Weekend long read

1) A reminder that those wishing to make a submission to the BBC’s public consultation concerning its editorial guidelines have until November 12th to do so.

Background reading concerning the consultation – including details of where to send a submission – can be found here.

The BBC’s proposed draft of the revised guidelines can be found here. Of particular interest is Section 11 – commencing on page 122 – titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’. As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s record of adhering to its existing guidance on ‘Language When Reporting Terrorism’ is inconsistent.

The existing editorial guidelines (published in 2010) can be found here.

2) The ITIC reports on Hizballah’s designation as a transnational criminal group by the US.

“In October 2018, the US administration adopted a series of legislative and law enforcement measures against Hezbollah and all those supporting it. These measures have met with broad bipartisan support in Congress and have been approved by President Trump. These measures provide law enforcement agencies with an improved “toolkit” in the struggle against Hezbollah and the international crime in which it is involved. […]

Aside from Hezbollah, four other international drug and criminal cartels based in Latin America were included in the list. In order to manage the struggle against these leading groups, a special task force headed by the Deputy Attorney General was set up, with the participation of prosecutors and experts with experience in the war against drugs, terrorism, organized crime and money laundering.”

3) General Michael Hostage and Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Corn take a look at “Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges“.

“Hezbollah today is highly competent, adaptable and lethal. Its forces have gained invaluable battlefield experience in Syria and amassed more weaponry than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, including at least 120,000 rockets and missiles. This is more than all of Europe’s NATO members combined, and ten times as many as when it last went to war with Israel in 2006. […]

Despite this quantum leap in its capabilities, Hezbollah is under no illusion about its ability to inflict military defeat on Israel. It will not seek victory in the valleys of Lebanon or the skies over Israel, but in the court of public opinion.”

4) The FDD reports on a recent ISIS attack in Libya which did not receive any BBC English language coverage.

“Islamic State (IS) militants on October 28 launched a surprise attack on al-Fuqaha, a small town in central Libya, killing at least four people, including the mayor’s son and two police officers, and kidnapping 10 others. Both the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the U.S. Embassy strongly condemned the deadly attack and called for the immediate release of those kidnapped. The attack is the second major terrorist incident in two months, reflecting IS’s commitment to the guerrilla warfare strategy it has adopted in Libya after the loss of its coastal stronghold of Sirte in December 2016.”

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BBC News employee breaches social media editorial guidelines

Meet Majd Yousef. Hailing from Jordan and now living in London, she is currently employed as a YouTube editor at BBC News and two years ago, described her job at the time as follows:

“Majd Yousef is an Online Editor at BBC World Services and a YouTube Editor at BBC Arabic. Majd specializes in online videos in general, and news in particular. At BBC, Majd is responsible for creating publishing strategies for news and programs, pulling analytics and feedback, and keeping an eye on what is trending in the Arab region. Having worked previously in the same position at Al Jazeera English in Doha, her passion for digital media and online publishing goes back to her days at Kharabeesh, an online entertainment network where she worked as a Publishing Manager for over 2 years. […]

I am responsible for everything BBC Arabic publishes on its YouTube channel; I set the online strategy for our different programs and make editorial decisions of what to publish, based on our ongoing analysis of the audience’s behavior.”

Ms Yousef has also contributed to written BBC content.

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions in the past, BBC editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media state that:

“…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.”

And:

“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.”

And:

“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.”

When, on October 21st, the king of Jordan announced that he will not renew two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan concerning territory leased to Israel, Majd Yousef nevertheless made her opinion on the issue very clear in a Tweet sent from a Twitter account identifying her as a BBC employee.

Ms Yousef also sent several additional problematic Tweets concerning the same topic, including one using the terms “we” and “our” – i.e. Jordanians.

“It’s important to recall the appendix to the agreement, this is a one year notice prior to the execution, i.e. we must make sure it’s being carried out next year, then according to the agreement the two sides enter a stage of consultations after the notice – let’s see who is “consulting” on our behalf before we celebrate…”

Apparently someone at the BBC recognised that Majd Yousef’s Tweets breach BBC editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media because two days after they were sent, her Twitter account was deleted.

