BBC News continues to parrot Iran’s nuclear messaging

A report was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 16th under the headline “Netanyahu: ‘Europe might ignore Iran threat until nuclear missiles hit’”.

That title, along with a further 181 words in the 690 word report related to remarks made by the Israeli prime minister following a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels concerning Iran’s breaches of the agreement reached in 2015 on its nuclear programme.

“Israel’s prime minister has said the European Union might not wake up to the threat of Iran “until Iranian nuclear missiles fall on European soil”.

Mr Netanyahu likened Europe’s approach to Iran’s recent breaches of a 2015 deal limiting its nuclear programme to the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

He spoke after EU foreign ministers said the breaches were not significant.”

Readers found information on Iran’s breaches of the JCPOA and the EU’s related stance. The US approach and the Iranian stance were also reflected, with BBC audiences told that: [emphasis added]

“Iran says they [breaches of the JCPOA] are a response to reinstated US sanctions, but insists it is not trying to build nuclear weapons.”

And:

“Mr Netanyahu, who was a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, has accused Iran of lying about not pursuing nuclear weapons and of continuing to pursue nuclear weapons knowledge since 2015. Iran has called the allegations “ridiculous”.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed upon) the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – produced a report which stated that:

“…the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.”

The BBC also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues.

Nevertheless, it chose not to inform readers of this report of those relevant parts of the story.

Instead – despite being under obligation to “offer a range and depth of analysis…not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues…as active and informed citizens” – the BBC continues to uncritically parrot Iranian messaging while sidestepping important background.

Related Articles:

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

 

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BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ revisits its Eurovision bias

As readers no doubt recall, BBC reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv in May was highly politicised and included months of amplification of the anti-Israel BDS campaign’s calls to relocate/boycott the event.

Some of the most blatantly politicised content was produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – which creates content specifically aimed at 16 to 24 year-olds – with that BBC department’s journalists apparently rather enamoured of the politics behind the Icelandic entry to the competition.

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

Anyone who had assumed that episode of overtly politicised ‘journalism’ was behind us may have been surprised to find a report tagged ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 14th – two months after the competition had taken place.

Once again produced by ‘Newsbeat’, the report is titled “Meet Bashar Murad: The Palestinian singer blurring gender lines”. Readers are told that:

“Whether he’s performing in a wedding dress or singing about LGBT issues, Palestinian musician Bashar Murad is used to taking risks.

As an Arab living in Jerusalem, he says he’s constantly challenging many of the conservative elements of his society.”

The article goes on to provide an example of such a “challenge”.

“As an example, he mentions his song Everyone’s Getting Married, which riffs on his society’s traditional view of marriage. […]

“There were some negative comments here and there,” he says. “But people tend to make these assumptions because not a lot of people have tried to take the risks I have.””

As Liel Leibovitz noted at the Tablet last month:

“Murad is a resident of East Jerusalem […] As such, he is free from the rampant persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Palestinian society, a subject he has yet to take on ardently. He was educated in an American school in Jerusalem, attended Bridgewater College in Virginia, and had his work sponsored by the United Nations’ Men and Women for Gender Equality program.”

The ’Newsbeat’ report fails to provide readers with any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule but instead goes on to dig up the Eurovision.

“Recently, Israel received a lot of international attention when it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

Organisers will always say the contest is strictly non-political, which Bashar finds “a little ridiculous”.

“It was already political because it was taking place in Tel Aviv.”

There had been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

Once again ‘Newsbeat’ avoids explaining what “Israel’s policies” are and policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. The article continues with a quote from Murad which, given the BBC’s own generous politicised reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest, is obviously inaccurate.

“”The whole Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv went on without any mention of what is happening to Palestinians.”

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel says it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.”

The report goes on to note Murad’s collaboration with the Icelandic entry.

“Shortly after the contest finished, Bashar released a duet with Icelandic entrants Hatari, who gained attention for unfurling ‘Palestine’ scarves during the results show.

“I was proud of the guys,” he says. “They were the only contestants who actually made a statement.”

To many people, the use of the name ‘Palestine’ is contentious because some see it as not just pro-Palestinian, but as an anti-Israel expression too.”

The writer of this report refrains from informing readers that there is no such country as ‘Palestine’ because the leaders of the Palestinian people have turned down numerous opportunities to create one.

