A BBC journalist asks ‘what’s wrong with Hamas?’

On March 28th the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn posted a link on his Facebook account to an interview he had given earlier to the Jewish News.

Among the hundreds of comments below that post was one from a ‘broadcast journalist’ at the BBC called Becky Branford.

As regular readers know, BBC editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” state:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests. […]

Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”

Branford’s comment has since been removed. Nevertheless, the fact that a journalist creating content for the BBC News website apparently thinks there is nothing “wrong” with a terror organisation responsible for the murders of hundreds of civilians gives plenty of food for thought.

Advertisements

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

Few would have been surprised to see Ha’aretz publisher Amos Schocken’s March 22nd Tweet promoting the notion that Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’: he has, after all, touted such  allegations on the pages of his paper for years.

“Of the characteristics of apartheid: one legal system for Jews and another for natives”

Members of the BBC’s funding public may, however, have been disturbed to see a clearly identified BBC Arabic producer retweet that controversial smear to his own Twitter followers.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“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 prejudices 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 in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Clearly that retweet of an ‘apartheid’ smear by BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on Israel. 

Related Articles:

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

BBC interviewees appear in report on extremism in UK charities

The Henry Jackson Society think tank recently published a new report:  

“The British taxpayer has handed over more than £6 million to charities that are currently, or have been in the past, used by extremists to further their radical agenda, according to a new report from the Henry Jackson Society. […]

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamist Extremists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector finds that, despite more than a decade of attempts to improve regulations, a concerning number of UK-registered charities continue to fund and support extremism.

Figures from across the Islamist spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood, form a network which seeks to delegitimise and push out moderate voices, while masquerading as representatives of ‘true’ Islam. […]

 The Charity Commission – legally unable to de-register these ‘bad’ charities – has been particularly ill-equipped to deal with these organisations. Its powers have been extended in recent legislation, but the public is still waiting for those new powers to be put to use to tackle this problem.”

The report itself states:

“Charities have long been used to support the Islamist extremist cause, with a network of charitable organisations playing a pivotal role in the funding of international jihadism. […]

Beyond the exploitation of charitable status by violent Islamist extremists to support terrorist activities, they may also be used, wittingly or unwittingly, to provide violent or non-violent extremists with the platform and legitimacy they require to spread their illiberal and extremist views. This may take the form of an individual or small group of extremist entryists seeking to abuse a pre-existing charity for their own purposes, or the establishment of an organisation with charitable status specifically for Islamist extremist objectives. These charities, which for example provide platforms for extremist individuals and promote their literature, can be used to create a climate conducive to radicalisation and introduce potentially vulnerable members of the public to individuals who hold intolerant and extremist views. […]

The 2015 Counter-Extremism strategy recognises that charities were one of the institutions vulnerable to exploitation by extremists, who may use them to spread their ideology and charities have in the past, for example, promoted hate literature inciting the murder of homosexuals and Muslims and have hosted speakers who promote homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic views.”

Members of the British public would probably not expect any of the organisations and individuals named in such a report to have been showcased by their publicly funded broadcaster. They would, however, be mistaken.

Page 37 of the report states:

“There are a number of well-reported incidents involving charities providing humanitarian aid and running aid convoys being involved in non-violent and violent extremism; above all, they highlight the blurred line between the two. On 16 October 2017 the Charity Commission published recent cases of individuals convicted of terrorism offences who were involved with charities. On 23 December 2016 two individuals, Syed Hoque and Mashoud Miah were convicted of entering into funding arrangements that they knew to be for the purposes of terrorism (contrary to Sec 17 Terrorism Act 2000). […]

During their trial the Charity Commission stated that they were investigating a number of charities organising aid convoys, including Al Fatiha Global, with which one of the pair was also involved. […]

Al Fatiha Global is a UK-registered charity that had a total income of £218,778 in the financial year ending 2016. It was investigated by the Charity Commission in 2014 after the son of its Chief Executive was photographed in Syria with two men holding assault rifles. The Charity Commission had “serious concerns about [the charity’s] governance and financial management” and set out to investigate allegations of “inappropriate links between the charity and individuals purportedly involved in supporting armed or other inappropriate activities in Syria”.

