BBC corrects ‘angel of peace’ claim after two complaints

Last month we noted that a BBC News website article promoted inaccurate information which the BBC itself had already clarified twenty months earlier.

“The consequence of that failure to clarify inaccurate information in a timely manner to both BBC audiences and BBC staff was apparent in a report which appeared on the BBC News website on January 14th 2017 under the title “Mahmoud Abbas: US embassy move to Jerusalem would hurt peace“. There, the ‘angel of peace’ theme – which the BBC itself reported as being misleading twenty months ago – is repeated.”

angel-of-peace-para

After having had one complaint on the matter rejected, Mr Stephen Franklin submitted a second complaint to the BBC to which he received a response that includes the following:abbas-us-embassy-art

“I’m sorry that our initial response did not address your concerns. After considering them further we’ve since amended this piece to now explain that:

Israeli relations with the Vatican were further strained after it was reported that Pope Francis described President Abbas as “an angel of peace” during the canonisation ceremony of two Palestinian nuns at the Vatican in 2015. The Vatican later clarified that this was an encouragement to Mr Abbas rather than a description of him.

We’ve also added correction note at the bottom of the article outlining this change.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and please accept our apologies both for the inclusion of this error and that it wasn’t recognised when you first complained.”

correction-angel-of-peace-art

footnote-angel-of-peace-art

The changes made to the article can be seen here.

BBC News continues to tout inaccurate portrayal of the ‘Mavi Marmara’

On several occasions in the past the BBC has misrepresented the ‘Mavi Marmara’ – a passenger ship in the 2010 flotilla – as an “aid ship”.

For example in March 2013 BBC audiences were told: [all emphasis added]

“….nine Turkish activists on a boat called the Mavi Marmara taking aid to Gaza. That boat was boarded by Israeli marines and nine of the activists were killed.”

“Nine people were killed on board the Turkish aid ship, Mavi Marmara, when it was boarded by Israeli commandos while trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010 in spite of an Israeli naval blockade.”

And in June 2016:

“It was the Mavi Marmara episode in May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos boarded a Turkish-flagged aid vessel which was aiming to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, that caused the rupture.”

And in October 2016:

“Bilateral relations went into the deep freeze in May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists on board were killed.”

As has been clarified here previously, the Mavi Marmara was of course not an “aid ship” at all. The UN’s Palmer Report (p. 47), documented that it carried 546 passengers but no humanitarian aid supplies for the people of the Gaza Strip.

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

On at least two occasions (most recently in October 2016) the BBC has corrected its inaccurate portrayal of the ‘Mavi Marmara’ but that, however, is obviously not enough to prevent the inaccuracy from being repeated.

On December 9th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Turkey drops case against Israeli officers in Gaza flotilla killings“. The opening paragraph reads:

“A Turkish court has dropped a case against four Israeli military officials charged over a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza in 2010.” [emphasis added]

mavi-marmara-art-9-12

Especially given the previous corrections, it is of course difficult to understand why that inaccuracy is repeated time after time by BBC News.

Update: following communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and its opening paragraph now reads as follows:

mavi-marmara-art-amendment

 

BBC News amends misleading portrayal of Israeli construction

Earlier this week we noted that a report titled “US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal” which was published on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages on September 13th presented an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of Israeli construction. As was observed at the time:military-aid-art

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Following communication from BBC Watch, the version of the article currently available online has now been amended.

The passage which previously stated “Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” now reads as follows:

“Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

The sentence which previously read “Last month, the White House warned that the construction of settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” has also been amended:

“Last month, the White House warned that the construction in settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

[All emphasis added]

The amendments to the article can be viewed here.

Unfortunately, no footnote was added to explain the changes made and the continued absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website means that those who read the report in the week before it was amended will not be aware that they received inaccurate and misleading information.

BBC Radio 4 programme edited following BBC Watch complaint

Back in July the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld a complaint submitted by BBC Watch which had previously been twice rejected by the corporation’s complaints department. The complaint concerned the inaccurate claim that the book ‘Borderlife’ by Dorit Rabinyan had been ‘banned’ by an Israeli minister. 

Borderlife ECU

As was noted here at the time:Front Row 22 2

“During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.”

