Listeners to BBC World Service radio had already heard the news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ promoting the notion that Israel had not responded appropriately to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi on October 26th.
A week later, on November 2nd, they heard an entire four-minute item on the same non-story on the same programme.
At the start of the programme presenter James Menendez told listeners:
“…and we’ll hear from Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns the murder of Jamal Khashoggi a month after his disappearance.
Menendez: “Well Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has of course been met with condemnation from many quarters and today – a month on – the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his voice, calling the killing horrendous. Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t have any official diplomatic relations but there’ve been reports of military cooperation because of both countries’ mutual antipathy towards Iran. Indeed Mr Netanyahu also said today that the killing shouldn’t be allowed to lead to upheaval in Saudi Arabia. Sharren Haskel is an Israeli MP from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party. I asked her whether the prime minister’s response had been appropriate.”
Apart from pointing out Turkey’s record on the imprisonment of journalists, Haskel’s comments throughout the interview reflected those made by Netanyahu and another Israeli minister earlier in the day. Menendez’s framing of the topic was however noteworthy.
Menendez: “Isn’t it strange that it’s taken a month to condemn the murder, whereas others have been much more quick to come out?”
Menendez: “But doesn’t the murder show that Saudi Arabia – and we’ve had President Erdogan saying, you know, this must have been sanctioned at the very highest levels in the kingdom – that they are capable of extreme violence?”
Menendez: [interrupts] “And of course we’ve had, we’ve had, you know, the announcement about the [US] sanctions [against Iran] today. But I’m just interested in Saudi Arabia. Just finally, I mean Mr Netanyahu talked about ‘should be duly dealt with’: what does that mean do you think?”
Menendez: [interrupts] “But should there be sanctions against Saudi Arabia? Should there be sanctions against Saudi Arabia just on this particular case?”
While the BBC’s own record of commenting on the long-standing issue of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia has often left a lot to be desired (see ‘related articles’ below), as we see the BBC World Service is devoting energies to creating and promoting a story about what it has chosen to present as a tardy Israeli response to an as yet unsolved murder.
How that editorial decision contributes to the BBC’s remit of providing its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” in order to enhance audience understanding of the Khashoggi story is of course unclear.