As we see ‘Newsbeat’ continues its overtly political ‘journavism’ with yet another report promoting the bizarre idea that a host country’s conflicts and disputes should be part of Eurovision Song Contest coverage. We can of course be fairly confident that any ‘Newsbeat’ reporters covering the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands next year will not be visiting Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan or showcasing singers from several small islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Notably, the BBC News website found this item worthy of promotion on its ‘Middle East’ page in a week in which it has totally ignored arson and rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the death of a woman injured in a rocket attack in May, a vehicular attack in Jerusalem and Palestinian glorification of terrorism.

Related Articles:

Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

 

 

 

 

Revisiting BBC reporting on Hizballah

Back in December 2018 listeners to BBC World Service radio heard Razia Iqbal suggest that Israel’s presentation of the purpose of multiple tunnels quarried through solid limestone under an international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction might be made up.

Metulla

Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

The following month we noted that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah had clarified the purpose of “those tunnels” during a media interview.

“He confirmed Israeli leaders’ accusations that “Part of our plan for the next war is to enter the Galilee, a part of our plan we are capable of, God willing. The important thing is that we have this capability and we have had it for years.””

However no effort was subsequently made by the BBC to inform audiences of that acknowledgement of the existence and purpose of the Hizballah cross-border tunnels and thereby relieve them of the erroneous impression promoted by Iqbal.

During Hizballah’s annual commemoration of the Second Lebanon War on July 12th, Nasrallah once again stated that the terrorist organisation has plans to invade Israeli sovereign territory, as reported by Seth Frantzman at the Jerusalem Post.

“Nasrallah said there were scenarios or plans that are ready to be implemented that would foresee the invasion of the Galilee by Hezbollah. This threat is not surprising since the terrorist organization has been aiming for years to use the next conflict to grab and hold some territory. It built tunnels under the border of northern Israel that were discovered as part of Israel’s Operation Northern Shield from December 4, 2018, through January 13, 2019.”

Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

Nasrallah’s latest speech also included boasts about the terror group’s capabilities:

“Nasrallah admits that it had “limited” attack abilities in 2006. Now it claims to have drones and new advanced technologies to use on land, sea and air. Much of this comes from Iran, including precision guidance for missiles and other technology. Hezbollah says its missiles are more accurate. This indicates that Hezbollah’s boasts about being able to reach all of Israel and estimates of it having 150,000 rockets may be reasonable. It clearly wants us to think so.”

BBC audiences are of course serially deprived of information concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701 of 2006 which states that there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State” should be implemented. 

The BBC’s online profile of Hizballah has not been updated for well over three years, meaning that audiences find no information there concerning the cross-border tunnels which were destroyed earlier this year or the UK government’s decision to designate it as a terrorist organisation in its entirety.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

Hizballah leader dispels BBC WS presenter’s ‘wondering’

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

 

 

BBC’s online Fatah profile shown yet again to be inaccurate

The BBC’s online profile of the “Fatah Palestinian movement” was last updated over eight years ago in June 2011 according to its date stamp.

The profile rightly notes that Fatah is a:

“Major force within the PLO umbrella group and its interim governing body, the Palestinian Authority”

However, as has been noted here in the past, among the additional information provided to BBC audiences in that profile are the following statements: [emphasis added]

Secular, nationalist movement with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state”

“Under Arafat’s leadership, the group originally promoted an armed struggle against Israel to create a Palestinian state. But it later recognised Israel’s right to exist, and its leaders have led Palestinian peace talks aimed at reaching a two-state solution.”

“With international pressure mounting, Fatah – though notably not the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – signed a declaration rejecting attacks on civilians in Israel and committing themselves to peace and co-existence.”

Palestinian Media Watch reports on activities at a children’s summer camp organised by the Fatah-dominated PLO:

“A branch of Fatah’s Shabiba youth movement has produced a video that shows “how Fatah teaches its children loyalty to the Martyrs’ blood” at a summer camp for Palestinian kids, which was organized by the PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs. 

In the video, children are chanting a song honoring several arch-terrorists who murdered hundreds, asking God to “have mercy” on former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein who massacred hundreds, former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and his deputy Abu Jihad, founder of the Hamas terror organization Ahmed Yassin, and head of the Black September terror organization Abu Iyad – all of whom orchestrated numerous terror attacks in which hundreds were murdered. The children are wearing T-shirts with the logo of the PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs and the logo of the 2019 Palestinian summer camps.”

PMW also reports that at least two of the summer camps run by the PLO this year are named after terrorists.

“Text on sign: “Under the auspices of the [PLO] Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs the Nahdat Bint Al-Rif Charity Association is running the children’s summer camp named after Omar Abu Laila under the slogan ‘The home is ours and Jerusalem is ours’.”

