BBC chooses not to report Hamas abuse of medical permits yet again

Readers may recall that just over a month ago listeners to BBC domestic radio’s news and current affairs station, Radio 4, were told by a presenter of the ‘Today’ show (which reaches 6.8 million listeners a week) that:

“The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people…” 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has a history of ignoring stories (see ‘related articles’ below) which explain the need for security checks before permits are given to residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to or through Israel for the purpose of medical treatment. 

Last week another such story emerged when the Israel Security Agency announced the arrest of a Hamas explosives expert who had entered Israel with a humanitarian permit for medical treatment. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“Fadi Abu al-Sabah, a 35-year-old resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was arrested in Taybeh by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police on May 18, 2019.

According to the Shin Bet, he was recruited to set up an explosive manufacturing laboratory in July 2018 by Ashraf Sabah, a 37-year-old Hamas activist from the Gaza Strip who had been released from prison in Israel in 2015 after serving 12 years in prison for his involvement in attacks against IDF forces along the Gaza Strip border and planning other terrorist attacks.
The agency said that he was first approached after Sabah heard that he was in the process of getting a humanitarian permit for medical treatment in the West Bank.

Fadi al-Sabah then secretly met with operatives from Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades and underwent “intensive military training” including training in how to manufacture explosives and explosive charges which he could then teach to Hamas operatives in the West Bank. […]

Al-Sabah “took advantage of the humanitarian permit he received from Israel to enter for medical treatment in Hebron, but in practice did not arrive at the hospital, but he joined forces with elements in Hebron in order to promote terrorist activities and carry out his mission,” the Shin Bet statement said.”

A truly impartial media organisation would of course make sure to report such stories in order to ensure that its audience had been given the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the subject.

Once again, however, the BBC has chosen to ignore a story about Hamas terrorists exploiting the humanitarian aid Israel provides to residents of the Gaza Strip and that not only means that audiences are not fully informed, but also that BBC employees such as Mishal Husain can continue to use their publicly funded platform to promote their chosen brand of journalistic activism unhindered by inconvenient truths.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

Advertisements

BBC impartiality – a case study

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that: (update: link to new version here

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument. The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

And:

“Across our output as a whole, we must be inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion.  We must be fair and open-minded when examining the evidence and weighing material facts.  We must give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument. […]

Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item.  Instead, we should seek to achieve ‘due weight’.  For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus.

Nevertheless, the omission of an important perspective, in a particular context, may jeopardise perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality.  Decisions over whether to include or omit perspectives should be reasonable and carefully reached, with consistently applied editorial judgement across an appropriate range of output.”

The corporation’s coverage of the recent US initiated economic workshop in Bahrain provides an opportunity to look more closely at the issue of impartiality in BBC coverage ahead of a debate in the UK Parliament on that topic on July 15th.

Between June 20th and June 26th 2019 various BBC departments put out content relating to the conference in Bahrain. Common threads running through that coverage included:

  • Heavy promotion of Palestinian Authority and PLO talking points both by BBC journalists and by means of interviews with Palestinians.
  • Promotion of the notion of ‘the Palestinians’ as a homogeneous entity under one leadership with no mention of the long-standing splits between Palestinian factions and the fact that the PA and PLO do not represent the Palestinians as a whole.
  • The absence of any mention of the fact that Hamas and additional factions reject the idea of a peace agreement with Israel.
  • Exclusive promotion of the PLO’s interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’.
  • Use of partial terminology such as “illegal settlements”.
  • The absence of any mention of the participation of Palestinian businessmen in the conference and subsequent events.
  • Downplaying – and in most cases, ignoring – Palestinian terrorism and its role in creating the need for counter-terrorism measures.

While the table below is not exhaustive, it gives an overview of how the BBC addressed its obligation to “give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument” and to reflect “a breadth and diversity of opinion”.

As we see, the BBC chose to provide air-time to three times more Palestinian officials than Israeli officials and did not include any interviews with US officials in its coverage at all. Audiences saw or heard extensive and repeated comment from Palestinian civilians while just two Israeli voices were heard in a single item. Interviews were conducted with two representatives from US think tanks, one Saudi Arabian journalist and one inadequately presented UN official. 