But at least we now have some insight into the opinions behind the “editorial decisions” that go into making videos for BBC News.

Related Articles:

Omissions in BBC account of background to Jordan land lease story

‘Ensuring accuracy’ at the BBC Monitoring Jerusalem office

BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

 

 

Have your say: a public consultation on the BBC Editorial Guidelines

The BBC has launched a public consultation on the topic of its Editorial Guidelines.

“The BBC has opened a consultation on a revised draft of the Editorial Guidelines which set the content standards for the BBC’s programme makers and other content producers for BBC services.

The Guidelines cover impartiality, accuracy, fairness, privacy and harm and offence, and further sections deal with a range of topics such as religious programming, war, terror, conflicts of interest, competitions, votes, relationships with other organisations and commercial references.

The Guidelines evolve over time to take account of changes in BBC regulation as set out in the BBC’s Royal Charter and Agreement; changes in legislation, developments in editorial thinking and lessons learnt from editorial rulings as well as reflecting changes in public attitudes and technology. The BBC therefore periodically reviews the Guidelines to ensure they keep pace with both our legal requirements and with changing audience expectations.

Under the current Charter, the BBC Board is responsible for the Editorial Guidelines. The Agreement states that the BBC must: “set, publish, review periodically, and observe guidelines designed to secure appropriate standards in the context of the UK Public Services”. This is the first revision of the Editorial Guidelines under this new governance system.”

Background reading concerning the consultation – including details of where to send a submission – can be found here.

The BBC’s proposed draft of the revised guidelines can be found here. Of particular interest is Section 11 – commencing on page 122 – titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’. As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s record of adhering to its existing guidance on ‘Language When Reporting Terrorism’ is inconsistent.

The existing editorial guidelines (published in 2010) can be found here.

Submissions must be made by November 12th 2018.

 

 

 

 

BBC Complaints says it would not be ‘appropriate’ to correct an inaccuracy

As readers may recall, last month BBC Radio 4 chose to feature a book titled “Where the Line is Drawn” by Raja Shehadeh in its ‘Book of the Week’ programme.

Serialised propaganda, omission and inaccuracy on BBC R4’s ‘Book of the Week’

Among the many issues arising in those five programmes, one factual inaccuracy stood out in particular.

“…in episode five listeners heard a long section relating to an incident in Hebron in March 2016 which was inaccurately portrayed as having begun when:

“Abdul Fattah al Sharif, 21, from the occupied old city of Hebron lay on the ground shot after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier.” [emphasis added]

As the BBC’s own reports on that incident show, the words “allegedly” and “tried to” are completely superfluous and materially misleading.

“Sharif and another 21-year-old Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops opened fire on them, wounding Sharif and killing Qasrawi.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that point and has now received the following reply.

If – despite BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy which state that even in factually based drama “we should ensure it does not distort the known facts” – the BBC is of the view that “[i]t wouldn’t be appropriate for us to edit it”, then the obvious conclusion is that the corporation needs to be more careful with its choice of material and that politically motivated polemics that intentionally distort facts and materially mislead BBC audiences are clearly not the best choice for Radio 4’s “[s]erialised book readings, featuring works of non-fiction, biography, autobiography, travel, diaries, essays, humour and history”.

 

BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ breaches impartiality guidelines with ‘specialist’ academic

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Two television programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item concerning what presenter Reeta Chakrabarti euphemistically described as “the problems in the Labour Party”.

Although The BBC has been covering that topic with varying degrees of accuracy and impartiality for well over two years, it was presented to viewers as something that has recently come to light. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Chakrabarti: “It’s been widely assumed that all forms of racism exist within the far right of politics but it’s now being suggested that the Left has issues with antisemitism too. Where has that come from?”

In her second question to guest journalist Jonathan Sacerdoti, Chakrabarti said:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wonder if we can broaden this out a little bit from the Labour party to the sort of ideas of antisemitism – quite where they come from – because there’s often quite a conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, isn’t there? Can you explain just quite simply what the difference is?”

As Sacerdoti spoke about Jewish self-determination in Israel, viewers were shown a very interesting selection of images, none of which reflected the content of his reply.