On August 13th 2014, the BBC aired a filmed report from the Gaza Strip by Orla Guerin which was based in part on a British woman’s unchallenged allegation that an IDF sniper had shot a Palestinian for “no reason whatsoever”. As was pointed out here at the time:

“Viewers are also not told that Ms Andolini’s activities in the Gaza Strip include distributing aid funded by a British charity called Al-Fatiha Global […] which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission due to “serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity”.”

The HJS report states:

“Alan Henning, an aid worker who was kidnapped and executed by Islamic State, travelled with an aid convoy reportedly organised by either Al-Fatiha Global or Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raises money for Al-Fatiha and others. […]

Additionally, Aid4Syria, whose parent charity was al-Fatiha, and for which Alan Henning had been an ambulance driver, showed signs of extremism. The charity had promoted an event entitled “O’Ummah Wake Up and Rise!” on its Facebook page, involving speakers Zahir Mahmood and Moazzam Begg. The convoy’s team leader had posted on his Facebook page “Our men love death like your men love life”, alluding to a similar quote by Osama bin Laden. Aid4Syria had also named its water project and emergency vehicles after Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in the US for attempting to kill US military personnel.”

Readers may recall that in late 2013 reports by BBC journalist Catrin Nye – who travelled with one of those convoys – were heavily promoted on a range of BBC platforms. Nye produced additional reports on the same subject in July 2014 which once again failed to adequately inform audiences of the convoys organisers’ links to extremism.

The HJS report goes on:

“One of the charity workers on the convoy, Majid Freeman, had posted extremist comments online, including calling for prayers for the brothers of Islamic State fighter Ifthekar Jaman. […] Freeman also had approvingly posted a link on Facebook to a video presenting Islamic State as a legitimate reaction to Western foreign policy. […] Freeman had retweeted support for Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, as well as the group’s propaganda, and on Facebook wrote that Jerusalem would be “conquered by jihad, not by peace”.”

Freeman – described as “a credit adviser from Leicester” – was featured in one of Catrin Nye’s articles and following the kidnapping of Alan Henning he appeared in numerous other BBC reports – e.g. here, here and here.

Another charity appearing in this report is Islamic Relief (from p.64). In 2014 the BBC published an article in which that organisation’s links to Hamas were denied and later the same year the BBC produced a very superficial report on an audit of the charity.

The organisation ‘Viva Palestina’ – which had its charitable status removed in 2013 following an inquiry by the Charity Commission – is discussed on page 72 of the HJS report. Its founder – George Galloway – has appeared frequently on BBC platforms.

Among the individuals named in the report is Cerie Bullivant of ‘Cage‘ who not only has his own BBC profile but has appeared on numerous BBC programmesincluding one on ‘how best to tackle radicalisation’. Moazzam Begg – also of ‘Cage’ – has likewise been a BBC contributor. The report also names Haitham al Haddad (from p. 96) who was featured in a series of reports by Catrin Nye as well as in additional BBC content.

As regular readers are aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However the BBC usually makes little effort to adhere to that clause when quoting and promoting NGOs, charities and their representatives.

The same editorial guidelines state that due impartiality does not require “detachment from fundamental democratic principles” of the type typically rejected by extremists and the BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “contribute to social cohesion” in the UK.

Obviously that obligation is not met – and the wider interests of the public not served – through the provision of platforms and legitimacy to extremists – particularly when charities are regularly promoted without the required disclosure of their ideologies, political agendas and any extremist links.

Related Articles:

UK government’s MB review shows 2014 BBC report misleads

Not just about journalism: BBC editorial guidelines and the wider public interest

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

A member of the public who submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning Tweets sent by its Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas criticising a ‘Newsweek’ headline to a story about Ahed Tamimi received the following reply from BBC Complaints.

“Thanks for contacting us with your comments regarding a tweet by Middle East [sic] correspondent Kim Ghattas. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

Kim was making the point that the newspaper concerned had not placed enough context in its headline. That’s made clear in the follow up tweets.

She is making a point about there being two sides to the issue. Her tweets were not about the incident itself but the need for more sophisticated reporting from Newsweek. She was pointing out the other perspective on the issue which was not reflected in the Newsweek headline.