[1] BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

[2] More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one & More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

[3] BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

[4] https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141985649131757569 & https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141986084525674496

[5] Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

[6] BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

[7] More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

[8] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743663

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743429

[10] BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part one & BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part two

[11] BBC WS ‘Newshour’ listeners get little more than PA talking points

[12] BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one & BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part two

Across a variety of BBC platforms, audiences were given a very specific and overwhelmingly one-sided view of the Bahrain economic workshop and the US peace initiative in general. “Due weight” was not given to opinions dissenting from the BBC’s chosen framing of the topic and audiences did not hear “a breadth and diversity of opinion” at all. 

Whether or not the fact that BBC journalists were given a ‘briefing’ by a Palestinian Authority representative three days before coverage began (a BBC decision which in itself is detrimental to “perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality”) had an effect on the chosen framing is of course difficult to determine but certainly the corporation’s coverage of the Bahrain economic workshop did not live up to its supposed standards of editorial impartiality. 

The purpose of those editorial standards is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. In this case it is abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports. 

Related Articles:

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

No BBC reporting on arrest of Bahrain workshop participant

 

BBC News uses third party link in place of ‘clear, precise language’

On June 16th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara admits misusing public funds” on its ‘Middle East’ page. An uninformative video with no commentary which was embedded into that report also appeared separately on the BBC News website under the title “Sara Netanyahu appears in court accused of misusing public funds”.

Readers of the report were informed that:

“The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted to misuse of state funds and will have to pay $15,000 (£11,910).

Sara Netanyahu was accused of spending $99,300 on outside catering while falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the PM’s residence.

She was charged with fraud and breach of trust last year.”

That last sentence is indeed accurate but those were not the charges to which Ms Netanyahu admitted in the plea bargain which settled the case.

The anonymous writer of the BBC’s report did not however bother to tell readers what the relevant charges were. In order to find that information, readers would have had to click on a link to a Jerusalem Post article presented as follows:

“She will have a criminal record though the charges she faced were reduced, the Jerusalem Post reported.”

The few who did bother to click on that link and read the long article would discover that:

“Under the deal, the prime minister’s wife has confessed to a reduced charge of intentionally exploiting another person’s error, in lieu of the original more serious charge of fraud, and incurs a fine of NIS 55,000, reduced from the original charge of NIS 359,000.”

Accurate representation of the charges is clearly a pretty basic requirement for any journalist reporting a legal story – and especially one bound by editorial standards of accuracy.

Readers can judge for themselves whether the inclusion of a link to a third party website and a vague reference to reduced charges meet the requirements to “do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output” and use” clear, precise language” which appear in the BBC’s editorial guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are BBC guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ about to get worse?

Citing “well-placed BBC sources”, the Daily Mail recently reported that the BBC intends to place “an effective ban on journalists using the word ‘terror’”.

“Reporters will be told to avoid using the word to describe any terror attack, unless they are quoting someone else.

Instead, they will refer to terror attacks by naming specific details, such as the location and the method of slaughter used.”

The article went on:

“But yesterday, MPs and experts accused the broadcaster of ‘failing in its public service duty’.

David Green, a former Home Office adviser and chief executive of the think tank Civitas, said: ‘If they don’t want to use that [the word terror] then they’re failing in their public service duty which is to be clear and accurate. […]

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘They are terrorists and these are terror attacks. The BBC should not try to sanitise the behaviour of terrorists by not calling it out.’”

Readers were also told that:

“Many BBC reporters are angered by the decision, which will come into force when the BBC’s new editorial guidelines are published this month. 

A source said: ‘The end result is a desire to squeeze the word terror out altogether, which many people think is nuts.’”

The Daily Mail noted that:

“According to well-placed BBC sources, bosses are eager to report terror attacks consistently, regardless of the terrorists’ political ideology. But instead of branding them all as terror attacks and risk accusations of bias, it wants to avoid the word altogether.

A senior news source said: ‘It boils down to that phrase, ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’.”