Chakrabarti then brought in another guest – Katy Sian – previously identified as “a sociology lecturer at York University specialising in racism”.

According to York University Ms Sian’s field of interest does not include antisemitism.

“The main thrust of her scholarship is focused on critical race theory and the performance of postcolonial subjectivity among ethnically marked communities stranded in metropolitan archipelagos. The initial iteration of her research can be seen in her first monograph, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. This book has generated much debate with its pioneering mapping of Sikh-Muslim antagonism as it circulates throughout Britain. Katy is expanding this research by investigating Sikh-Muslim conflict in the USA and Canada where little work exists.” 

Chakrabarti went on:

Chakrabarti: “[…] You study racism; that’s your…part of your profession. How big an issue do you think that antisemitism is within the whole spectrum of hate politics across the UK?”

Viewers heard that antisemitism “isn’t as bad as has been made out”, that it is “remarkable” that other forms of racism are not being discussed in the same way and that Katy Sian does not “think it’s right to just exceptionalise one form of racism over another”.

Chakrabarti then asked:

Chakrabarti: “…I wonder then why you think antisemitism gets so much air-time?”

Clearly one answer to that question would be that Labour Party members are not promoting Romaphobia, Islamophobia or anti-Black racism on social media or in local council meetings but the ‘expert’ answer viewers heard was as follows:

Sian: “I think it gets so much air-time because of Corbyn and his historic kind of…ehm…support for Palestinian rights. So it’s part of a much wider political project which is to essentially silence any critique of the Israeli state expansion.”

Leaving aside the question of what those three last words are supposed to mean (seeing as Israel has only withdrawn from territory throughout the last fifty years), it would of course have been appropriate – according to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint” –  for viewers to have been informed that Katy Sian stood on behalf of the Labour Party in a district of Leeds during local council elections in 2011. 

Moreover, seeing as the programme’s producer arranged her appearance via Twitter, one presumes that he was aware of the fact that Sian’s feed shows that she has not changed her political affiliations since then and that she regularly Tweets anti-Israel material.

At that point in the show, Chakrabarti read a statement from the Labour Party before bringing guest Geoffrey Alderman to speak about the historic aspect of antisemitism in the UK. When Professor Alderman said that he thought it “outrageous” to suggest that those objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party were doing so because they wanted to “get rid” of Jeremy Corbyn or “to do down the Labour Party”, she jumped in:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wanted to ask if it also has something to do with the actions of the Israeli government.”

Less than a minute later she asked Jonathan Sacerdoti:

Chakrabarti: “Do you not accept that for some people it’s the actions of the Israeli government they are protesting against?”

She subsequently claimed that Sacerdoti was misrepresenting Sian’s statement concerning “a wider political project” before going on to give her “a final right of reply”.

Sian: “I mean I would argue that bigotry, violence, harassment, abuse, hatred and systematic oppression enshrined through laws and policies directed at Jews for simply being Jews is antisemitic. To critique Israel’s settler colonial state is not antisemitic.”

Chakrabarti made no effort to challenge Sian’s false and materially misleading portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonial state”, instead allowing her to read out loud from an obviously pre-prepared statement on India which had nothing to do with the issue of antisemitism in Britain’s Labour Party.

The fact that a Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party supporter – and quite possibly a party member – was brought in to comment on this topic while inadequately presented as a ‘neutral’ academic is clearly a breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The fact that audiences were also not informed that the same supposedly ‘neutral’ academic regularly promotes anti-Israel material and four years ago had a book launch organised by the (Corbyn favoured) Iran linked, self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) – which organises the annual anti-Israel ‘Quds Day’ hate rally in London – likewise clearly impairs their ability to put her claims and pronunciations into their appropriate perspective.

Resources:

BBC Complaints website

 

BBC producer breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality yet again

Section 4.4.13 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality states:

“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.”

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.”

Not for the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) a clearly identified BBC employee – who describes his position as “BBC News Arabic service producer in Israel and the West Bank” – has allowed himself to “advocate” a “particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate” on social media, thereby contradicting the BBC’s editorial guidelines and compromising its impartiality.