We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for your feedback.”

Leaving aside the obviously highly relevant question of whether it is in fact a BBC journalist’s job to call out “the need for more sophisticated reporting” at another media organisation, let’s take another look at those Tweets which the BBC claims “were not about the incident itself”.

Obviously the statements “Her 15 yr old cousin had just been shot in the head” and “Ahed Tamimi, unarmed, slapped a gun toting Israeli soldier who was in her backyard” not only refer to the incident but portray it in a specific light. 

Moreover, Ghattas’ use of the phrase “Blame the victim?”, her claim that Ha’aretz “wrote an editorial describing her as the victim, not an assailant” and her claim that “she lives under occupation” (Nabi Saleh is in Area B) clearly show that she is advancing a specific narrative – just as she accused Newsweek of doing in a subsequent Tweet in which she also promoted the notion of “double standards”.

Although BBC editorial guidelines state that “those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects” and “News and Current Affairs staff should not […]  advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate”, the BBC’s outsourced complaints system has, as we see, chosen to ignore those directives in its response.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

Five years of BBC reports on one story show impartiality failure

For the past five years the BBC has been reporting on a proposed housing project in the south Jerusalem district of Givat HaMatos.

Givat HaMatos

In December 2012 BBC audiences were told that:

“…on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

And, quoting the EU:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

In October 2014 the BBC told audiences that:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighbourhood in East Jerusalem”

Two months later, in December 2014, the BBC’s Tim Franks revisited the same story.

“When I was posted here a few years ago as Middle East correspondent, one of the dominant stories was over the expansion of Jewish settlements on territory which Israel had occupied in the aftermath of the 1967 war. Undesirable if not downright illegal, said the rest of the world. Israel, for its part, said that the status of the territory was a matter of dispute and in the meantime it needed a place for its burgeoning population to live. So much might be familiar but in the last couple of months the announcement of a big new building development in occupied East Jerusalem has been described as a game-changer and brought furious international criticism. Why?”

Audiences heard just one view on the topic from a representative of the political NGO ‘Ir Amim’ which has received funding from foreign sources – including from the EU.

In late January 2017 Tim Franks returned to the same location and BBC audiences again heard one view of the story; this time from the inadequately introduced founder of that same political NGO.

Franks: “This is Givat HaMatos – an area of scrubland really – on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a couple of kilometres behind me to the south is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. And I’m here with a man called Danny Seidemann – he’s an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem.”

Seidemann: “Givat HaMatos is pretty unique. It’s one of two or three schemes that we call a Doomsday settlement. These settlements are in and of themselves capable of making the two-state solution impossible.”

None of the BBC’s various reports on Givat Hamatos has informed audiences that part of the planned housing units have been ear-marked for Arab residents of the adjacent neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

To date, not one brick has been laid in the proposed project on which the BBC has already produced four reports and the JCPA recently published a backgrounder that explains why that is the case.

“The plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem was already approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee in 2014. However, it has been frozen for four years.

Under pressure from the United States, Germany, and other European Union countries, the issuing of the construction tenders has been suspended time after time. […]

Germany is playing a central role in pressuring Israel not to build Givat Hamatos; other European countries oppose it as well. In October 2014 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the decision to build homes in Givat Hamatos threatened the two-state solution: “One cannot claim to support a solution and at the same time do things against without consequences being drawn.” In October 2017, the European Union requested clarifications from Israel about plans for housing units in Hamatos, saying that such building “is likely to harm severely the continuity and the existence of a future Palestinian state.””

While the views of representatives of an EU funded political NGO have been amplified in half of the BBC’s four reports on the story and the EU itself quoted in one other, audiences have not heard any alternative views whatsoever.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We must apply due impartiality to all our subject matter.  However, there are particular requirements for ‘controversial subjects’, whenever they occur in any output, including drama, entertainment and sport. […]

When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.” [emphasis added]

Obviously BBC reporting on the proposed housing project in Givat HaMatos throughout the past five years has not complied with those guidelines. Rather, it has exclusively promoted monochrome framing of the story that has denied audiences access to information and perspectives that contradict the BBC’s chosen narrative.