A political party which controls the Palestinian Authority education ministry and dominates an organisation that organises children’s summer camps glorifying violence and terrorism has obviously not ‘rejected’ attacks on Israeli civilians or ‘committed’ itself to “peace and co-existence”.

However, not only has the BBC for years refrained from amending those clearly unrealistic claims in its Fatah profile, it continues to avoid reporting cases of blatant glorification of terrorism by the PA’s dominant party.  

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

More Fatah glorification of terrorism ignored by the BBC

 

 

BBC Radio 4 listeners are told of ‘Palestinian air’

The July 11th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“More than 25 years on from the Oslo Peace accords, close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are still rare. Charlie Faulkner attends a Shabbat meal in Jerusalem where an Israeli woman invites a former Palestinian prisoner to her home.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 11:25 here) with an inaccurate portrayal of the aims of the Oslo Accords, a one-sided explanation of factors supposedly making a two-state solution “more remote” and the same unevidenced claim about friendships between Israelis and Palestinians. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “It’s more than 25 years since the Oslo Peace Accords were signed, aiming to fulfil the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The accords led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority with limited self-governance of the West Bank and Gaza and raised hopes for a more peaceful future. But now the ultimate goal of establishing a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution seems more remote than ever amid rocket attacks and air strikes and an Israeli government taking a hard-line approach. Close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are rare but Charlie Faulkner has come across a personal attempt to bring people together.”

Charlie Faulkner is not a BBC employee: she describes herself as “an independent journalist” currently located in Amman and has written for several Qatar-linked outlets includingMiddle East Eye’, ‘The New Arab’ and ‘Al Jazeera’.

Faulkner’s story was about what she claimed was “a very unusual dinner party” at the home of someone described as “Jewish American” despite having lived in Israel for twelve years.

“In just a few moments Susan – a Jewish American in her 60s – would be inviting Suli – a former Palestinian prisoner – into her home for Shabbat dinner even though she’d never had a conversation with a Palestinian before. It was Susan’s daughter, 33-year-old Noa, who’d orchestrated this unusual get-together.”

Although family names are absent from Faulkner’s account, Noa appears to be Noa Yammer – communications director for ‘Hand in Hand’ – and ‘Suli’ is apparently Sulaiman Khatib who has previously appeared in BBC content. Carefully avoiding the word terror, Faulkner told listeners:

“Suli, now in his mid-forties, was imprisoned for 10 years at the age of 14 after attacking two Israeli soldiers. Having informally joined the Fatah movement, one day he and a friend decided to steal the soldiers’ weapons. During the attempt – and in a moment of blind fury – Suli and his friend stabbed them. Luckily the soldiers survived, he said, and after his release from prison he focused on achieving peace. He’s the founder of a group called ‘Combatants for Peace’ and gives speaking tours around the world. This year he’ll publish a book he hopes will humanise both sides of the conflict.”

Radio 4 listeners were given no factual information about the activities, agenda and funding of the political NGO ‘Combatants for Peace’.

Again with no evidence provided to support the claim, listeners were told that:

“Encounters between Israelis and Palestinians like this are incredibly rare, set against an often tense political background. […] The conversation quickly turned serious. Israel’s Independence Day was taking place the following week and Suli’s organisation had planned a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day service the evening before. He invited Susan to attend. Immediately she bristled but answered very honestly. She said she felt that attending would be disrespectful to the sacrifice made by Israeli soldiers who had died for the country.”

Faulkner made no effort to explain to listeners that that annual event – held on what is Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism – is considered by many to be controversial with “critics accusing it of legitimizing terrorism and equating Israel’s fallen soldiers and those who attacked them”.

Listeners heard Faulkner’s descriptions of her protagonists’ “attachment to the land”, with one including superficial references to the Six Day War and the Palestinian refugee issue – and promoting the notion of “Palestinian air”.

“Having spent most of her life teaching religious studies, Susan explained that through her faith she felt a real attachment to the land. She also emphasised that the family had sacrificed some quality of life to be there.”

“Suli pointed out his own family’s attachment to the land and how his cousin in Jordan, whose parents were among the thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the 1967 war, is not allowed to return. His cousin often longs to breathe in Palestinian air, said Suli, and on those days he climbs Mount Nebo from which he can see Jerusalem and the village where Suli’s family still live.”

More one-sided framing followed:

“He talked about how his village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, called Hizme, has continued to suffer under what he describes as an ever-tightening grip of the Israeli authorities.”

Terrorist incidents in and around that village were of course not mentioned in Faulkner’s account.  