And:

“A BBC spokesman said: ‘People should wait to read the editorial guidelines.’”

Last autumn the BBC announced a public consultation on those proposed new editorial guidelines. The section of the new guidelines concerning ‘War,Terror and Emergencies’ – ‘use of language’ includes the following:

Section 11.3.5:

“Our reporting of possible acts of terror should be timely and responsible, bearing in mind our requirement for due accuracy and impartiality. Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We try to avoid the use of the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution. When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

Section 11.3.6:

“The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber’, ‘attacker’, ‘gunman’, ‘kidnapper’, ‘insurgent’ and ‘militant’. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

That approach is of course already evident in the existing BBC editorial guidelines – ironically titled “Terrorism: Language when Reporting Terrorism” – as BBC Watch pointed out in our submission to that consultation:

“This does not differ from existing editorial guidelines which have repeatedly been shown to be redundant. The BBC regularly does use the words terror, terrorist and terrorism when reporting on incidents in specific geographic areas – particularly Europe and the UK – or when British nationals are among the victims and indeed it would be ridiculous not to do so.

However, the BBC never uses the words terror, terrorism or terrorist (except in direct quotes from Israeli officials) when reporting similar attacks perpetrated against Israelis.

The responses received from the BBC when that issue has been raised by members of the public have been highly unsatisfactory.

Moreover, the BBC has used the term terrorist when reporting attacks by Jews on Palestinians.

These double standards are highly offensive and their roots are clearly to be found in political judgments of the kind the editorial guideline professes to seek to avoid. At present the BBC’s approach to the topic of terrorism does not distinguish between method and aims, means and ends. The result of that is that when a perceived cause is considered acceptable and justifiable, the description of the act is adjusted accordingly.

It is obviously futile to reuse the same editorial guidelines which BBC journalists have been openly – and rightly – breaching for years in reports on terrorism in Europe and the UK. The issue of continuity in reporting acts of terror wherever they occur is clearly a major point which this draft guideline does not adequately address.”

If the Daily Mail’s report is accurate, however, it would appear that rather than addressing the core issue of that ‘one man’s terrorist’ myth – i.e. distinguishing between means and aims – the BBC is about to damage its reputation for accuracy and impartiality even further by expanding the policy it already uses when reporting Palestinian attacks against Israelis to include other locations too. 

Related Articles:

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

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘context’: falsehoods about counter terrorism measures

BBC coverage of last week’s escalation of violence during which terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired 690 rockets at civilian communities in Israel included an item aired in the May 5th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, hosted by James Menendez.

The item (from 00:10 here) commenced with analysis from Alan Johnston who referred to a “deal” brokered by the Egyptians to bring an end to the previous exacerbation in March which he described as including:

“…easing of the blockade which Israel imposes on Gaza – the blockade that cripples economic and many other aspects of life in Gaza…”

Making no effort to inform listeners why that blockade was put in place or how Palestinian Authority actions and Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over civilian well-being have contributed to the current state of affairs in the Gaza Strip, Johnston went on to amplify the narrative promoted by Gaza Strip based terror groups.

“Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza are unhappy with the Israelis for not implementing that…their side of the deal. That’s the Palestinian Gazan view of the situation.”

Johnston’s contribution ended there, with listeners hearing nothing at all about the Israeli “view of the situation” – including the rocket fire days earlier (unreported by the BBC) which brought about a reduction of the fishing zone or the fact that Israel disputes the claims made by Gaza Strip terror groups concerning the delay of transfer of cash from Qatar.

With that one-sided framing in place, Menendez introduced another ‘analyst’ at 04:08.

Menendez: “Well Tareq Baconi is an analyst with the non-profit International Crisis Group. He’s based in Ramallah in the West Bank. He’s also the author of ‘Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance’. Why does he think the violence has flared up again now?”

Despite the BBC having editorial guidelines which stipulate that audiences should be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors, listeners were told nothing of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) record, agenda and fundingincluding its receipt of donations from Qatar which are obviously relevant to the story, given that country’s history of support for Hamas.