Clearly that Tweet from Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on that legislation. 

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC Complaints defends Bowen’s inaccurate history

As noted here last week a report on Prince William’s visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authority controlled territories that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on June 25th included an inaccurate portrayal of a historic event.

Part of the conversation between presenter Martha Kearney and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen went as follows:

Kearney: “And interesting how some of the various groups have been greeting the visit. The Palestinian diplomatic representative in London said – referring to the Balfour Declaration – said that this is…eh…considered to be an act of indirect apology.”

Bowen: “Yes. Balfour Declaration of course being the decision by Britain when it was the colonial power in Palestine to say that they supported the establishment of a Jewish state – that was about 100 years ago. So for the Palestinians it’s as if it happened yesterday: they’re very, very angry about it still.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that inaccurate portrayal, pointing out that while the Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2nd 1917, British forces did not complete their First World War ‘Sinai and Palestine Campaign’ until October 30th 1918 – almost a year after the Balfour Declaration was issued – and that the region was not under British control – “colonial” or otherwise – when the Balfour Declaration was issued as claimed by the BBC’s Middle East editor.

The response received from BBC Complaints includes the following:

“We raised your complaint with the programme team and senior staff, who respond:

The presenter, Martha Kearney, put it to our Middle East Editor that Prince William’s visit was being seen as an ‘indirect apology’ for the Balfour Declaration, in the words of the Palestinian Representative in London who had commented on the visit.

As this was the first mention of the Balfour Declaration, Jeremy Bowen responded by attempting to explain in a few words the significance of Balfour for the audience. His summary was not intended to mislead but rather help listeners unfamiliar with the complex historical background and give context to Prince William’s trip. His phrase ‘about a hundred years ago’ clearly indicated that he was précising the details for the benefit for the listener and not setting out an exact sequence of historical events. Nor do we think ‘colonial power’ is an inappropriate phrase to cover this period, given that at the time Britain had a large Empire and went onto administer Palestine at the behest of the League of Nations in 1923.”

Quite how that inaccurate presentation of the chronology of events can be claimed to “help listeners unfamiliar with the complex historical background” is of course unclear. So much for BBC editorial standards of ‘accuracy’. 

Related Articles:

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ forces Brexit and Gaza into royal visit report

BBC’s ECU upholds ‘Andrew Marr Show’ complaint

Readers may recall that back in April the BBC’s Andrew Marr managed to shoehorn Israel into a discussion about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.

During the papers review in the April 8th edition of ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ show guest journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer spoke about a Guardian report on the previous evening’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma in Syria, stating:

Hartley-Brewer: “We’ve got to stop the nonsense that they’re not using chemical weapons. They are using them. And of course I would say I do think we need to remember that it was our country that chose not to get involved even after chemical weapons attacks as a result of votes in Parliament led by former Labour leader Ed Miliband.”

The “light” Andrew Marr then chose to shine on the issue of international inaction despite repeated chemical weapons attacks in Syria was as follows:

Marr: “And the Middle East is aflame again. I mean there’s lots of Palestinian kids being killed further south as well by the Israeli forces.”

As the Daily Mail reports:

“Anti-semitism campaigner Jonathan Sacerdoti complained, writing: ‘When talking about a story on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Andrew Marr for some reason decided to talk about Israel (which was unrelated anyway). He stated there’s a lot of Palestinian kids being killed further south by Israeli forces.

‘This is completely incorrect and is made up. This was irrelevant to the conversation on Syria… and also actually completely false.’

BBC producers initially tried to defend Marr’s comments by pointing to the fact that five ‘younger people’ had been killed between the beginning of the year and the date of the programme.

They also said several Palestinian children and younger people were killed in the week following the broadcast, but Mr Sacerdoti argued that later events could not be used to justify Mr Marr’s comments.

His complaint has been upheld.”

Mail on Sunday

The relevant part of the ECU’s response stated:

Note the BBC’s use of a WHO document (which is based on figures supplied by the same terror group that organised the violent rioting) as a source of information concerning “a large number of children injured” even though Marr’s comment referred to “Palestinian kids being killed”.

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.

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