Israelis, however, were painted as largely intolerant.

“We talked about a social media post Noa had shared showing empathy for innocent Israelis and Palestinians caught up in the 2014 Gaza conflict. It had unintentionally sparked a highly emotional backlash from some friends and relatives. ‘We’re talking about these people’s children on the front lines’ Susan exclaimed. These people had seen Noa as siding with the enemy. […] Susan said she was proud of the way her daughter could hold both sides in equal esteem, suggesting she maybe wasn’t able to do so herself.”

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ promises BBC audiences “[i]nsight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world”. This report did not include any of those elements and was remarkably superficial and uninformative. It did, however, promote an inadequately portrayed political NGO, marginalise Israeli concerns and contribute to the inaccurate framing of the Oslo Accords and the supposedly ever “remote” two-state solution that has been quite frequently evident in recent BBC reports.  

 

BBC News website promotes context-free video

On July 3rd the BBC News website published a report headlined “Clashes as Ethiopian Israelis protest over police shooting” which remained on its ‘Middle East’ page for two days.

“Protesters have clashed with police across Israel following the funeral of a teenager of Ethiopian descent who was shot dead by an off-duty officer.

Thousands took to the streets of several cities on Tuesday, blocking roads with sit-ins and burning tyres.

A police spokesman said 111 officers were wounded during the disturbances and that 136 people were arrested.”

Only in paragraph twenty did readers discover that the demonstrations included more than “sit-ins and burning tyres”.

“The police force said officers initially exercised restraint and allowed the protesters to block the roads, but that they had to intervene once the protesters started throwing Molotov cocktails and stones, burning tyres, and damaging property.”

The background to the violent demonstrations was described as follows:

“The killing of 18-year-old Solomon Tekah near Haifa on Sunday caused outrage among the Ethiopian community, with one member of the teenager’s family accusing the off-duty police officer of murder.

A police statement cited the officer as saying he had tried to intervene in a fight between two groups of youths. After he identified himself, the youths began throwing stones at him and he opened fire after “feeling that his life was in danger”, the statement added.

However, Israeli media cited witnesses as saying the officer was not attacked.”

Since that report was published on – and removed from – the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, additional details of the incident have come to light. A ballistics report has confirmed that “the officer fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into Solomon Tekah” and the DNA of the deceased was found on a rock recovered from the scene. 

The BBC has not produced any follow-up reporting to that July 3rd report which told audiences that:

“Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s. They say they have faced systematic discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships ever since.”

And:

“”We’ll do whatever we can to make sure police will stop killing people because of their skin colour,” one protester told AFP news agency.”

However a week later, on July 10th, the BBC News website suddenly decided to publish a video also dated July 3rd in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section of its Middle East page.  

That video – which has no narration or text – had previously been embedded into the written report but was now presented as a stand-alone item with a synopsis informing BBC audiences that:

“Israeli police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protests by Ethiopian Jews prompted by the funeral of a teenager who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman.

Thousands took to the streets of several cities, blocking roads with sit-ins and burning tyres.

A police spokesman said 111 officers were wounded in clashes and that 136 people were arrested on suspicion of attacking officers and burning vehicles.” [emphasis added]

The BBC made no effort to provide context explaining the circumstances of the original incident or to update that synopsis with the information released after its written report was published.

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BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

The edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” which was aired on BBC One on July 10th (available here on iPlayer or here) swiftly garnered reactions from the Labour party itself – which described it as an “authored polemic” – and its supporters as well as from bodies such as the Chief Rabbi, the JLC and CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews along with many others.

There is, however, something more to be said about the core topic addressed by John Ware.

At 08:58 Ware told viewers that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Ware: “Before Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, complaints in the party about antisemitism were rare. […] After Mr Corbyn became leader, party membership surged, some attracted by his decades of radical Left activism.

Interviewee: “So there’s an increase in members from a particular perspective and they brought with them a particular world view which unfortunately allowed breathing space for antisemitism to arise.”

That “world view” of course existed in British society long before Corbyn’s election to the party leadership in September 2015 and it was described later on in the film (from 10:21) as follows by Dr Dave Rich.

Rich: “Many people on the Left they define themselves by being anti-racist and actually they define the Right as being racist. So in their world they can’t be antisemitic because they are Left-wing.”

Ware: “For Jeremy Corbyn and those who share his world view, part of being anti-racist is near unconditional support for the Palestinian cause. Yet the campaign for Palestinian rights can blind some anti-racists to another kind of racism against Jews.”