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2017 frequently included contributions or information sourced from NGOs.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However, in the vast majority of cases audiences were not informed of the political agenda of the organisations and their representatives promoted in BBC content and on some occasions the connection of an interviewee to a particular NGO was not revealed at all.

For example, an interviewee who was featured on BBC World Service radio at least three times between September 3rd and December 7th (including here and here) was introduced as “a mother of two” from Gaza but audiences were not informed that she works for Oxfam.

Similarly the founder of Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem was introduced to BBC audiences in February as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” and in June as “an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem”.

In September a BBC World Service history show featured an interviewee without mentioning her significant connection to Medical Aid for Palestinians and related anti-Israel activism. In October the same programme featured a sole interviewee whose connections to the NGO Euro-Med Rights were not revealed to audiences.

Interestingly, when BBC radio 5 live recently conducted an interview concerning a UK domestic story with a political activist who was inadequately introduced, the corporation acknowledged that “we should’ve established and made clear on air this contributor was a political activist”. 

On other occasions, while contributors’ connections to NGOs were clarified, the political agenda of the organisations concerned was not.

In October, when an interviewee from the Amos Trust appeared on BBC Radio 4, the NGO was inadequately described as “a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza” with no mention made of its anti-Israel activities.

A TV debate concerning the BDS campaign that was aired in February included representatives of War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with no background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both those organisations provided to viewers.

In September the BBC World Service interviewed the director of ‘Forward Thinking’ which was described as a “mediation group” while listeners heard no clarification of the relevant issue of the interviewee’s “particular viewpoint” on Hamas.

Audiences also saw cases in which BBC presenters amplified unsubstantiated allegations made by political NGOs during interviews with Israelis. In June, for example, while interviewing Moshe Ya’alon, Stephen Sackur invoked Human Rights Watch and Breaking the Silence.

In November Andrew Marr employed the same tactic during an interview with the Israeli prime minister, amplifying allegations from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International without informing viewers of the political agendas of those NGOs.

BBC audiences also saw Human Rights Watch quoted and promoted in various reports throughout the year including:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

Additional NGOs promoted by the BBC without disclosure of their political agenda include Adalah and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (see here) and UJFP.

Material produced by the UN agency OCHA was promoted in BBC content without that organisation’s political stance being revealed and audiences saw a partisan map credited to UNOCHA and B’tselem used on numerous occasions throughout the year.

The political NGO Peace Now was frequently quoted and promoted (including links to its website) in reports concerning Israeli construction plans – see for example here, here and here – as well as in an amended backgrounder on the subject of ‘settlements’.

In April the BBC News website described Breaking the Silence and B’tselem as “human rights activists” without fully informing audiences of their records and political agenda.

B’tselem was by far the BBC’s most promoted NGO in 2017 with politically partisan maps it is credited as having produced either together with UNOCHA or on its own appearing in dozens of BBC News website reports and articles throughout the year, including the BBC’s backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

BBC audiences were on no occasion informed that the organisation from which that map is sourced engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS.

The NGOs quoted, promoted and interviewed by the BBC come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even active in legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and – as in previous years – in 2017 audiences hence remained unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs

BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

h/t @Salted2

As readers may be aware, the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“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 prejudices 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 in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

  • advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on January 5th the BBC’s Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas did just that while criticising another media organisation.

So much – once again – for BBC impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

A BBC correspondent’s recommended reading

Impartiality fail from BBC’s Barbara Plett

Why is a BBC correspondent speaking at the J Street conference?

Egyptian news site notices BBC’s terror terminology double standards

h/t Michael Dickson

The double standard evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting terror attacks in differing locations is regularly discussed on these pages and has been the subject of numerous complaints to the BBC.

In April of this year the BBC responded to one such complaint by stating that:

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

Regrettably, that response subsequently received endorsement from the UK’s communications regulator OFCOM.

However, as has been noted here in the past, the BBC has used the word terror when reporting planned and actual attacks in Western countries that are part of the international coalition fighting ISIS.