Neither were listeners informed that Tareq Baconi – formerly a Policy Fellow with Al Shabaka – has repeatedly made his own position on Hamas clear, including in his book:

“Hamas rules Gaza and the lives of the two million Palestinians who live there. Demonized in media and policy debates, various accusations and critical assumptions have been used to justify extreme military action against Hamas. The reality of Hamas is, of course, far more complex. Neither a democratic political party nor a terrorist group, Hamas is a multifaceted liberation organization, one rooted in the nationalist claims of the Palestinian people.” [emphasis added]

Obviously that information would have been critical in helping audiences reach informed opinions about the one-sided talking points they were about to hear but rather than providing it, the BBC chose to present Baconi’s contribution as impartial analysis. Like Johnston, Baconi presented just one explanation for the “quite dire” situation in the Gaza Strip, erasing Hamas terrorism and inter-factional Palestinian disputes from the picture.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Baconi: “I think the cause is that there are fundamental demands that the Palestinians in Gaza are requesting that Israel abide by – namely the humanitarian suffering and the economic situation in Gaza – and by virtue of the blockade the situation in Gaza continues to be quite dire. So often these escalations are ways for the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to pressure Israel into abiding by its side of ceasefire agreements. We can pinpoint the specific reason for this latest escalation. There are several things that are happening. The Eurovision contest is happening next week and we’re coming up to milestones and anniversaries that are quite full of emotion for Palestinians: Nakba of course on May 15 which is the same day that Israel celebrates its Independence Day. And domestically within Israel Netanyahu is currently in discussions to form a new coalition government.”

Menendez: “I mean is there any reason to think from the Palestinian point of view that doing this will bring that relief that they want, that at the moment they have any greater leverage – because it doesn’t look like it, does it?”

Listeners heard nothing about the context to the counter-terrorism measure which is the blockade and they were wrongly led to believe both that Israel has made agreements with “the factions in Gaza” and that the terms of understandings in fact brokered by third parties “never translates into action”.

Baconi: “Well the issue that we need to remember here is that Israel has historically – certainly over the course of the last decade since the blockade was first imposed on the Gaza Strip but definitely over the course of the past year or so – it has shown that it only really responds to force. It has reinforced that message time and again. It’s only when Hamas and other factions fire rockets at Israel that Israel countenances taking any measures that might relieve the suffering in the Gaza Strip. Even though every kind of ceasefire agreement between Israel and the factions in Gaza have been predicated on the simple understanding that there will be calm in Israel’s southern communities if the situation in the Gaza Strip changes, that never translates into action so while Hamas and other factions do restrain any kind of activity from the Gaza Strip, Israel never responds by meeting its obligations under a ceasefire. So really whether or not Hamas has more of a chance now is unclear but that’s sort of beside the point because it’s unclear what other measures Hamas has. If the Gaza Strip isn’t a source of rocket fire, it’s forgotten from Israel’s perspective and the collective punishment of two million Palestinians sort of becomes acceptable or forgotten.”

Menendez had nothing to say about Baconi’s promotion of the “collective punishment” myth but went on to describe terror groups that launch military-grade rockets at civilians as “militants”.

Menendez: “Is there a danger then, if the Palestinian militants feel that they’ve got nothing to lose at this stage, that we could be on the brink of another big conflagration as we saw, what, in 2014?”

Baconi: “Absolutely. I think that’s always a danger. I think neither Hamas nor Israel wants an escalation which is what’s so ironic about this dynamic. The dynamic keeps repeating itself every few months but neither party necessarily wants an escalation. Hamas certainly; it rightly believes that any escalation will be hugely destructive for the Gaza Strip in terms of the loss of life – certainly civilian life – but also in terms of infrastructure and the destruction that we’ve seen Israel unleash over the Gaza Strip repeatedly in the past. The Gaza Strip is already according to the UN close to being uninhabitable. Another military assault by Israel would be devastating. And in return, Israel certainly doesn’t want an escalation because Netanyahu is quite…in a quite sensitive position in his own coalition discussions. However, having said that, even though no party wants an escalation, the dynamic is such that neither party is willing to pay the political will to get out of this dynamic and here I shouldn’t actually equate both parties. The political will here rests with Israel as the stronger party and the enforcer of the blockade. The only thing that can change fundamentally this dynamic is for the blockade to be lifted and for the Gaza Strip to be dealt with as a political reality, not as a humanitarian reality.”

