When BBC journalists become the story – and when they don’t

On January 20th followers of the BBC News Twitter account were alerted to a story described as follows:

Tweet journalist fly US

However, only those who followed the link and bothered to read the article – titled “BBC journalist Rana Rahimpour stopped from flying to US” – in full would appreciate that in fact the well promoted story (which is also told in an additional article by BBC Trending called “Why I tweeted a picture of myself in tears“) has nothing at all to do with the BBC or journalism and that it is actually about the visa related tribulations of a woman making a private journey who just happens to work for the corporation.Rahimpour story

In an additional filmed interview on BBC News Rahimpour gave a positive answer to this loaded question from the presenter:

“Does this feel right now that you are being discriminated against because of your heritage?”

The question of whether or not journalists should become the story is of course largely a matter of taste but in this case it seems pretty clear that Ms Rahimpour’s BBC connections prompted wide coverage of an event which might otherwise have received much less exposure.

Interestingly, a previous story about another BBC employee did not receive any coverage from the corporation. BBC News producer Erica Chernofsky wrote about her experiences whilst driving in Judea & Samaria last October at the Times of Israel.Rahimpour story Trending

“And then suddenly there was a loud boom. And another, and another, and then another. And I couldn’t see a thing, and I heard my children screaming, the baby crying, I looked out my window and saw the Palestinian children, and then an Israeli soldier. I fumbled for my cell phone, following the protocol I had been taught but never had to use.

I called for help. I heard my voice shaking as I tried to explain where we were, what had happened, and as I did my car’s windscreen finally came into focus, it was smashed, my legs and arms were covered in glass, my knee was burning where a shard of glass was stuck inside my skin. And then I dropped the phone, suddenly remembering my children, ohmigod my children, the baby! I climbed out of my seat to look behind me as my husband continued driving away as fast as he could.

They were screaming, my 3-year-old was crying hysterically, my 6-year-old was yelling “what happened mommy, what happened!” over and over again. And the baby, was crying, screaming, oh, he’s such a good baby and he never cries, and then I saw he was covered in millions of tiny pieces of glass. The entire back windshield of the car had smashed in, there was glass everywhere, all over my children, all over my baby. In his hair, on his face, on his little onesie. I gently tried to shake the glass off him as my hands trembled, “drive faster, quickly, quickly, we have to check the baby,” I cried to my husband, who had somehow not lost control of the car during the attack. […]

It’s in the news all the time. Rock throwing. It seems trivial. But it wasn’t rocks. It wasn’t pebbles. It was giant blocks of stone, the rectangular kind that are used to build houses. And it can kill. Rocks, stones, guns, are all the same. They are weapons. They are violence. They are tools to commit murder.”

So, whilst a BBC employee with nationality-related visa problems makes the news, a BBC employee targeted in a terror attack for no other reason than her nationality did not.

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When stone-throwing at vehicles does interest the BBC

 

An Iranian story the BBC chose not to translate

Last week IranWire reported a story which opens as follows:

“Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has released details of a private meeting between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and IRIB directors about the July 14 nuclear deal in Vienna. 

The meeting, which was off the record, took place at the end of July. On Saturday, August 1, the IRIB news site published the comments without the permission of Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s chief negotiator. 

Abbas responded immediately, saying the publication of the private conversation was “contrary to national interests and security” and “incompatible with professional ethics.” He also said that the published text contained numerous errors.

A few hours later, the IRIB site retracted the story, stating that the publication had been a mistake. Most of the other Persian-language sites that had republished the text also removed it following Araghchi’s objections.”

The IranWire article details some of the interesting points made by Araghchi in that meeting, including the following:

“Araghchi confirmed that Iran is arming Lebanese Hezbollah: “We said that we cannot stop giving arms to Hezbollah, and we’re not ready to sacrifice it to our nuclear program. So we will continue doing it.””

Likewise, the independent publishing platform Khodnevis notes that:

“He [Araghchi] also pointed out that the Islamic Republic has been sending arms to Hezbollah, something Iran has publicly denied for years.”BBC Persian Araghchi story

Khodnevis attributes the information in its article to a report published by the BBC Persian service (“Araghchi what was said at the meeting with managers of radio and television?“) and another article concerning the removal of the reports by Persian-language outlets was also produced by BBC Persian.

Curiously though, the BBC apparently did not consider that admission by an official of a UN member state that it is systematically breaching the terms of UN SC resolution 1701 (“no sales or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”) worthy of translation into English for the benefit of the majority of members of its audience who do not read Farsi.  

 

More BBC whitewashing of ‘Al Quds Day’

On August 1st 2013, the BBC News website published a ‘guide’ to Iran’s ‘Al Quds day’ events – held this year on the following day, August 2nd – on its Middle East page. The piece was written by Siavash Ardalan of the BBC Persian service. 

Al Quds Day article

In the article’s first paragraph we yet again see a euphemistic description of the event:

Its overarching theme is support for the Palestinians and fierce denunciation of Israel, and is as much an expression of policy as ritual.”