Rich: “If you look back at the kind of antisemitism that existed in the 1930s – Jews using their money, Jews controlling governments – instead you started to see the same ideas were being directed towards Israel. These kinds of ideas are much more acceptable on the Left and in pro-Palestinian campaigning circles because they talk about Israel; they don’t talk about Jews. But actually underneath the surface, it’s the same ideas.”

If one wishes to understand why antisemitism is still so sociably acceptable in the UK in the 21st century that it is not a barrier to becoming a member of – or even a leading figure in – one of Britain’s most prominent political parties, one cannot ignore the country’s biggest and most influential media organisation.

For example, among the images seen during the above section of the programme was this one, apparently from a demonstration in London:

The picture used on that banner – and the falsehood behind it – is a product of inaccurate and irresponsible BBC reporting.

Long before Jeremy Corbyn took over the Labour party leadership the BBC was whitewashing the antisemitism of British politicians and facilitating the spread of antisemitic discourse on its message boards. Over six years ago the BBC was already promoting the notion that “it’s very difficult to criticize the Israeli government without in turn being told you’re antisemitic and some people would say that Jews see antisemitism everywhere” and that was not a one-off case by any means. In its various ‘backgrounders’ supposedly explaining antisemitism to its audiences, the BBC has repeatedly promoted the Livingstone Formulation.

The BBC has hosted known antisemites and Holocaust deniers and provided often offensive anti-Israel campaigners with an unhindered platform from which to promote falsehoods. It has whitewashed antisemitism in British society from sport to charities and academia and has promoted antisemitic stereotypes. BBC audiences have been repeatedly exposed to antisemitic tropes concerning ‘the Jewish lobby’ or ‘the Israel lobby’ and stereotypes about ‘rich Jews’ even from BBC staff and contributors. And of course the BBC has failed to respond appropriately to complaints from the general public concerning antisemitism in its own content.

Since the issue of antisemitism in the Labour party became prominent, the BBC has repeatedly shown itself to be incapable of reporting on that topic accurately, impartially and in a manner which provides the British public with the full range of information.

So while John Ware’s Panorama documentary about institutional antisemitism in the Labour party is obviously a very welcome step in informing the British public about the anti-Jewish racism in their society, it is also necessary for the BBC to put its own house in order by undertaking a serious examination of its own coverage of – and contributions to – that worrying phenomenon.

Related Articles:

One to watch on BBC One

Jeremy Corbyn’s Antisemitism Crisis: a Timeline  (CAMERA)

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

 

 

BBC publishes new Editorial Guidelines

Back in October 2018 the BBC announced a public consultation on the topic of its Editorial Guidelines.

BBC Watch made a submission to that consultation and on July 8th we were informed that, following approval by the BBC Board, the revised Editorial Guidelines – available here – have been published and that they “will formally come into effect for all new output from Monday 15 July 2019”.

While much of the revised guidelines will seem familiar to those acquainted with the previous ones, there are nevertheless some points worthy of note.

Section 3 – Accuracy – includes a clause titled ‘Correcting Mistakes’.

“3.3.28 We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately. Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of unfairness. An effective way of correcting a serious factual error is saying what was wrong as well as putting it right. 

Mistakes in on-demand and online content

Where mistakes in our on-demand content, which is available online after broadcast, are unlikely to be a serious breach of editorial standards, a correction should be published on that platform, so that it is visible before the output is played. Such on-demand content does not then normally need to be changed or revoked.

Where mistakes to our on-demand content are likely to be considered a serious breach of editorial standards, the content must be corrected and the mistake acknowledged, or in exceptional cases removed. We need to be transparent about any changes made, unless there are editorial or legal reasons not to do so.  

In online text content, any mistake that alters the editorial meaning should normally be corrected and we should be transparent about what was wrong.” [emphasis added]

In relation to online content, BBC Watch pointed out in our submission to the consultation that:

“The addition of footnotes to clarify that a correction has been made is sporadic and lacks consistency. This procedure needs a serious review and overhaul: the purpose of a correction is, after all, to ensure that audiences get the correct information.  The BBC should be doing much more to ensure that is the case and improve its transparency.”

Section 4 – Impartiality – includes a clause headed ‘News, Current Affairs and Factual Output’.

“4.3.11 Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal opinions of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area. They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views on such matters publicly, including in any BBC-branded output or on personal blogs and social media.” [emphasis added]

The same section also has a clause titled ‘Contributors’ Affiliations’.

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.” [emphasis added]

The word funding did not appear in the draft proposal presented for consultation.

