Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

As the year’s end approaches we will be taking a look at some of the topics that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’.

One of the BBC’s campaigns began in late December 2017 and continued until March 21st 2018, with an encore on July 29th. It related to Ahed Tamimi who, together with other members of her ‘activist’ family, had been featured in BBC content in the past.

However, in this case the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC elected to lend its voice – and considerable outreach – to promotion and amplification of a blatantly political campaign. 

19th December 2017, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video

Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video

Both items discussed here.

“To sum up, the BBC’s ‘reporting’ on this story promotes – twice – filmed footage for the most part produced by family members of the story’s main protagonist, two Facebook posts from her father, one article from a notoriously partisan and inaccurate media outlet quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved.”

1st January 2018, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl charged after slapping soldier on video

Discussed here.

“Notably, while the BBC did elect to amplify the Tamimi family’s claim of “legitimate resistance” and to inform its audiences that “many Palestinians have hailed Tamimi as a hero of the resistance to Israeli occupation”, it refrained from telling them of her support for terrorism and advocacy of the murder of Israelis.”

1st January 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

“…the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.”

3rd January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Discussed here.

“No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.”

8th January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

In this report from Yolande Knell, listeners heard from former IDF chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsh who noted the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. They also heard interviews with an Israeli MK, Tamimi’s lawyer, Tamimi’s father and statements from a member of an anti-Israel NGO.

“Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.”

17th January 2018, BBC News website, Yolande Knell:

Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen

Discussed here.

“The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.”

31st January 2018, BBC One, BBC News channel, BBC News website, Jeremy Bowen:

Is a slap an act of terror?

Ahed Tamimi: Was Palestinian teenager’s ‘slap’ terrorism?

Both discussed here.

“Clearly both those headlines and presentations suggest to BBC audiences that Ahed Tamimi has been charged with terrorism following her assault of a soldier – but that disingenuous implication is false.”

5th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

13th February 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial

Discussed here.

“However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge.”

13th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, James Reynolds

Discussed here.

“All the more significant is the fact that he [Reynolds] failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.”

21st March 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal

Discussed here.

“…BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.”

Between December 19th 2017 and March 21st 2018, the BBC produced at least thirteen written, filmed or audio reports on that topic: clearly an unusual volume of coverage clearly intended to secure audience attention.

All the written and filmed reports (eight) included the word “slap” (or derivatives) in their title – an indication of what the BBC wanted audiences to think the story was about and how perception of the story was manipulated. Several of the reports told BBC audiences that Tamimi was imprisoned because of a ‘slap’ while failing to adequately explain – or even mention – the most serious charge against her: that of incitement to violence. Only one of the reports (BBC Radio 4, January 8th) provided audiences with a reasonable explanation of the charges against Tamimi.

The reports included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor. In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists such as B’tselemJonathan PollackAmnesty International, Avaaz (including a link to a petition set up by Tamimi’s father) and Human Rights Watch.

The BBC returned to the story in late July, with the same editorial policies in evidence in four additional reports.

29th July 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel

Discussed here.

“…once again BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement to which Ahed Tamimi pleaded guilty relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which she was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a public call for violence.”

29th July 2018, BBC World News TV, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

29th July 2018, BBC News website, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“In the film itself the charge of incitement was likewise entirely erased from audience view.” 

29th July 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this latest instalment of the Ahed Tamimi story, the fact that the charge of incitement was the most serious of the charges against her – and its details – was erased from audience view.”

Throughout the BBC’s generous coverage of this story, audiences saw her described as “a prominent child activist“, a “star on social media”, “a modern-day Joan of Arc“, “a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation“, “a national icon” and “the new iconic face of Palestinian resistance“.

BBC audiences were told that Tamimi is to be seen as “standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands” and “standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land” and that her aim is “to resist the occupation“.