We can now report that the programme concerned has been edited and the recording available online no longer includes the inaccurate claim (previously from 27:03) that the book ‘Borderlife’ was ‘banned’ by the Israeli Minister for Culture. At the beginning of the recording an insert advises listeners of the edit and the webpage now includes a footnote with the URL of the ECU decision.

front-row-footnote

The action taken by the ‘Front Row’ team is of course welcome and appropriate: new listeners to the recording will now not be misled by inaccurate information. However, it remains highly unlikely that audience members who heard the original broadcast nearly seven months ago would at this juncture return to that webpage and see that a correction has been made.

Related Articles:

How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom

BBC responds to a complaint about inaccuracy with more inaccuracy

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

Correction secured to BBC Persian article about Elie Wiesel

At the beginning of July we noted here that a BBC Persian article concerning the death of Elie Wiesel included an inaccurate claim.BBC Persian Wiesel art

“The final paragraph of that article tells readers that in 2014, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Elie Wiesel accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. A translation of that paragraph (confirmed by a professional Farsi translator) reads as follows:

“Two years ago, Elie Wiesel, together with 300 Holocaust survivors, criticised Israel because of its attack on Gaza, and accused the Israeli government of genocide.”

Elie Wiesel made no such accusation and did not put his name to that statement advertised by IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) in the New York Times. In fact, the IJAN statement included direct criticism of Wiesel and was made in response to an earlier advertisement criticising Hamas’ use of human shields which was put out by Wiesel himself.”

We also noted that:

“The BBC should be familiar with the facts behind that story: after all, it took it upon itself to amplify that IJAN statement extensively at the time.”

Following communication from BBC Watch, that paragraph has been amended and a footnote has been added to the article which reads:

“Clarification: In the first version of this article it was written by mistake that Elie Wiesel was a signatory to a letter that accused the government of Israel with genocide. Hereby the mistake is corrected.” 

 

BBC Earth corrects ‘border of Palestine’ inaccuracy

As was noted here a few days ago, on August 10th BBC audiences were inaccurately told that the Dead Sea lies on the border of a country called Palestine.

Following communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and the passage which previously stated “Few are more famous than the Dead Sea, nestled on the borders of Jordan, Israel and Palestine” now reads as follows:

BBC Earth correction

We commend BBC Earth for that quick correction.

Related Articles:

BBC Earth article contravenes style guide with inaccurate terminology

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

As readers may recall, since late last year various BBC radio programmes have misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

With previous efforts to alert BBC World Service programme makers to the inaccuracy having proved fruitless, after the February 22nd broadcast of ‘Front Row’ on Radio 4, BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the following inaccurate claims made in that programme:

“…recently the [Israeli] culture minister banned a novel about a mixed Israeli-Palestinian relationship…ahm…Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Border Life’.”

As readers may recall, the complaint was twice rejected by the BBC Complaints department, with the second response including the programme production team’s claim that:

“This was a discussion that wasn’t specifically about the Rabinyan case – it was about another author’s work and the discussion strayed into political interference in Israeli culture. As such, Samira used the shorthand “banned” in reference to the book. The book was removed from the school syllabus, but in a discussion as wide ranging as this, the point about political involvement in arts and culture still stands whether the book has been banned from society at large, or removed from the school syllabusThe decision to interfere in the distribution of this book was made by, or under pressure from, politicians. That was the point the interviewee was making and to which the presenter responded.” [emphasis added]

As we noted at the time:

“The book ‘Borderlife’ was not “banned” in Israel and is freely available to all would-be purchasers in book shops. Neither was it “removed from the school syllabus” – because it was never on it. The decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by a professional pedagogic body – not “by, or under pressure from, politicians”.”

BBC Watch pursued the matter further and the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld our complaint, as is now noted on the BBC website’s ‘corrections and clarifications’ page.

Borderlife correction

The ECU’s reporting of its findings includes a section titled ‘Further action’.

Borderlife ECUGiven the production team’s above response to the second stage complaint, one must obviously question whether in fact it is in a position to “ensure that presenters are appropriately briefed”.Front Row 22 2

During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.