In fact, both in Iran and elsewhere, the overriding characteristic of this ‘happening’ is calls for Israel’s destruction and displays of support for terrorist organisations dedicated to that cause – especially Hizballah. That – by any conventional definition – is rather more than “fierce denunciation”. 

The original declaration which initiated Al Quds day included these words: 

“Israel, the enemy of mankind, the enemy of humanity, which is creating disturbances every day and is attacking our brothers…, must realise that its masters are no longer accepted in the world and must retreat. They must give up their ambitious designs, their hands must be severed from all the Islamic countries and their agents in these countries must step down.

Quds Day is the day for announcing such things, for announcing such things to the satans who want to push the Islamic nations aside and bring the superpowers into the arena.

Quds Day is the day to dash their hopes and warn them that those days are gone.”

Ardalan informs readers that:

“Jerusalem Day rallies are a must for Iranian politicians. Any politician who hopes to establish their credentials has to be seen and hope to be heard delivering a tirade against Israel. It confirms their loyalties and reiterates their identification with what has become an unshakable tenet of Iran’s foreign policy.

Al Quds Day, London, 21st August 2011

The official stance is that Israel is, as a matter of moral principle, illegitimate. However, it does not follow from this that Iran is under the obligation to take direct and pre-emptive action to destroy Israel. This will happen in due course, the rhetoric goes.

Iranians are well-practised in how to express this idea in short soundbites that are broadcast non-stop during the day of the rallies on state radio and TV. Iranian politicians have particularly become skilled at this. The sentences express a moral outrage over Israel’s existence as well as its actions but fall short of requiring that Iran does anything too harsh about this “moral violation”.” [emphasis added]

Of course some might be of the opinion that Iran’s long-standing supply of funds and weapons to its proxies in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon rather contradicts the eccentric, passive picture which Ardalan is trying to paint. He goes on:

“President Ahmadinejad, however, tried introducing a new element to the traditional narrative: Holocaust denial. His attempts failed and the Supreme Leader, who shares Mr Ahmadinejad’s denial but keeps it low-profile, along with Mr Ahmadinejad’s political rivals, did not allow for this deviation.” [emphasis added]

Ardalan’s claim that Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial was kept in check on Al Quds day itself  is purely cosmetic nit-picking considering that Iran held an International Holocaust Cartoon competition in 2006 and a Holocaust denial conference the same year, with subsequent similar events and a website of Holocaust cartoons launched in 2010.

Ardalan goes on: [emphasis added]

Al Quds Day Rally, London, August 21st 2011

“The idea behind Jerusalem Day rallies was to gather all fasting Muslims every year on the last Friday of Ramadan to show their opposition to the existence of Israel. However, Jerusalem Day did not develop beyond an Iranian experience.

Iranian leaders may have initially been motivated by the desire to further an anti-Israeli drive. However, the need to consolidate and project Iran’s leadership and influence in the Islamic world as well as intimidating opposition forces inside remained as an incentive to keep the tradition alive.

Jerusalem Day did not achieve the former. As it turned out, whatever leadership and influence Iran wields in the Islamic world has little to do with the rallies on Jerusalem Day. Apart from these annual rallies in some Western and Asian capitals, usually organised and financed by Iran, the ritual never took root among Muslims at large.”

Whilst it may indeed be the case that the attraction of Al Quds day is limited, Ardalan’s rather transparent attempt to play down the spread of the event to other countries and the involvement of non-Shiia and non-Muslim groups is all too obvious.

In this year’s Al Quds day event in Berlin some 900 people took part.

“Police officials told The Jerusalem Post that roughly 900 Islamists marched along the Kurfürstendamm shopping strip, calling for the abolition of the Jewish state.

Supporters of Hezbollah and Iran blanketed the area with Hezbollah flags and chants declaring “Zionists are fascists.” […]

Despite the EU’s decision in late July to outlaw Hezbollah’s military wing, yellow Hezbollah flags featuring the AK-47 rifle were waved at the march. […]

According to German intelligence reports from 2012, there are 250 active Hezbollah members in Berlin and 950 across the Federal Republic.”

BBC audiences would not have found any mention of that event in the ‘Europe’ section of the BBC News website. Neither would they find any BBC coverage of the march – complete with racist placards – held in London on August 2nd, despite the fact that it commenced outside the BBC building in Portland Place. 

London, August 2nd, 2013

That rally was as usual organized by the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ – a registered charity whose chair, Massoud Shadjareh, has been quoted and promoted by the BBC on numerous occasions over the years. The event was also supported by  various non-Shiia bodies and non-Muslim organisations such as the ‘Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’, ‘Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods’ – one of the founders of which, Tony Greenstein, has appeared on BBC programmes – and the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ – members of which are also to be found not infrequently as guests of the BBC.

In contrast to the curious little local custom – odd, but harmless – which this BBC article tries to make Al Quds day out to be, it is in fact a well-organised, well-funded vehicle for promoting racist hatred and glorifying terrorism.  BBC audiences are entitled to expect to read the truth about it rather than Ardalan’s insipid, almost anthropological, whitewash.