Menendez: “But don’t the rocket attacks just play into Israel’s hands in the sense it proves to the Israeli government that the blockade has to continue because it needs to put the squeeze on people who are firing rockets at their civilian centres?”

Baconi: “This is obviously not to justify the use of rockets: rockets in the form that Hamas is using them is a war crime because they are indiscriminate and they fall on civilians and combatants in an indiscriminate manner. But nonetheless, one needs to understand the drivers of these forms of activities and seeing the rocket fire as a response to the blockade is fundamental here. The blockade is itself an act of violence that is indiscriminately treating two million Palestinians – the vast majority of whom are youth and refugees – under collective punishment. So the idea that Israel has imposed the blockade because of the rockets is false, actually. The blockade has been imposed on the Gaza Strip in many ways since before Hamas was even created. The fundamental issue in Gaza is the fact that it’s [a] Palestinian political issue that Israel doesn’t need to or doesn’t want to address.”

Menendez made no effort whatsoever to challenge Baconi’s inversion of the facts and whitewashing of terrorism. Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip was designated ‘hostile territory’ by Israel over two years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and following over 2,000 rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terrorists in which 14 Israelis were killed.

The item was closed by Menendez at that point but listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day heard a slightly different version of the same interview with Baconi which was presented by Menendez (from 00:11 here) as “the context for this sudden escalation of fighting”.

In other words, BBC World Service radio’s idea of “context” that would aid audiences to understand the story was falsehoods concerning the counter-terrorism blockade from a known Hamas apologist representing an inadequately introduced political NGO.

Related Articles:

Islamic Jihad unravels BBC amplification of Hamas claim

BBC News recycles past inaccuracies and invents new ones

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

BBC News reporting on rocket attacks marred by inaccuracy and omission

BBC News again promotes false claims concerning death of Gaza baby

 

 

 

 

BBC Business ‘forgets’ to clarify that quoted academic is BDS campaigner

An article headlined “How tech is bringing Israelis and Palestinians together” appeared in the ‘features’ sections of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Business’ pages on the morning of April 30th. Written by Melissa Jun Rowley, most of the article focuses unremarkably on various “technology partnerships” but some interesting framing is also in evidence.

Paragraph three of the article tells readers that:

“…Israeli-Palestinian relations have been relentlessly grim ever since the foundation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict that has been rumbling on ever since.”

The word subsequent of course means “coming after something in time” but “grim” Israeli-Palestinian relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict of course did not commence following – and as a result of – “the foundation of Israel in 1948” as Rowley’s framing suggests.

Another notable point concerns some of the six images used to illustrate the article. Three of the photographs show people who participate in some of the programmes it features. One is a video first published by the BBC in December 2018. One is an image of torn Palestinian and Israeli flags captioned “In a fractured land, many young people from opposite sides never meet each other”. The final image shows buildings (in Givat Ze’ev, but readers are not given the location) with the caption “Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are one of many contentious issues in the region”.

Interestingly, out of “many contentious issues” the BBC chose to exclusively highlight “Israeli settlements” rather than, say, Palestinian terrorism or the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence the Jewish state.

Rowley’s take-away messaging comes at the end of the article.

“But will such collaborations lead to a stronger economy for the region and potentially a resolution of the conflict?

That remains unlikely, believes Magid Shihade, faculty member at the Institute for International Studies at Birzeit University on the West Bank, while onerous trade restrictions remain in place.

Under the Paris Protocol between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely.

“The first step for change is to remove all Israeli restriction in trade, thus letting Palestinian and Israeli businesses collaborate on an equal footing,” says Mr Shihade.

But Israel believes such restrictions are necessary to maintain its security in the troubled region.”