The one-sided politicised campaigning that BBC audiences saw instead of objective coverage of this story is a slap in the face for journalism and – not least in light of the BBC Middle East editor’s campaign contribution – detrimental to the BBC’s reputation as a trustworthy media outlet committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Ahmad Tibi – part one

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

 

 

 

 

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BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

On May 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel orders Human Rights Watch activist to leave for ‘supporting boycott’“.

On the one hand, readers were told that:

“Israel has ordered the senior representative of Human Rights Watch in the country to leave within 14 days.

The interior ministry said it had terminated the residency permit of Omar Shakir, who is a US citizen, because he had supported a boycott of Israel.”

On the other hand, they were also told that:

“HRW insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel.”

However, BBC audiences were not told which of those claims is true.

Apparently the BBC could not be bothered to take a closer look at Omar Shakir’s history of anti-Israel activismincluding pro-BDS Tweets.

Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials and – as Professor Gerald Steinberg recently noted:

“In the past year alone, HRW pushed divestment from Israeli banks, targeted Israel’s membership in FIFA (the international soccer association), called for arms embargoes and ending security cooperation, lobbied the UN to “blacklist” companies doing business in Israel, and petitioned the International Criminal Court to open prosecutions against Israeli officials.”

Nevertheless, the BBC chose to devote over 25% of this report’s word count to the amplification of statements from some of its own most quoted and promoted political NGOs.

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” said Iain Levine, a deputy executive director of the New York-based organisation.

“Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.” […]

Other human rights groups also criticised the expulsion of Mr Shakir.

Amnesty International called it “yet another worrying sign of the country’s growing intolerance of critical voices”.

Israeli organisation B’Tselem, meanwhile, said it was a “sign of the times”.”

In other words, rather than providing audiences with the facts about HRW’s anti-Israel activity which would enhance their understanding of this story, the BBC preferred to amplify the NGO echo-chamber of which it is frequently part.

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BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

As we know the BBC News website refrained from providing its audiences with any background information on the topic of preparations for the violent climax to the ‘Great Return March’ events. 

Hence, audiences reading the site’s coverage of the events of May 14th had no idea that Hamas had planned that day in advance with the intention that a particularly high number of rioters would breach the border fence with the aim of forcibly entering Israeli territory and reaching nearby communities.

BBC audiences were not aware that Hamas had urged participants to “bring a knife or a gun” and to use them “to capture soldiers or residents of Israel” who, it stipulated, should be handed over to Hamas to be used as hostages.

The BBC News website produced a ‘live’ page titled “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” which actually included more entries relating to the same day’s ceremony marking the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem than it did reports on the events along the Israel-Gaza Strip border. Notably, no fewer than nine statements condemning Israel were also published on that live page, including some from political NGOs which engage in ‘lawfare‘ against Israel.

In addition to that live page, the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” which opened:

“At least 52 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

Palestinians have been protesting for weeks but deaths soared on the day the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Although tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’, the 920 word article devoted over a third of its word count (314 words) to the topic of the new US embassy in Jerusalem and 126 words to background information on Jerusalem itself, including of course the BBC’s standard partisan mantra on ‘international law’.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The subject matter of the report as described in its headline received 377 words of coverage and 103 words of ‘analysis’.

Under the sub-heading “what happened at the border” readers were correctly told that the rise in the number of participants (and hence casualties) compared to previous weeks was in fact connected to a factor other than the ceremony marking the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

“There have been six weeks of protests at the Gaza border, dubbed the “Great March of Return” and led by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Hamas had always said it would step up the protests before Tuesday, when Palestinians hold their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948.”

The article’s limited description of the incidents themselves was as follows:

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres. […]

The Israeli military said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.”

BBC audiences were not told of three separate shooting incidents, infiltration attempts or arson attacks.

“At around 4 p.m., the time that the US was inaugurating its embassy in Jerusalem, military sources said Hamas-spurred groups were trying to breach the border at several spots along the Gaza fence.

The army said three of those killed were trying to plant explosives at the border fence. In three separate incidents, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at Israeli troops, according to the IDF. There were no injuries among the soldiers.

