Former Hizballah journalist returns to BBC Arabic

On April 30th the BBC News website published a report that now goes under the headline “Syria war: Missile strikes on military sites ‘kill pro-Assad fighters’“. Later versions of that article were amended to include an insert of commentary from “Ali Hashem, Iranian affairs correspondent, BBC Arabic, Beirut”.

As can be seen in his ‘Linkedin’ profile, Ali Hashem joined BBC Arabic in February of this year – but not for the first time: he was also with BBC Arabic between 2007 and 2011.

In May 2013 we noted on these pages that prior to being hired by BBC Arabic in 2007, Ali Hashem worked for the Hizballah TV station Al Manar – the self-proclaimed “station of the resistance” – which was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by the United States during the period of Hashem’s employment. Al Manar was also banned by France on the grounds of its incitement of racial hatred, as well as by Germany and other countries.

More recently (2012 – 2018) Hashem worked for Al Mayadeen TV – an outfit known for its links to Hizballah and support for Bashar al Assad.

Five years ago we noted that:

“The fact that at the time, the BBC apparently did not consider there to be anything inappropriate about recruiting a recent employee of a terrorist organisation’s media arm is frankly amazing, especially as Mr Hashem’s newest gig suggests that his political sympathies and affiliations have not changed vastly since he worked for Hizballah.

One can only hope that the BBC’s Human Resources department has reviewed its hiring policy since then.”

Obviously that is not the case – and that of course means that the reporting on “Iranian affairs” that BBC audiences will be receiving from Ali Hashem will be ‘interesting’.

Related Articles:

The curious CV of a former BBC Arabic journalist

BBC report on the rocket that wasn’t

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BBC News website promotes an ‘Israeli attack’ that wasn’t

On April 27th an article titled “Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. As can be understood from its headline, the report relates to an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria and it is based on claims made by sources linked to the Assad regime.

“An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report.

A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said. […]

Sana said several missiles had been fired at a military site south-west of the airport, causing explosions that resulted in some material losses.

Pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV cited sources as saying that missiles had been fired by Israeli jets flying inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

The article also includes an alternative version of the story sourced from groups opposed to the Assad regime.

“But Syrian rebel sources said an arms depot run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is fighting in Syria as an ally of the government, was hit. […]

Two senior rebel sources based in Damascus told Reuters news agency that the missiles had hit an ammunition depot in a closed military area that was used by Iran-backed militias operating alongside the Syrian army, led by Hezbollah.”

In an insert of analysis by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent readers are told that Israel “has been conducting an intermittent air campaign to prevent sophisticated weapons transfers to the Lebanese Shia militia group Hezbollah” and that it “clearly intends to continue its campaign against Hezbollah weapons shipments”.

However, as is invariably the case in content relating to such stories, the BBC’s article refrains from giving an accurate description of Hizballah as a terror organisation, provides no factual information concerning the Iranian link to those “weapons shipments” and fails to provide audiences with the relevant context concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701’s requirement of “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” and its ban on “sales or supply of arms and related material” to Hizballah or any other Lebanese militia.

Instead, the article passes off the following two sentences as background information.

“Israel regards Hezbollah, and its key backer Iran, as its biggest threat. It went to war with Hezbollah in 2006 and the group has grown considerably more powerful since then.”

At the end of the article is an insert titled “Recent suspected Israeli attacks in Syria”. First on the BBC’s list is the following:

Readers are not informed what the “Syrian pro-government National Defence Forces” actually are or that they have ties to Iran. Neither are they told that the sources of the claims concerning that alleged strike are, once again, the official Syrian regime news agency Sana together with the Iranian and Syrian regime linked outlet ‘Al Mayadeen’ and Al Jazeera.

Only last year the BBC uncritically amplified claims regarding an ‘Israeli airstrike’ made by Al Mayadeen which later turned out to be fiction. On numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has also amplified baseless propaganda from the Syrian regime. One might therefore have thought that the corporation would take the precaution of thoroughly checking allegations made by unreliable sources such as Al Mayadeen and Sana before amplifying them to its audiences.

 Had it done so in this case, the BBC would have learned that security sources in Israel dismissed those reports of Israeli involvement in that April 23rd incident.

The news BBC audiences are getting concerning alleged Israeli actions in Syria clearly cannot meet the standards to which the BBC is supposedly committed as long as it continues to be based on unverified claims made by highly partisan sources and fails to include the background information crucial for proper understanding of such stories.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Terrorist murderer of four Samir Kuntar dubbed ‘militant’ by BBC News

 

Revisiting a BBC ‘Israel did it’ story from May 2016

As was documented here back in May 2016:

As was noted here at the time, although that information did not in fact come from Hizballah, subsequent versions of the BBC’s report inaccurately told readers that the terror group had “rolled back” the claim.

Nevertheless, the final version of the article – which is still available on the BBC News website – points BBC audiences towards the assumption that Israel may have been responsible for the killing.

“An initial report by Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said that Badreddine, 55, died in an Israeli air strike. But a later statement by Hezbollah on al-Manar’s website did not mention Israel.

