As readers no doubt recall, back in June the BBC News website published a report on the cancellation of a friendly football match between Israel and Argentina which falsely promoted the notion of its linkage to events along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel while avoiding relevant background to the story that was seen in a report from a different BBC department.
Four weeks later, following communication from BBC Watch, some amendments were made to that report.
As was noted here at the time, the BBC did not produce any follow-up reporting on that story after FIFA announced that it had begun disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian Football Association head, Jibril Rajoub, in relation to his call to Lionel Messi’s fans in “Arab states, Islamic states, in Asia, in Africa, and in states that are friends of the Palestinian people” to burn replica shirts and photographs “and renounce him”.
On August 24th FIFA announced the result of that disciplinary and the following day a report appeared on the BBC Sport website, initially under the rather confusing headline “Lionel Messi: Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub banned for ‘inciting hatred and violence’” and illustrated using an image showing political graffiti. The same report was also published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.
Sixty-one of the report’s 298 words related to FIFA’s decision.
“Fifa has given the president of the Palestinian Football Association a 12-month suspension after he urged fans to burn Lionel Messi shirts and pictures.
Jibril Rajoub has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£15,826) for “inciting hatred and violence” with statements made before a friendly between Argentina and Israel. […]
Rajoub will not be able to attend football matches in any capacity.”
The background to the June cancellation was given in thirty-eight words – including a link to the BBC News website’s report on the story.
“The match was due to take place in June in Jerusalem but was then cancelled. […]
In June, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie had said he believed his country’s footballers “were not willing to play the game” against Israel.”
Once again BBC audiences were not provided with the context to Mr Faurie’s words.
“Faurie said players had received threats over playing the game and were uncomfortable with it going ahead.
He also cited jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood which had been displayed at a protest outside the team’s practice facility in Barcelona Tuesday as a cause for concern.”
The Palestinian Football Association’s reaction to the June cancellation was portrayed in forty-nine words and that of the Israel Football Association in forty-three words.
The report’s remaining 107 words – i.e. 35.7% of its content – were given over to uncritical amplification of some decidedly bizarre remarks from the Palestinian Football Association concerning its president’s suspension.
BBC audiences were not told what the phrase ‘”some settler extremist group” who “reside, illegally, in the Palestinian occupied territories”‘ is supposed to mean or what is its relevance to the story. Neither were they informed that what is opaquely described as ‘media statements made by Rajoub to a Lebanese media channel in 2013’ in fact refers to an interview with Al Mayadeen in which Rajoub said “We [the Palestinians] as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning”.
How the generous yet uncritical amplification of those statements from the Palestinian Football Association can be claimed to enhance audience understanding of the story is of course unclear.