One cannot but question the efficacy – and commitment to transparency – of a publicly funded complaints system which apparently does not include a mechanism to ensure that audiences are automatically informed in the most efficient manner possible of the fact that they were given misleading information, rather than the outcome being dependent upon decisions made by individual departments. 

 

Minor amendment to BBC report on gay pride murder sentencing

As was noted here on June 26th, a BBC News report from that day concerning the sentencing of Yishai Schlissel, who was previously convicted of the murder of one person and the attempted murders of six others at the Jerusalem gay pride march in 2015, failed to provide audiences with the full story.Schlissel sentencing art

Following communication from BBC Watch, one sentence in the report was amended. The original article stated:

“A police investigation last year called for the removal of six senior Israeli officers over the attack.”

That sentence – which did not inform readers that the recommendation was implemented – was later amended to read:

“Several senior Israeli police officers were sanctioned or reassigned following the attack.”

However, the report was not amended to include details of the full sentence handed down to Schlissel: life imprisonment and 31 additional years, plus an order to pay damages of 2.6 million shekels to the families of his victims.

Related Articles:

Incomplete BBC portrayal of sentence for gay pride murderer

Inaccurate synopsis to BBC report amended

As was documented here a few days ago, the synopsis to a filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 15th inaccurately described its subject matter as follows:

“The real life story of the Palestinian doctor who lost his children in Israeli air-strikes has been turned into a play.” [emphasis added]

Following contact from BBC Watch that synopsis was amended and it now opens:

“The real life story of the Palestinian doctor who lost his children when Israeli shells fell on his home in Gaza, has been turned into a play.”

obrien report

The BBC and the 1947 Partition Plan

Back in December 2013 we noted on these pages that an online BBC backgrounder on the topic of the 1947 Partition Plan (UNGA Resolution 181) had inaccurately informed all those reading it since its publication in November 2001 that David Ben Gurion had “opposed the plan”.

“Jewish representatives in Palestine accepted the plan tactically because it implied international recognition for their aims. Some Jewish leaders, such as David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, opposed the plan because their ambition was a Jewish state on the entire territory of Mandate Palestine.” [emphasis added]

It has recently come to our attention that several months after the appearance of that BBC Watch article, the backgrounder was amended to remove that inaccurate claim and a footnote was added.

Footnote Partition Plan art

The above section of the article now reads:

“Jewish representatives in Palestine (the Jewish Agency) accepted the plan tactically – though with reluctance – because it implied international recognition for their aims of establishing a state, but on lesser territory than they considered a legal and historical right to.”BBC UN PP

Of course all those who received the inaccurate information throughout the twelve years and five months it took to correct it are unlikely to be aware that the backgrounder has been amended because (as pointed out in our submission to the DCMS charter review consultation) the BBC News website does not have a dedicated corrections page.

That backgrounder is far from the only one which would be found by a student or member of the public conducting a search on the BBC News website for information on the subject of the 1947 Partition Plan and perusal of the material available reveals a lack of both consistency and accuracy in the corporation’s presentation of the topic.

Another backgrounder dating from 1997 fails to inform readers that the recommendation for partition was rejected outright by the Arab States and hence became a dead issue.

“The Palestine partition plan was approved by the United Nations in its 128th plenary session November 29, 1947. This is the official text of the resolution which divided Palestine and created one Jewish and one Arab state.

The resolution was approved by the general assembly – 33 votes in favour, 13 votes against, with 10 abstentions.”

Similarly, the timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile also fails to inform readers that the UN recommendation was opposed by the Arab States and hence became irrelevant:

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs.”

Other BBC material available to audiences does clarify that the Partition Plan was never implemented although in much of that content, the rejection is inaccurately portrayed as coming from one particular source and the role of the Arab nations in opposing the plan (and threatening violence should it be implemented) is erased from audience view.

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the native Arabs, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The UN set up a special committee which recommended splitting the territory into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Palestinian representatives, known as the Arab Higher Committee, rejected the proposal; their counterparts in the Jewish Agency accepted it.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

Despite their numerous faults and inaccuracies, those examples of BBC content do indicate that the corporation is aware of the fact that the 1947 Partition Plan never got off the ground.

That of course makes the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s claim that “a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded” – the claim which is the basis for the BBC’s refusal to call Jerusalem the capital city of Israel – all the more bizarre.