The 1994 Paris Protocol was of course signed by the PLO rather than “the Palestinian Authority” and was incorporated into the Oslo II agreement of 1995. Rowley fails to provide any proper explanation of her dubious claim that “Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely” which apparently relates to restrictions on dual-use goods which can be used for terrorism.

Neither does Rowley bother to inform readers that while her quoted ‘authority’ Magid Shihade is not an economist, he is a ‘one-stater’ who co-founded the ‘US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’ as well as (together with his wife) another pro-BDS group called ‘Pakistanis for Palestine’.

The Paris Protocol is seen by the BDS movement as part of the cooperation with Israel which it rejects and in 2007 PACBI (The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) recommended that the BDS campaign “Build pressure on PA officials for ending normalization with Israel (end security coordination, rescind Paris Protocol on economic cooperation, etc.)”. It therefore comes as no surprise to see BDS campaigner Magid Shihade advocating the annulment of that treaty.

Unfortunately it is equally unsurprising to see the BBC amplifying a position taken by the anti-peace BDS campaign without full disclosure – as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – of the ‘particular viewpoint’ of the sole academic ‘expert’ quoted in this article.  

Related Articles:

BBC News’ ‘different side’ to Gaza is much of the same

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

Those who have been following the BBC’s coverage of the recent attack at a synagogue near San Diego may have noticed that the sole use of the word terrorist appears in a quote from the wounded Rabbi in one of the BBC’s reports. A programme aired last month casts some light on related editorial policy. 

The March 22nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ included an item (from 1:03 here) concerning criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the previous week. Presenter Roger Bolton spoke with the BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed and from 5:20 the conversation turned to “the use of the word terrorism”. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Bolton: “Should the BBC have used the term ‘terrorist attack’ instead of ‘shooting’?”

Ahmed: “On the issue of terror and terrorism our guidance is clear. There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist. If we use the word we want to attribute it and we attributed it correctly to the New Zealand prime minister…”

Bolton: “What our listeners come back and say, and quite forcibly, if this had been conducted by Islamists you would have called it terrorism. Because it was conducted by someone who is not, you’re more reluctant to apply the term terrorism.”

Ahmed: “We went through a long list of other headlines and how we had covered other atrocities like the London Bridge attack, like the Westminster attack, like the Manchester concert attack. Because terrorism and a terror attack carry a huge amount of different opinions about when we should use that term, we need to explain what happened first, as I say…”

Bolton: “You say that straightforwardly but for some reason – the audience largely I think does not understand this – you are reluctant to use the word terror. Clearly one of their aims is not just to kill people but to gain publicity and to create a sense of terror.”

Ahmed: “There is no agreed definition of what a terrorist is. It is disputed.”

Bolton: “So does that mean we will never use it independently?”

Ahmed: “No, there is no ban on any use of words in the BBC…”

Bolton: “So would you use the expression without attributing it to somebody?”

Ahmed: “We have very clear guidelines that the use of the word is surrounded by all sorts of complications and actually confuses the issue.”

Bolton: “So it’s something you are reluctant to use, that term. Does that mean your instruction to those who write scripts and so on is avoid using the word terrorism?”

Ahmed: “Not at all. Not at all.”

Bolton: “I still don’t understand when you think it would be suitable to use it other than when you’re attributing it to someone else.”

Ahmed: “I think, Roger, we’re trying to get down to a kind of precise definition which we’re not going to get to. We want to be consistent. One of your listeners said that it was because we were worried about inflaming the masses. That is not the issue. These are live discussions. These are delicate, complicated areas which we discuss with colleagues throughout. But we’re very clear: the most important point is that audiences understand what has happened.”

Roger Bolton is of course understandably confused by the BBC’s approach to the issue because despite Ahmed’s claim that the BBC wants “to be consistent”, it is anything but.

Just over a month before the New Zealand attacks the BBC News website had once again described the 2015 attacks against mainly British tourists in Tunisia as terror.

The 2017 Westminster Bridge incident mentioned by Ahmed was described from the outset by the BBC as terrorism and the term has been used in reports on the Manchester and London Bridge attacks.  