The BBC News website’s main report on the November 24th attack on worshippers in a mosque in the northern Sinai region of Egypt – “Egypt attack: Gunmen kill 235 in Sinai mosque” – refrained from using the words terror, terrorists and terrorism throughout, except when quoting officials. [emphasis added]

Militants have launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province, killing 235 people, state media say. […]

No group has yet claimed the attack, but militants affiliated with so-called Islamic State (IS) have been responsible for scores of deadly attacks in the province. […]

Witnesses said dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they tried to flee.

The assailants are reported to have set parked vehicles on fire in the vicinity to block off access to the mosque.”

Given the above response from BBC Complaints one can only conclude that “the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides” against terrorists who cold-bloodedly murdered hundreds of civilians, including children, in a place of worship.

An Egyptian independent news website has also taken note of the terminology used by the BBC.

“On Friday, as hundreds of worshipers gathered to pray in Al-Rawda mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai, a group of unidentified individuals opened fire and used explosives, killing at least 305 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Following the attack, a number of media organisations used the word ‘militant’ to describe the attackers, while others used the word ‘terrorist’.

Internationally, prominent news organisations used the word ‘militant’. The New York Times headline stated ‘Militants Kill 235 at Sufi Mosque in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack’. Meanwhile, the BBC referred to the attackers as militants throughout its article.”

Once again we see that the BBC’s long-standing failure to distinguish between method and aims produces inconsistent reporting, with journalists sometimes following the problematic BBC guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ and sometimes not – often depending upon geographical location of the story. That approach is clearly in need of serious and urgent review if the corporation intends its audiences to believe that its reporting is impartial.

Related Articles:

More mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Five years ago this week the BBC was very busy promoting a story about the tragic death of the son of one of its employees in the Gaza Strip.

As readers may recall:

“On the evening of November 14th 2012, soon after the incident had happened, BBC Arabic in Gaza broke the story when it interviewed Jihad Masharawi as he held his son’s body. That film footage was used the next day in a report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news and can be seen here

On the same evening, BBC employees began Tweeting about the event, including for example the BBC’s correspondent in Washington who sent the following Tweet – retweeted by others 3,441 times:

On the day after the incident – November 15th – the [then] head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and chair of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, arrived in the Gaza Strip and visited the Masharawi house from where he began sending a series of Tweets which – less than 24 hours after the event and with no credible professional investigation having been carried out – unequivocally determined that the incident had been the result of an Israeli attack.

As BBC Watch documented […] Danahar gave permission for the photographs he had Tweeted to be used by Max Fisher at the Washington Post. Other media outlets which ran with the story on the same day – some directly citing the BBC as their source and all unquestioningly giving an Israeli attack as the cause of the infant’s death – included the Guardian, the Huffington Post , the Daily Mail, the Sun and many more. The story was of course also picked up by a plethora of anti-Israel blogs and websites. 

On November 24th 2012, the BBC ran Jon Donnison’s now infamous version of the story on its ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ programme on Radio 4, and also later on the World Service. A written version of that same report was placed on the BBC News website […] 

Within less than two weeks, the BBC had ensured that an unverified story based purely upon evidence-free speculations by its own journalists had made its way round the entire world.”

Four months later, in March 2013, a report issued by the UN HRC stated its investigation had found that Omar Masharawi’s tragic death had in fact been caused by “a Palestinian rocket that fell short”. 

The corporation’s first response to that finding came five days after the UN report was issued when the BBC News website published a ‘damage control’ article by Jon Donnison which did nothing to address the real problem underlying the story: the fact that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with its chosen political narrative.

Six days after the publication of the UN report, the BBC added footnotes to two of its original reports – both of which are still available online.

However, some of the media outlets that amplified the BBC’s original story blaming Israel for the infant’s death failed to subsequently add clarification and so some reports  – for example from the Guardian, the Huffington Post and the Sun – still remain online in their original form.

Obviously no footnote can erase that inaccurate BBC story from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it at the time. Significantly, however, the BBC has never offered its funding public a satisfactory explanation as to why that unverified story was not only allowed to run but deliberately given exceptionally extensive coverage and how the editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality to which the BBC professes to adhere were so egregiously breached. 

Related Articles:

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

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.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs