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 (as well as others).
Another example of that double standard appeared in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Africa’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on June 5th under the headline “Ecowas agrees to admit Morocco to West African body“.
The BBC’s account of the story includes the following:
“Morocco’s application [to join ECOWAS] comes after it rejoined the African Union in January.
Morocco left the continental body in 1984 after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.
Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and has spent much of the last three decades trying to strengthen ties with Europe at the expense of relations with Africa.” [emphasis added]
Even for the BBC (which generally uses the term ‘disputed’ to describe the status of Western Sahara) that is remarkably tame language. As we see, the corporation did not find it necessary to include any of the accompanying comment concerning legality or ‘international law’ that is standard in reports concerning Israel and no information is given regarding the absence of international recognition of Morocco’s annexation of the territory.
One possible explanation for that lack of that information relevant to audience understanding of the story is found in the fact that 41.9% of the word count of this article actually relates to a topic not related to Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS or its earlier rapprochement with the African Union.
“King Mohammed VI was not at the summit because Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been invited. […]
King Mohammed VI last week announced he would not be attending the summit in Liberia, because of the presence of Israel’s prime minister.
Morocco does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
Mr Netanyahu addressed West African leaders on Sunday saying: “Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel.
“I believe in Africa. I believe in its potential, present and future. It is a continent on the rise.”
While in Liberia for the summit, his bodyguards scuffled with those of Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe, according to reports in the Israeli media.
This trip comes nearly a year after Mr Netanyahu was in East Africa as part of his efforts to strengthen ties between the continent and Israel.”
Having taken the editorial decision that it was more important to include an irrelevant second-hand tale of a ‘scuffle’ between bodyguards rather than to provide readers with factual information concerning the status of Western Sahara, the BBC even failed to explain that story properly.
“…Gnassingbé arrived at the meeting with his bodyguards, but they were stopped at the door to the meeting room by Netanyahu’s security detail, where the Israelis reportedly demanded that the Togo security personnel provide identification.”