows:
“Qatar has faced controversy over a fundraising for Barclays Bank at the time of the financial crisis and – more recently – allegations that poor labour conditions have marred the preparations for the 2022 World Cup which is being held in the country.
Mr Al Emadi said that Qatar had supported job creation in the UK.
“If you look at what we have done here, it has always been a win-win situation, whatever investment we do in the UK,” he said.
“When you talk about labour in Qatar, I think a lot of these things have been taken out of proportion and [are] inaccurate news.””
Likewise, the phrase “poor labour conditions” is a highly evasive way of describing a story that has been covered extensively by many media outlets (including the BBC itself), NGOs and human rights groups alike. The Qatari minister’s claim that the issue of abuses of foreign workers in Qatar has been “taken out of proportion” and his allegation of “inaccurate news” are not questioned or challenged by Kamal Ahmed, thus allowing the interviewee the last (spun) word.
Moreover, this article does not include any additional information or relevant links relating to those two stories. The tag ‘Qatar’ appended to the article was apparently set up on the same day that this report was published and includes (at the time of writing) the grand total of three reports including this one, none of which relate to the two issues raised by Kamal Ahmed.
The BBC’s public purpose remit obliges it to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” and only recently the corporation claimed to ask “the questions others won’t”. The BBC’s funding public would therefore expect to be provided with accurate and impartial information concerning those two stories (and other controversial issues such as support for terror groups) in an article relating to a foreign state investor in UK infrastructure.