Section 11 – War, Terror and Emergencies – includes a clause titled ‘Accuracy and Impartiality’ which states:

“We should make it clear if our reports are censored or monitored or if we withhold information under duress, and explain, wherever possible, the conditions under which we are operating.”

That section was worded slightly differently in the draft proposal presented for consultation and in our submission BBC Watch related to it as follows:

“b) Section 11.3 Accuracy and Impartiality:

“We should normally say if our reports are censored or monitored or if we withhold information, and explain, wherever possible, the rules under which we are operating.”

This important clause would benefit from the addition of the words ‘and conditions’ after ‘rules’ – especially in relation to reporting from areas under the control of terror organisations such as the Gaza Strip.”

The same clause goes on:

“Reporters and correspondents must be aware that comments they make on social media accounts that relate to their BBC work may be perceived as having the same weight as a BBC report, so should bear in mind the requirement for due accuracy and impartiality at all times.”

Section 11 gives instructions on ‘Use of Language’ which are very similar to the previous ones.

“11.3.5 Our reporting of possible acts of terror should be timely and responsible, bearing in mind our requirement for due accuracy and impartiality. Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We should not use the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution.

11.3.6 The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber’, ‘attacker’, ‘gunman’, ‘kidnapper’, ‘insurgent’ and ‘militant’. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

BBC Watch’s submission noted that:

“It is obviously futile to reuse the same editorial guidelines which BBC journalists have been openly – and rightly – breaching for years in reports on terrorism in Europe and the UK. The issue of continuity in reporting acts of terror wherever they occur is clearly a major point which this draft guideline does not adequately address.”

One area in which the revised guidelines are somewhat clearer than the previous ones is ‘Conflicts of Interest’ and the accompanying guidance document on ‘Social Media’ is also relevant.

“All BBC activity on social media, whether it is ‘official’ BBC use or the personal use by BBC staff is subject to the Editorial Guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way that our on platform content is. […]

Social media platforms provide an invaluable opportunity for both BBC output and staff to share content and engage with others in an informal environment. But just as everything we do on our own platforms is informed by the Editorial Guidelines, so is all our activity on social media platforms – whether it is in a ‘professional’ or ‘personal’ or capacity. […]

Disclaimers written in biographies such as ‘my views not the BBC’s’ provide no defence against personal expressions of opinion on social media that may conflict with BBC guidelines.

Individuals involved in the production or presentation of any output in News or other factual areas that regularly deal with a range of public policy issues have a particular responsibility to avoid damaging the BBC’s impartiality.” [emphasis added]

Although these revised Editorial Guidelines clearly reflect an effort to make them more user-friendly and concise, as we pointed out in our submission:

“While the periodic revision and updating of editorial guidelines is obviously necessary, there is little point in expending so much publicly-funded effort if the end product is not adhered to by BBC staff and enforced by the BBC itself. Sadly, our experience shows that is all too often not the case.”  

Whether or not the new guidelines will indeed be effective of course remains to be seen.

Related Articles:

Why the new BBC editorial guidelines may not mean less terror showcasing

Are BBC guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ about to get worse?

 

What was missing from a ‘not to be missed’ report on BBC Two’s Newsnight?

The July 3rd edition of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight’ included a report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman which was described by the BBC as “not to be missed”.

As well as being shown on the programme itself, a clip from the report was posted on the Newsnight webpage under the title “Growing tensions between West Bank Palestinians & Israeli settlers”.

“The fate of the two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians is looking bleaker than ever.

The Americans now barely mention the term; their envoy in Jerusalem speaks instead of Israel’s “right” to sovereignty in parts of the occupied West Bank and UN figures suggest growing cases of violence by settlers amid a recent spike in bloodshed by both sides.”

Neither in that synopsis nor the report itself were audiences told which UN agency produced those figures but it is more than likely the highly partisan UNOCHA which produces regular reports based on information provided by political NGOs, some of which are involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigns against Israel.

Bateman opened his report with an incident which took place in Yasuf in early June, telling viewers that:

“The Israeli police say they are searching for the suspects but so far they’ve found no-one: a common outcome in these kinds of cases.”

After giving air-time to unevidenced claims from another interviewee from the same village, Bateman told viewers that:

“These villagers grew up under military occupation. Now their children see the Israeli watch towers too. Reported hate crimes against Palestinians doubled to nearly 300 last year says the UN. Villagers must ultimately turn to the Israeli army for protection, with all the complexity that entails. A military drawn from one people among two hostile populations.”