Israeli media reported that the government refused to comment on whether it was involved in Badreddine’s death.

Israel has been accused by Hezbollah of killing a number of its fighters in Syria since the conflict began.”

And – under the sub-heading “Key questions”:

“Who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?

Any of the armed groups seeking to overthrow Mr Assad might have sought to kill the man co-ordinating Hezbollah military activities. However, suspicion is likely to fall on Israel, which fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006.

Israel has been accused of killing several of the group’s leaders over the years, although it has never officially confirmed its involvement.

Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008 that US intelligence officials said last year was a joint operation by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

In January 2015, a suspected Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters, including Mughniyeh’s son Jihad, and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general.

And in December, Hezbollah said one of its senior figures, Samir Qantar, was killed when missiles fired by Israeli jets struck a block of flats in Damascus.

Israel has also reportedly conducted air strikes aimed at preventing advanced weapons shipments from Iran from reaching Hezbollah via Syria.”

On March 8th 2017 the Israeli news website Walla reported that an investigation by Al Arabia suggests a different answer to the question “who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?” than the one promoted by the BBC.  

“According to an investigation by the ‘Al Arabia’ network, the General Secretary of the organisation [Hizballah – Nasrallah], together with the commander of the Iranian Quds Force [Soleimani], planned the assassination of the organisation’s senior figure [Badreddine], who died in a ‘mysterious explosion’ at Damascus airport. Hizballah blamed the Syrian opposition – which in turn blamed Hizballah.”

Whether or not that allegation is true is unclear but Al Arabia’s report is certainly no less reliable that the one from Al Mayadeen claiming that Badreddine had been killed by an Israeli airstrike which the BBC elected to amplify without independently confirming the claim.

As we know, the BBC relates to its online content as “historical record”:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. Fundamentally it is in the public interest to retain them intact.”

Given that, we would of course now expect to see the BBC revisiting this story, reviewing its steering of audiences towards the default conclusion that Israel was likely to have been involved and checking the accuracy of this particular example of “historical record”. 

 

BBC News amplifies unreliable source on Hizballah commander’s death

On the morning of May 13th the 14.3 million followers of the BBC News (World) Twitter account were informed that Israel had assassinated a Hizballah commander.

BBC tweet Hizb commander

The BBC News website article to which audiences were directed in that (now non-existent) Tweet was titled “Top Hezbollah commander Badreddine killed in Israel strike” and it opened as follows:

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in an Israeli operation in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

It says Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an Israeli air strike near Damascus airport.

Israel has so far made no public comment on the claim.”

Did Hizballah really issue such a statement and did the BBC independently verify its accuracy before informing millions of people around the world that Israel had killed Badreddine? Obviously not because the next version of the article – retitled “Top Hezbollah commander Badreddine killed” – revealed that the information had come from a less than reliable source.

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in an Israeli operation in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

It did not provide details, but Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an Israeli air strike near Damascus airport.

Israel has not commented on the claim.”

As we noted on these pages three years ago:

“British readers may have heard of the ‘Al Mayadeen’ TV station which was launched in June 2012 as an alternative to Al Jazeera and broadcasts from Beirut – if only because it employs one George Galloway for, according to The Times, some £80,000 a year. Those familiar with Galloway’s record at the Iranian outfit ‘Press TV’ will perhaps not be surprised to learn that Al Mayadeen’s financial backers are alleged to be Iranian and Syrian. That is denied by the station’s Tunisian director, who formerly worked for Al Jazeera – as did his colleague Sami Kleib (also spelt Kulyab). Kleib’s wife Luna Shibl – previously of Al Jazeera too – has apparently worked as a media advisor to Bashar al Assad.”

In fact, as the Times of Israelamong others – reported, Hizballah’s statement did not say that Badreddine had been killed by Israel at all: that notion originated from Lebanese media reports.

“Hezbollah’s top commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in a purported Israeli airstrike in the country earlier this week, according to Lebanese media reports.

A statement from the organization early Friday confirmed Badreddine’s death, but did not blame Israel for the airstrike that killed him, which reportedly took place near Damascus’s airport on May 10.

Several Lebanese television outlets, including the al-Mayadeen channel thought to be close to Hezbollah, said early Friday that Israel carried out the attack.”

The subsequent version of the BBC’s report – again retitled “Hezbollah commander Mustafa Amine Badreddine killed” – inaccurately informed audiences that the claim which had not actually been made by Hizballah has been “rolled back”.Article Hizb commander

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in a large explosion near Damascus airport, Hezbollah said in a statement on the website of its al-Manar network.

It rolled back on an earlier claim that Israel was responsible.”

That claim remained in situ in two additional versions of the article.

Significantly, none of the versions of the report inform BBC audiences that Hizballah is an internationally designated terrorist organization but the BBC did find it appropriate to highlight its charity work.

“Hezbollah, the Party of God, is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in Lebanon.”

The sixth version of the report inaccurately informs audiences that the second Lebanon war took place two years after its actual date.