In one case in the northern Strip, the troops fired back directly. In another case farther south, an IDF tank responded to the shots fired by destroying a nearby Hamas position, the army said. […]

Numerous fires broke out in agricultural fields near Israeli communities, sparked by kites laden with containers of burning fuel flown from Gaza into Israeli territory. Firefighters were called to fight the blazes. But many farmers did not wait for help and worked to put out the conflagrations themselves, tilling the soil around the fires in order to starve out the flames.”

Notably the BBC – which has completely ignored two previous incidents of large-scale vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing during ‘Great Return March’ riots – likewise ignored a third incident on May 14th and readers of this article were not told that leaflets warning participants to stay away from the border fence were distributed by the IDF before the rioting began.

Readers were told that:

“Israel says the protests are aimed at breaching the border and attacking Israeli communities nearby.”

They were not informed that – as noted above – Hamas says the exact same.

“Hamas’s leader in Gaza said Thursday he hopes to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at next week’s protests to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.”

There was however one welcome innovation in this article. As we have recorded over the past few weeks, previous BBC reports have repeatedly failed to clarify to audiences that the casualty figures from “health officials” that they quoted were in fact provided by Hamas. Readers of this latest report found the following:

“The health ministry, run by Hamas, said children were among those killed.” [emphasis added]

While the fact that at least one of those children was a terror operative appears to have escaped the BBC’s notice – along with Hamas’ acknowledgement that ten of the others killed were its employees – at least that is one small step towards greater transparency and accuracy.

Related Articles:

More ‘Great Return March’ arson and ambitions ignored by BBC News

 

Political messaging in BBC Sport report on bike race

On May 3rd a report by BBC Sport correspondent Tom Fordyce concerning the Giro d’Italia cycling race was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page as well as on the BBC Sport website.

Titled “Giro d’Italia: Chris Froome in spotlight at start in Jerusalem“, the report included amplification of statements made in a press release put out by an NGO with a long record of anti-Israel campaigning that is frequently uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC.

“Others see little more than a concerted effort to present an image of Israel to the world at odds with the reality. Amnesty International has accused Israel of trying to “sportwash” its reputation, as protests continue in the Gaza Strip that have so far led to the death of 35 Palestinian protestors.”

Obviously the ‘Great Return March’ events which Hamas and other terror groups have been staging weekly since the end of March have nothing whatsoever to do with the cycling race that is ostensibly the topic of this report but Fordyce nevertheless chose to amplify Amnesty International’s opportunistic false linkage and delegitimisation.

Moreover, the report also included ‘analysis’ from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which likewise encouraged sports fans to view the sporting event in a political light.

Yolande Knell’s promotion of the Old City of Jerusalem as “occupied territory” predictably fails to inform visitors to the BBC Sport website of the all-important context of the internationally rejected belligerent Jordanian occupation of that district and additional parts of Jerusalem. And so, once again, the BBC’s funding public got a dose of politically partisan messaging with its ‘news’.

Related Articles:

BBC quotes Amnesty International accusation that Israel is “trying to ‘sportwash’ its reputation”  UK Media Watch

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

On February 13th the BBC News website published an article titled “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial” which was presented to audiences together with two items of recycled ‘related reading’: a highly problematic filmed report by Jeremy Bowen dating from January 31st (also embedded in the report itself) and a written report by Yolande Knell from January 17th.

Readers were told that:

“A Palestinian teenage girl filmed slapping an Israeli soldier has gone on trial in an Israeli military court in a case which has split public opinion.

Ahed Tamimi, 17, is charged with 12 offences, including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence.

If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge

Given the article’s title and introductory paragraphs, readers of its first version may have been surprised to find that it actually told them nothing at all about the trial itself. The report’s original text did not clarify that the trial was closed to journalists and the only reference to that was found in a photo caption saying that “the trial is being held behind closed doors”.