Attacks in Barcelona, Stockholm, NiceBerlinBrussels and Paris have been reported using the term terrorism while attacks in Egypt – and of course Israel – have not.

Notably among the BBC reports tagged ‘Christchurch mosque shootings’ is an article headlined “Far-right terror poses ‘biggest threat’ to north of England”.

Kamal Ahmed is of course not the first senior BBC journalist to defend the corporation’s double standards on language when reporting terrorism but his claim that “there is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist” is weakened by the fact that when it has wanted to, the BBC has found just such a definition.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

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

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 discusses journalists’ impartiality

On April 26th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme titled “Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?” by Jonathan Coffey.

“Amid the anger increasingly directed at broadcast journalists from those who claim that the so-called “mainstream media” can’t be trusted, a battle is being fought over impartiality.

The big, regulated broadcasters – including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – argue that their output has to meet the test of “due impartiality”; their critics claim that too often programmes in fact evince bias.

In this documentary, Jonathan Coffey – who has worked on major stories for “Panorama” for over a decade – explores what impartiality means as our politics and national discourse have become increasingly polarised. Does it still matter as a concept for broadcasters? And how should broadcasters approach controversial issues like Brexit, immigration and transgenderism?

He considers how well impartiality is understood, the arguments advanced by the broadcasters’ critics about alleged failures of impartiality; the BBC’s track record on reflecting significant strands of thinking; the “liberal media bubble”; how far broadcasters are open-minded in avoiding biases; and if a more rigorous and radical open-minded journalistic approach is needed, especially in the coverage of deep value disputes.”

While the programme focuses primarily on domestic issues and does not relate at all to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East, it nevertheless makes for interesting listening while keeping the corporation’s track record on that topic in mind.

Notably the contributors chosen by Coffey for this programme all come from the media world and include the BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis.

2:20 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] absolutely intrinsic to what the BBC does and at its centre it’s about giving the public as much as they need to understand the story better. I think it’s about helping the audience to form their views. So for us, it’s trying to work out how best we do that and to be honest it’s a really live, ongoing discussion.”

8:10 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] really, really important to hold on to. I think it’s something that we grapple with every single night. It’s what we do and I don’t want to be working somewhere that has given up on impartiality because then we’re just opinion. We’re ranty radio or ranty TV. And there’s plenty of that in other parts of the world.”

Regular readers may recall Ms Maitlis’ own departure from those fine principles less than five years ago.

“BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis however did not need to wait until investigations had been completed in order to determine whether the UN facility was hit by an errant IDF shell, a shortfall terrorist missile, terrorist mortar fire aimed at IDF troops or any combination of the above. Interviewing Israeli spokesman Mark Regev just hours after the incident – and clearly completely misunderstanding the nature and intention of IDF warnings to evacuate because of fighting in the area – she emotionally charged Regev with the following:

“But you said you were going to hit it. You hit it. You killed them.”

Beyond Maitlis’ distinctly unprofessional demeanor throughout this interview, her repeated interruptions and her obvious urgency to promote her own version of events to audiences, one patronizing statement she makes is extremely revealing and actually captures the essence of much of the BBC’s reporting of the current hostilities in a nutshell.

“You have a very effective defence system. It’s called the Iron Dome. It stops you for the most part being hit. They [the people in Gaza] don’t and they’re paying the price with their dead children.”

Another of Coffey’s contributors was ‘The Canary’ editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza who claimed that the views of the Left are under-represented in UK broadcast media.

12:45 Mendoza: “Whose view is under-represented? It’s the Left. It’s just a fact and on issues say like climate change or Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, the guest list is often weighted towards the status quo and weighted towards the media which is hostile to any kind of politics or economics outside the bubble that it’s used to.”

Mendoza has herself been a not infrequent contributor to BBC programmes such as ‘Question Time’, ‘Newsnight’ and political shows. Regular readers may recall her inadequately challenged promotion of falsehoods designed to equate Israel with the Third Reich on BBC Radio 4 three years ago.

Nevertheless, these are some of the voices that Jonathan Coffey apparently considered would contribute to Radio 4 audiences’ understanding of “open mindedness” and “escaping bias” as impartiality is defined throughout the programme.