Having spoken to the deputy mayor of Yasuf, Bateman told BBC audiences:

“I think the main thing is that this is not just about isolated incidents. When you come here and you speak to people, you’re really struck by how this is a way of life: a low-level conflict. People feel intimidated, under threat. And at the end of that really you have two sides, both seeking control of the same land.”

By now at the half-way point in his report, Bateman told viewers that “the village [Yasuf] looks out onto several settlements – and they’re growing” and then went on to interview an Israeli couple from Tapuach West, promoting the BBC’s partisan international law mantra en route.

“Rivka took me to see the settlement outpost her family built. Like most Israelis she rejects the view of international law that sees the settlements as illegal. She is among the most ideological supporters. But an anti-occupation group recently petitioned the Israeli courts and her home was demolished.”

While Bateman did not identify that “anti-occupation group”, he was apparently referring to the political NGO ‘Yesh Din’. He told viewers:

“They talk of a constant threat. Late last year there was a surge of violence in the West Bank. In a matter of months five Israelis were killed by Palestinians and alleged attacks by settlers saw at least two Palestinians die.”

Between October and December 2018 inclusive five Israelis were murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. We have been able to find record of one Palestinian fatality during the same period of time. Bateman did not inform viewers that a suspect has been charged in connection with that case.

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has a long record of under-reporting Palestinian terrorism, particularly when attacks do not result in fatalities. In 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities. Throughout the whole of 2017 the BBC News website reported a total of fourteen incidents – i.e. 0.92% of the terror attacks which actually took place –  and 89% of the total fatalities.

Quoting anonymous “campaign groups” but providing no evidence to support the claim, Bateman closed his report by telling viewers that:

“Settler violence reinforces the goals of the state, say campaign groups, to take as much land as possible.”

He did not bother to clarify that such attacks have long been publicly and repeatedly condemned by Israel’s prime minister, leaders of the communities in Judea & Samaria, security officials and the Israeli public.

Bateman concluded with two further claims:

“Israel routinely says it investigates these cases but conviction rates are extremely low.”

“…the settlement movement is arguably enjoying more support than ever…”

The most notable aspect of this “not to be missed” report from Tom Bateman is, however, the part of the story that he chose to leave out. Throughout the entire item, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the differences between the policies of the Israeli authorities – investigations, arrests, and legal action taken against those suspected of carrying out attacks – and the approach of the Palestinian Authority to those of its citizens carrying out violent attacks against Israelis: glorification of the acts and their perpetrators and financial rewards

That is obviously a very serious omission, particularly given that the BBC’s record of reporting on PA incitement, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to terrorists means that audiences would be unlikely to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

 

Political messaging eclipses context in BBC WS Fourth of July report

Listeners to the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on July 4th heard a report from Yolande Knell in which information and context were side lined in favour of political messaging.

The introduction given by programme host Dan Damon (from 18:08 here) included the claim that there is such a thing as “international policy”.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Damon: “As the United States celebrates Independence Day, in Israel local officials and American diplomats are marking what they say are their closest ever ties. For the first time the US embassy to Israel has held its 4th of July party in Jerusalem; this of course after President Trump recognised that city as Israel’s capital – a controversial departure from long-time international policy. Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis have criticised recent actions by US Ambassador David Friedman in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their hoped-for future state. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Listeners heard the sound of fireworks before Knell began with an incomplete and context-free portrayal of part of a speech made by Israel’s prime minister. While listeners could be forgiven for assuming that Netanyahu had compared “relations with this White House” to those with previous US administrations, he did not. 

Knell: “Off with a bang. The US embassy held its first ever Independence Day party in Jerusalem this week. Watching the fireworks with their wives: the ambassador and Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He celebrated his close relations with this White House.”

Recording Netanyahu: “…and it’s wonderful to have the greatest power on earth not opposing the Jewish state but supporting the Jewish state. What a twist.”

Listeners then heard that archaeology is “an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda”, although it is doubtful that they would be aware of the background to Knell’s reference to the opening of an archaeological site seeing as the BBC has failed to produce any reporting on that story.

Knell: “And breaking past conventions, there’ve also been some unusual shows of US support for an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda. Wielding a hammer, Ambassador David Friedman smashed through an underground wall to open a controversial Jewish archaeology centre in East Jerusalem.”

Recording Friedman: “Why would an American ambassador come to this event and speak at this event? Some people – not necessarily friends of ours – are obsessing about my being here.”