Later on the article was amended to reflect the judge’s decision:

“Journalists waiting to report on the trial were ordered to leave by the judge, on the grounds that the accused was being treated as a minor. Such cases are usually tried in private.

But in Ms Tamimi’s case, this went against the wishes of the family.”

Three paragraphs were devoted to a statement given to journalists by Tamimi’s lawyer. 

What BBC audiences did find in this eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months was repetition of information seen in previous reports and further amplification of partisan messaging.

“For Palestinians, Ms Tamimi is a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation, but many Israelis regard her as a violent troublemaker seeking publicity.”

“For Palestinians, Ahed Tamimi has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.”

Readers also found uncritical amplification of messaging from a political NGO which has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf.

“Amnesty International has called for Ahed Tamimi’s release, accusing Israel of discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children.”

The BBC even promoted a link to Amnesty International’s relevant campaign webpage.

“Human rights groups say Ahed Tamimi’s case highlights what they say is Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.

About 1,400 Palestinian minors have been prosecuted in special juvenile military courts over the past three years, the IDF says.

Civil rights groups are very critical of the Israeli system, saying it lacks fundamental protections and gives no guarantee of a fair trial.”

BBC editorial guidelines on “controversial subjects and linking” state:

“Where BBC online sites covering ‘controversial subjects’ offer links to external sites, we should ensure that the information on those external sites, taken together, represents a reasonable range of views about the subject.”

In addition to that link to Amnesty International’s campaign page the article also included a link to Ahed Tamimi’s mother’s Facebook account and two links to articles on Israeli news sites – neither of which provides the required “reasonable range of views” on the “Israeli system”.

While Amnesty International was presented as a “civil rights” group, no mention was made of the relevant issue of the NGO’s long record of anti-Israel campaigning and its previous sponsorship of a speaking tour in the US by Ahed Tamimi’s father. Readers were not provided with any alternative views of the allegations levelled in AI’s political campaign supporting Tamimi.

This non-event of an article once again makes it blatantly obvious that the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC has elected to lend its voice and outreach to promotion of a blatantly political campaign.  

Uncritical amplification of NGO allegations on BBC One

For some years now we have been documenting the BBC’s ‘quote and promote’ editorial policy regarding NGOs. The overwhelming majority of the NGOs given a platform in the BBC’s coverage of Israel come from one side of the political spectrum and some of them are even involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

However, the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be clarified and audiences hence remain unaware of the fact that the information they are receiving is not only consistently unbalanced but often politically motivated.

Another example of unquestioning BBC amplification of politicised messaging put out by campaigning NGOs was seen in the November 5th edition of BBC One’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ during an interview (available here) with the Israeli prime minister.

In his introduction to the interview, Marr inaccurately presented the Balfour Declaration as a personal document from its signatory rather than one stating the position of the British government of the time. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marr: “Now in 1917 the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter announcing his conversion to the idea that the Jewish people should have a national home in Israel. This Balfour Declaration is regarded as one of the founding documents of the modern State of Israel and to celebrate its centenary, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come to London where he’s been in talks with Theresa May. To some he is the arch-defender of the Jewish people. To others he’s a bellicose hardliner dedicated to expanding the very settlements seen by the Palestinian Arabs as their obstacle to peace and he joins me now. Welcome Prime Minister.”

Netanyahu: “The good part was shorter than the bad part.”

Marr: “Well let me turn to the bad part: the second bit of Balfour Declaration which does say that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Can you really say that that has been held to by your government?”

After Netanyahu explained that Israel’s Arab citizens do have civic and religious rights, Marr went on to present context-free allegation as fact:

Marr: “In Israel and in the occupied territories there are pretty gross human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch – let me read you this – ‘whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during the 50 year occupation’. And again, Amnesty International say much the same thing – ‘Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians including children in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and detained thousands of Palestinians who opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and committed with impunity’. That is not in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration.”