Hizb commander art wrong date 2 Leb war

It is of course highly unlikely that those who read the initial versions of this BBC report would have bothered to revisit it, meaning that their take-away message includes unverified and inaccurate information sourced from an ideologically motivated and notoriously unreliable propaganda outlet which, according to AP, has since removed the claim.

“The Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which is close to the Lebanese Shiite group, earlier said Badreddine was killed in an Israeli airstrike but later removed the report.”

Licence fee payers would no doubt expect the BBC – committed as it is to accurate and impartial reporting – to carry out independent verification of such serious claims before aiding their amplification worldwide in ‘shoot from the hip’ reporting.

 

BBC interviewee admits intimidation of journalists in Gaza

Courtesy of MEMRI we learn that Hamas spokesperson (or “Director of Foreign Affairs at the Palestinian Government Information Office” as she has been described by the BBC in the past) Isra Almodallal appeared on the Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen on August 14th.  In that interview Almodallal described how Hamas intimidated members of the foreign press who reported the ‘wrong’ message.

“…[she] complained that “the coverage by foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip was insignificant compared to their coverage within the Israeli occupation (Israel).”

“Moreover,” she said, “the journalists who entered Gaza were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative.” She asserted that the foreign press was focused “on filming the places from where missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.” 

“These journalists were deported from the Gaza Strip,” al-Mudallal said. “The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would give them some time to change their message, one way or another.

“We suffered from this problem very much,” she added. “Some of the journalists who entered the Gaza Strip were under security surveillance. Even under these difficult circumstances, we managed to reach them, and tell them that what they were doing was anything but professional journalism and that it was immoral.” “

Readers may recall that just a week prior to the commencement of Operation Protective Edge, the BBC World Service saw fit to give Isra Almodallal an unchallenged platform from which to promote the theory that “Israel is looking for excuses to punish Hamas” and additional propaganda.

Seeing as none of the BBC’s journalists working in the Gaza Strip has stated otherwise, it seems safe to assume that they were not among those reporters with which the “security agencies” in the Gaza Strip “would go and have a chat”. Apparently Ms Almodallal and her team are quite satisfied with the BBC’s level of “professional journalism”. 

BBC regular Atwan shatters 14 year old BBC myth on second Intifada

h/t EoZ

Here is a clip from an interview given by that old BBC favourite Abdel Bari Atwan to the Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen on July 29th.

Apparently Abdel Bari Atwan has not told his friends at the BBC that Yasser Arafat “decided to ignite the second Intifada” or of Arafat’s “period of preparation for the second Intifada”. If he had shared that personal knowledge with them, they surely would not still be running all those embarrassingly inaccurate articles and backgrounders on their website which claim that the second Intifada began because Ariel Sharon went for a pre-coordinated thirty-four minute visit to Temple Mount.

Related Articles:

BBC second Intifada backgrounders: ‘Sharon started it’

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The curious CV of a former BBC Arabic journalist

British readers may have heard of the ‘Al Mayadeen’ TV station which was launched in June 2012 as an alternative to Al Jazeera and broadcasts from Beirut – if only because it employs one George Galloway for, according to The Times, some £80,000 a year. Those familiar with Galloway’s record at the Iranian outfit ‘Press TV’ will perhaps not be surprised to learn that Al Mayadeen’s financial backers are alleged to be Iranian and Syrian. That is denied by the station’s Tunisian director, who formerly worked for Al Jazeera – as did his colleague Sami Kleib (also spelt Kulyab). Kleib’s wife Luna Shibl – previously of Al Jazeera too – has apparently worked as a media advisor to Bashar al Assad.

Al Mayadeen’s Chief Correspondent is another former Al Jazeera employee and – like several of his new colleagues – Ali Hashem resigned in March 2012 after just a year with that station, as a result of differences with the Qatari channel over its reporting of the ‘Arab Spring’. Hashem also writes for other outlets, including Al Monitor

Before joining Al Jazeera, Ali Hashem worked for BBC Arabic and some of his reports can be seen here, here, here, here and here

But the more interesting part of Ali Hashem’s CV comes before he joined the BBC, when he worked for the Hizballah TV station Al Manar – the self-proclaimed “station of the resistance” – which was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by the United States in 2004. Al Manar was also banned by France on the grounds of its incitement of racial hatred, as well as by Germany and other countries.

In this video Ali Hashem can be seen being interviewed by a Channel 4 reporter on the subject of the Israeli air strike on Al Manar’s communications facilities during the Second Lebanon war which broke out on July 12th 2006 after a cross-border attack by Hizballah. During that war Ali Hashem was one of Hizballah TV’s men on the ground in southern Lebanon and was on the scene at Qana on July 30th 2006 after 28 Lebanese civilians tragically died following an Israeli air strike on a Hizballah rocket launching site. Hashem’s report as it was broadcast on Al Manar TV can be seen here (warning: graphic images).

The fact that at the time, the BBC apparently did not consider there to be anything inappropriate about recruiting a recent employee of a terrorist organisation’s media arm is frankly amazing, especially as Mr Hashem’s newest gig suggests that his political sympathies and affiliations have not changed vastly since he worked for Hizballah.

One can only hope that the BBC’s Human Resources department has reviewed its hiring policy since then.