Listeners heard the unexplained sound of some sort of machinery working before Knell continued:

Knell: “Above the site in Silwan, tunneling has badly damaged some Palestinian homes. And the action of the top diplomat was seen as confirmation that the US is recognising Israeli control over East Jerusalem and supports the presence of Jewish settlers here on land the Palestinians want for their own state.”

Knell’s promotion of the claim made by local activists that houses in Silwan have been “badly damaged” by the archaeological dig is not supported by an interview with a local resident which appeared in the Jerusalem Post:

“There are cracks in some walls. But this is not new. This has been going on for years. Some residents have hired lawyers to ask for financial compensation to renovate their homes. I heard that some people did receive compensation.”

Knell refrained from informing audiences that the people she dubbed “Jewish settlers” reside in legally purchased properties. Interestingly, the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ is as follows:

“Settlements are residential areas built by the Israeli government in the territories occupied by Israel following the June 1967 war.” [emphasis added] 

That is not the case in Silwan, where some Israelis live in previously existing housing. However Knell steered listeners towards a narrative which characterises the purchase of property in certain areas of a city by people of a specific faith and ethnicity as “illegal” and undesirable. One of course doubts very much that the BBC would encourage its audiences to view neighbourhoods of mixed religion, ethnicity (and perhaps colour or sexual orientation) in any other city in such a light.

Knell also failed to inform listeners that Silwan was also previously known as Kfar Shiloach, that its Jewish residents were expelled by British Mandate forces after waves of Arab rioting and that, like the rest of the area conquered by Jordan in 1948, its subsequent annexation by Jordan was not recognised by the international community.

Knell next inadequately introduced her first interviewee:

Knell: “Jawad Siam lives locally.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, she did not bother to inform listeners that the professional political activist Siam (who has previously appeared in BBC content) has been campaigning against the archaeological dig for years.

Siam: “We are used that the USA supporting Israel but even it didn’t reach this level. He behaved like any other settlers in Palestine. He behaved like the Right wings in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset. He does not see Palestinians have any right neither in Jerusalem nor Palestine.”

Knell continued with a reference to another inadequately presented event.

Knell: “Nearby, a musician plays the oud as the call to prayer rings out from the Al Aqsa Mosque. This gathering was at a sensitive spot by the Western Wall – the holiest site where Jews can pray. It was hosted by a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by a US billionaire who’s also a donor to President Trump and the discussion was about Washington’s latest peace efforts.”

That “sensitive spot” is the Davidson Center and the “gathering” was the ‘Israel Hayom Forum on US-Israel Relations’. Listeners then heard an edited recording of part of a speech made by US special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt at that event.

Recording Greenblatt: “We might get there if people recognise that vague terms such as ‘international law’, ‘UN resolutions’ and ‘internationally recognised parameters’ are not always clear-cut…”

Knell: “The president’s advisor, Jason Greenblatt – just back from a workshop in Bahrain.”

Greenblatt: “We might get there if people stop pretending settlements – or what I like to call neighbourhoods and cities – are the reason for the lack of peace.”

Knell then made sure that listeners did not forget the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘settlements’.

Knell: “Jewish settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israeli authorities disagree. As Left-wing Israelis worry about changes in US language and long-held policy in East Jerusalem, I meet Hagit Ofran from the NGO ‘Peace Now’.”

Listeners were told nothing of the political agenda of ‘Peace Now – not least the fact that it organised a demonstration against the opening of the ‘Pilgrimage Road’ archaeological site – again despite BBC editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees should be clarified.

Ofran: “This is the most delicate place of our conflict – the volcanic core – a few meters from the Temple Mount, Haram al Sharif, al Aqsa mosque. You cannot come with sledgehammers and say this is Israel sovereignty. You should come with tweezers and settle this place in a way that respects everybody.”

Knell closed her report with more promotion of a specific narrative:

Knell: “Back at the embassy’s Independence Day party, most Israelis are delighted about this White House’s strong backing for their country. But there are warnings too: that by losing credibility as a peace broker with the Palestinians, it could make it harder to resolve the conflict here and that would ultimately go against Israel’s interests.”

While Knell was apparently not interested in reporting on the Second Temple era archaeological discoveries that she portrayed as “controversial”, she clearly was interested in using them to advance an overtly political and completely one-sided narrative on Jerusalem – and the Israelis living in one of its neighbourhoods.

Related Articles:

Excavating the Washington Post’s narrative on the Israel-Islamist conflict  (CAMERA)

BBC’s Bowen continues to pronounce the demise of the two-state solution

BBC’s Middle East editor Tweets about ‘attitudes’

BBC presents property purchased by Jews as ‘settlements’