Leaving aside Marr’s attempt to promote the ridiculously contrived notion that part of the text of a statement produced by the British government a century ago is the litmus test for the policies and actions of modern-day Israel, as we see while presenting unquestioned allegations from two NGOs as ‘fact’, he completely failed to inform viewers of the political agenda that lies behind such tendentious claims from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Later on in the interview viewers saw additional examples of the failure to adhere to BBC’s professed editorial values of accuracy and impartiality when – referring to the district of Judea – Marr told his guest that “this is Palestinian territory”. When Netanyahu spoke of the extra-judicial execution of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, Marr interrupted with the jibe “you’ve shot a lot of people there too”.

The BBC’s long-standing policy of uncritical amplification of politically motivated allegations against Israel from agenda-driven NGOs such as HRW and AI clearly does not serve its declared purpose of providing “impartial news and information” aimed at enhancing audience understanding of the complex topic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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BBC News squeezes ‘settlements’ into internal PA affairs story

As regular readers know, the BBC does not as a rule cover internal Palestinian affairs and so – as was noted here in July – the absence of any reporting on a new Palestinian Authority “Cyber Crime” law came as no surprise. 

“The controversial Cyber Crime Law, signed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on July 11, permits the imprisonment of Palestinians for “liking” or sharing published material on the internet.

Critics say the law paves the way for the emergence of a “police state” in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. They also argue that the law aims to silence criticism of Abbas and the PA leadership.

The new law comes on the heels of the PA’s recent decision to block more than 20 Palestinian websites accused of publishing comments and articles critical of the PA leadership.

The law was approved by Abbas himself, without review by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC has been paralyzed for the past decade, as a result of the power struggle between Abbas’s PA and Hamas — the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.”

Likewise, the BBC did not produce any English language coverage of the recent spate of detentions and arrests of Palestinian journalists and social media users by both the PA and Hamas.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 6th may therefore have been rather surprised to find a highly unusual article with the oddly punctuated headline “Palestinian Authority ‘detains rights activist over criticism’“.

“The Palestinian Authority is reported to have extended the detention of a prominent human rights activist who called on it to respect free speech.

Issa Amro, 35, was detained on Monday by Palestinian Preventive Security in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian officials have not commented, but a local non-governmental organisation says prosecutors have accused him of “causing strife”.”

However, rather than informing readers of the context to this story in its own words, the BBC assigned over half of this article’s word count to uncritical amplification of statements made by political NGOs, including a link to the Amnesty International website.

“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the move.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East director.

Amnesty said Mr Amro, the co-ordinator for Youth Against Settlements group, had posted comments on his Facebook page criticising the arrest by Palestinian security forces on Sunday of a local radio journalist who had called for the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months,” said Ms Mughrabi.

“Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely.””

Readers are not told that the man portrayed as “a prominent human rights defender” is actually an anti-Israel political activist with links to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). No information is provided concerning the agenda and activities of the non-transparently funded ‘Youth Against Settlements’ group which has in the past – along with Amro himself – been promoted in BBC reports (see ‘related articles’ below).

The absence of that background information is particularly relevant given that in the later paragraphs of this report the BBC chose to deviate from its supposed subject matter.

“Mr Amro is also currently being tried by an Israeli military court on several charges that include calling for illegal protests and obstructing the official duties of soldiers.

He has rejected the charges, which Amnesty has described as “baseless”.”

The charges against Amro also include several counts of assault, incitement and damage to property. As in any country, it is of course the role of the court – rather than a political NGO that the BBC elects to amplify – to decide whether or not those charges are “baseless”.

The final paragraph of the report is similarly gratuitous and unrelated to the story supposedly being told in this report.

“In Hebron, where Mr Amro is based, several hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily-guarded enclaves surrounded by some 200,000 Palestinians. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The Israelis living in Hebron of course do so according to the terms of the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron which was signed by the representatives of the Palestinians within the framework of the Oslo Accords but the BBC chose to omit that all-important context from its portrayal.