Related Articles:

BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to Israeli spokesman: “You killed them”

What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

 

 

 

BBC Arabic host of Jerusalem show claims to be ‘in Palestine’

This is a post from CAMERA Arabic

On February 27th and 28th the BBC show ‘Global Questions’ recorded two programmes – the first in English and the second in Arabic – at the YMCA Centre located on King David street in the western part of Jerusalem.

The moderator assigned to the Arabic language panel was BBC Arabic’s Nour Eddine Zorgui.

On March 1st Zorgui tweeted from his official BBC account that he was “in Palestine this time”, adding a link to his Facebook page where at least 3 photos – one of them taken inside the YMCA building – are captioned “in Palestine”.

Zorgui made similar remarks at the February 28th event itself, referring to the city and country he was in as “Jerusalem” and “Palestine” prior to the commencement of recording.

Zorgui’s posts and remarks breach both BBC Academy style guide and BBC guidelines regulating employees’ social media activity which state:

  1. “In day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank”
  2. “The Green Line marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank.” (hence according to the BBC’s logic, western Jerusalem is in Israel)
  3. “The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial”
  4. “Editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should never indicate a political allegiance on social networking sites”
  5. “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”.

CAMERA Arabic submitted a complaint to BBC, expecting that the network would acknowledge this breach of its own editorial guidelines and act to have Zorgui remove or amend his social media posts. However, since we were informed on March 15th that our complaint “had been referred to the relevant people” and that they “regret that it may take a little longer before they can reply”, at of the time of writing no further response has been received.

Related Articles:

BBC ‘Global Questions’ from Jerusalem rescheduled

BBC WS radio tries to do Arab-Israeli conflict demographics

 

 

Critics slam pro-BDS article from BBC quoted NGO writer

Those of us who follow the BBC are more than familiar with the corporation’s long-standing practice of promoting the views of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) without disclosing their political agenda (let alone funding) in breach of its own editorial guidelines.

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2018

When the New York Times magazine recently published a very long Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) promoting essay by Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group (ICG), critics not only took issue with its content but also with the fact that readers were not informed of the relevant background to the writer’s organisation.

“Thrall, who the Times presents as a disinterested expert, serves as director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, or ICG, a left-leaning advocacy organization that has received around $4 million from the Qatari government in the just the last year. Qatar’s donations represent around 6 percent of ICG’s total budget. Qatar is not mentioned in Thrall’s 11,500-word piece.

ICG also has raised $1 million in the past several years from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, a prolific and open funder of the BDS movement in the United States.

Another significant portion of ICG’s funding—more than $5 million in the last three years—comes from the Open Society Foundations, run by liberal billionaire George Soros. Open Society funds dozens of Palestinian organizations that are prominent members of the BDS movement.

ICG’s president is former Obama administration official Robert Malley, another Israel critic who was fired from President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election team after he met with the Hamas terror organization. He joined the Obama administration in 2014.”

BBC correspondents based (like Thrall) in Jerusalem have in the past promoted Thrall’s analysis and  in June 2013 the BBC told its audiences that:

“A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the impact of international sanctions on Iran found no indication that the sanctions had affected Iran’s regional role.

And the report’s principal author says there is no evidence of any financial support provided to Hezbollah. “There isn’t a single line in the budget that confirms any aid or financial support to Hezbollah”, Ali Vaez contends.” [emphasis added]

Over the years the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs has flourished with news consumers finding that more and more of their news comes or is sourced from agenda-driven organisations which make no claim to provide unbiased information and are not committed to journalistic standards. 

When political agendas and journalism meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. But, as this latest New York Times example shows, some of the world’s most prominent media organisations – including the BBC – continue to fail to provide consumers of their content with crucial information concerning the agenda and funding behind the voices they choose to quote and promote.

The fact that the BBC has existing editorial guidelines which would tackle precisely that issue but are serially ignored of course raises considerable concern.  

Related Articles:

Nathan Thrall’s Propaganda Welcomed at the New York Times (CAMERA)