On April 10th the BBC News website posted two items relating to the same topic: a written report titled “Israeli minister praises viral video sniper” (which was also promoted on social media) and a filmed report headlined “Israeli soldier shoots Palestinian on Gaza border“.
In the written report the account of the story given to BBC audiences is as follows:
“Footage of the incident, in which a soldier expresses joy at having captured it on film, drew condemnation from politicians and rights groups.
Israel’s military said the man who was shot had been orchestrating a riot, and he was hit in the leg.
It said the soldiers involved in the filming will be dealt with.
In the video broadcast on Monday, three men are seen nearing a barrier or fence. The crack of an apparent gunshot is heard and one of the men, who had been standing still and appeared to be unarmed, falls to the ground.
A voice is heard to exuberantly declare in Hebrew: “Wow, what a video. Yes! Son of a bitch! What a video!”
A crowd of people are then seen rushing to retrieve the man who was shot. His condition is not clear.”
The article goes on to paraphrase a statement put out by the IDF:
“In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the incident had taken place on 22 December, 2017, in the area of the Israeli community of Kissufim, close to the Gaza border.
It said the video “depicts a short part of the response to a violent riot”, and “a single bullet” was fired after other attempts to stop the violence had failed.”
The IDF statement actually said that the video “records a short part of the handling of violent disturbances that included stone-throwing and attempts to sabotage the fence and carried on for some two hours”. The statement went on to clarify that during that time, steps had been taken to disperse the rioters including verbal and loudspeaker calls to them to stop, the use of riot control methods and shooting in the air and that when none of those means was effective, a single bullet was fired at one of those suspected of organising and leading the rioting when he was a few meters from the fence and that he was wounded in the leg.
The BBC’s account went on:
“The statement did not comment on the sniper but said the “unauthorised filming” by another soldier, and the distribution of the footage and comments heard on the tape “do not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF soldiers”.
It said those issues would “be dealt [with] by commanders accordingly”.”
In fact the IDF statement clarifies that “the video was not filmed from the position from which the shooting was carried out and was filmed by a soldier who does not organically belong to the unit that fired.”
In other words, the BBC’s account does not adequately clarify to audiences that the voice it describes as ‘exuberant’ does not belong to the soldiers engaged in attempts to control the rioting. Despite numerous media outlets having reported on the extensive rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on that specific day, the BBC also refrains from describing the events as such in its own words.
The article closes with the following description of the more recent rioting at the same border:
“The case comes at a time of heightened tensions over Gaza.
Israel has faced mounting criticism for shooting dozens of Palestinian, many fatally, during clashes at protests along the border in the past two weeks.
Israel has defended its actions, saying it has only used live fire against individuals trying to breach the border fence, or those using weapons or explosives.”
In the synopsis to the BBC’s filmed report the rioting that is the context to the story is likewise described in unnecessarily qualified terms and it is not adequately clarified to audiences that the soldiers “heard…cheering” are not those engaged in attempts to control the rioting.
“The Israeli Defense Force say a Palestinian who is seen being shot in a viral video was a man who had led a “violent riot.”
The video of the incident, which the IDF says happened in December 2017, first emerged on Monday.
Soldiers can be heard in the footage excitedly discussing their target and cheering after the shot.”
In the video itself the background to the story is again portrayed in scare quotes:
“The Israeli military said this event took place in December 2017 and the target was suspected of organizing a “violent riot”.
Viewers are also told that:
“A leading Israeli rights group said it had little faith in any military investigation.”
In other words, the BBC’s idea of ‘impartial’ reporting is to promote commentary on this story from the same partisan group that just days ago enjoyed generous BBC amplification (including a link) of its public call to Israeli soldiers to refuse orders.