With 25.7% of the word-count of this report promoting Israel-related subjects unrelated to the story it purports to tell and 52.5% devoted to repetition of statements from a political NGO, the BBC can hardly be said to have deviated from its usual policy by taking the opportunity to provide its audiences with meaningful and comprehensive reporting on what the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau chief described as a human rights issue.

Related Articles:

Disingenuous report from BBC Trending promotes Palestinian agitprop

Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ of teens’ kidnappings breaches BBC editorial guidelines

BBC editorial guidelines breached in report on Hebron incident

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra exposed by Yolande Knell

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: using ‘alleged’ and ‘fact’ for framing

 

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

As noted in a recent post, the April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included a monologue from a person described as “the mother of a Palestinian inmate”. The monologue was also promoted to the BBC World Service Twitter account’s 303,000 followers and those who listened to the clip heard the following in a voice-over:

“I haven’t seen or visited my son for around maybe ten months. Israeli security won’t let me see him. When I used to visit Diya I felt as if I owned the world. Every visit request I put in only comes back with rejection, rejection, rejection. I’m 67 years old. What risk am I to Israel’s security? I am of no danger. All I want is to see my son, to check on him and he can check on me. This is all I want but they deprive even a mother from seeing her son and a son from seeing his mother.”

While BBC audiences are no strangers to the promotion of pathos-rich stories from the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists, the fact that listeners were not told who the speaker is or why her son is in prison and did not hear any response to her allegations from the Israeli authorities obviously does not inspire confidence in the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting of this story.

So who is this “mother of a Palestinian inmate”? A clue to that question comes in a video that appears on the BBC Arabic website and is also embedded in an Arabic language article titled “More than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails begin hunger strike” that, like its English language equivalent, promotes the notion that Palestinian “detainees” might be seen as “political prisoners”.

The woman extensively profiled in that BBC Arabic video is called Najat al Agha and she lives in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Mrs al Agha is by no means publicity shy: she recently told a very similar story to the one promoted by ‘Newsday’ to ‘Amnesty International’ which, predictably, is supplying publicity for the current Fatah hunger strike.

“Najat al-Agha, a 67-year-old woman from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, told Amnesty International that her son, Dia al-Agha, 43, has been imprisoned in Israel for the past 25 years. At the age of 19 he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on murder charges.  He is being held in Nafha prison in Mitzpe Ramon in the south.

“I don’t know why I get rejected. I am 67 years old. What security threat am I to Israel? All I want is to see him and make sure he is well. I don’t know how long I will live, any visit can be my last. I am scared of dying without seeing him,” his mother said.

“Every time I apply for a permit I get rejected. It is almost a year that I haven’t seen my son, it is devastating. They are punishing us, they are trying to break us.””

Moreover, Najat al Agha – who actually has had two sons serve time in prison in Israel – appears to come forward to tell her story quite frequently and – perhaps not unrelatedly – has been the recipient of ‘honorary gifts’ from the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

The son she names in the ‘Newsday’ clip is Diya Zakariya Shaker Al-Agha “Al-Faluji”. He was convicted of the murder of Amatzia Ben Haim from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in a greenhouse in Ganei Tal in October 1992.

“…Amatzia worked as an engineer in the fledgling electronics factory of the kibbutz. The final product was a computer controlled irrigation and liquid fertilization system sold to farmers who owned greenhouses, small plots of land, who grew tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and flowers.

Amatzia would go to these farms, install the systems, and often go back to maintain them or to troubleshoot them if needed.  Some of these farms were in the Gaza Strip, prior to the Israeli evacuation of all farms and settlements in Gaza.

It was on one of these trips that Amatzia was helping one such farmer in the Gaza strip, focused entirely on an irrigation line that may have been clogged, or a computer lead that may have malfunctioned. He did not pay attention to the young teen working nearby with a hoe, weeding the furrows. It was to be Amatzia’s last day on earth, as the teen brought the hoe down on Amatzia’s head, killing him instantly, widowing Amatzia’s wife, and orphaning his children.”

A media organisation truly committed to accurate and impartial journalism would of course have provided its audiences with information concerning the “Palestinian inmate” and the act of terror he committed. The BBC World Service, however, chose to give completely context-free amplification to his mother’s claim that Israel is ‘depriving’ her of seeing her son, without any mention of the fact that her son deprived three children – the youngest of whom was only five years old at the time – from ever seeing their father again.

That, of course, is not accurate and impartial journalism but self-conscription to a political campaign.

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BBC News recycles a confusing Amnesty euphemism

On April 11th the BBC News website published an article titled “Death penalty: Global executions fall 37% since 2015 – Amnesty” which is little more than a rehashed version of the press release put out by Amnesty International on the same day to launch its annual report on the subject of judicial executions.  

In that article, BBC audiences find the following paragraph:

“Meanwhile, Belarus and authorities within the Palestinian territories resumed executions in 2016 after a year’s hiatus, while Botswana and Nigeria carried out their first executions since 2013.” [emphasis added]

Who exactly are those “authorities within the Palestinian territories” and how did that odd and confusing phrase come to be included in the BBC’s report? The answer to the latter question is found in the AI press release which states:

“Belarus, Botswana, Nigeria and authorities within the State of Palestine resumed executions in 2016…” [emphasis added]

One has to search out the full AI report (which is not linked in the BBC’s article) in order to learn that those “authorities” are not – as readers may understandably have concluded – the Palestinian Authority but in fact the terror group that violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and that the executions it carries out are in breach of PA law.

“Three executions were carried out in Palestine (State of). Mohammed Fathi Mohammed Othman, Yousef Mohammed Abu Shamleh and Ahmad Helmi Abdel Qader Sharab were executed on 31 May 2016 by the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip; the executions were carried out without the ratification of the death sentences by the Palestinian President, contrary to the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 and the 2001 Penal Procedure Law. Amnesty International recorded 21 death sentences, all in the Gaza Strip. There were 12 death sentences issued by military courts and nine by civilian courts. At least 21 people were under sentence of death at the end of 2016.”

As we see, the BBC edited the information it took from the AI press release; according to its ‘style guide’ the corporation does not generally use the term ‘State of Palestine’ and so that terminology was replaced with “Palestinian territories”. BBC audiences would obviously have benefited had editing also included replacement of the euphemistic and unhelpful phrase “authorities within” with clear identification of the group responsible for those executions.  

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BBC reporting on the use of ambulances by terrorists in Iraq and Gaza

On November 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Iraq suicide attacks: Ambulances used in Tikrit and Samarra“.ambulances-iraq-art

“Suicide bombers have used explosives-laden ambulances to kill at least 21 people and wound many others in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group said it had carried out both attacks. […]

The deadliest of Sunday’s blasts happened in Tikrit, some 200km (123 miles) south of Mosul.

A suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped ambulance into a line of vehicles queuing at a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city, once the hometown of executed former leader Saddam Hussein. […]

In Samarra, further south, another ambulance was detonated in a car park for the al-Askari mosque – one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Iranian pilgrims were among the dead.”

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ use of ambulances to transport armed terror operatives (a practice also seen in previous conflicts in Gaza and during the second Intifada) was documented on several occasions.

While the BBC refrained from informing its audiences of those cases (and others) of abuse of medical facilities, it did find it appropriate to repeatedly amplify falsehoods from a political NGO involved at the time in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and from a representative of one of the organisations operating ambulances in the Gaza Strip – the PRCS – see for example here, here and here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.

“Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances,” said Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) emergency and ambulance unit, which lost at least two members of staff.

“The army should be able to distinguish from the air that what they are targeting are ambulances.”

Amnesty International said attacks on health facilities and professionals were prohibited by international law and amounted to war crimes.”

The abuse of medical facilities protected by international conventions during conflict is obviously an issue of interest to international journalists. However, as we see from the examples above, the BBC’s reporting of such abuses lacks consistency.

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