No BBC follow-up on a sports story it reported last year

Readers may recall that last August BBC Sport published a report concerning FIFA’s decision to issue a 12-month suspension and a fine to the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, for “inciting hatred and violence” against the Argentinian player Lionel Messi.

Over 35% of that report was given over to the unquestioned amplification of some decidedly bizarre comments from the PFA concerning its president’s suspension which closed with the words:

 “The Palestinian FA says it will now “pursue this issue to the last possible legal venue”.”

Last week that “last possible legal venue” – the Court of Arbitration for Sport – announced its decision.

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestine Football Association (PFA) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The appeal has been dismissed and the decision issued by the FIFA Appeal Committee (FIFA AC) dated 24 September 2018, confirming the earlier decision taken by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee (FIFA DC) dated 13 July 2018, is confirmed. Consequently, the one-year match suspension (until 23 August 2019) and the fine of CHF 20,000 imposed on Jibril Rajoub have been confirmed.”

However, the Times of Israel reports that an additional investigation by FIFA is underway.

“FIFA is currently conducting an investigation against Rajoub on suspicion that he breached its bylaws by glorifying terrorism and inciting hatred and violence… […]

The letter by FIFA’s chief of investigation in the Ethics Committee, Martin Ngoga, cited many alleged examples of Rajoub’s “promotion and glorification of terrorism,” “incitement to hatred and violence,” “discriminatory/denigratory statements and prohibiting the use of [soccer] as a bridge to peace” and the “use of [soccer] to promote a political agenda.””

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has a record of providing no small amount of amplification to Rajoub’s football related political campaigns.

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

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BBC World Service tells sports fans tall tales of ‘stolen Palestinian land’

Perhaps that explains why audiences have seen no reporting on the rejection of Rajoub’s appeals against FIFA or about its current investigation into his conduct.

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Discrimination in sport continues to be ignored by the BBC

Back in November 2017 BBC audiences were told that an Iranian wrestler had been instructed to lose a match because Iran “does not accept” and “does not recognise” Israel. As was noted here at the time, ‘Newshour’ presenter Tim Franks brought up an ‘interesting’ way of avoiding such situations which – notably – did not involve the Iranians giving up their bigoted approach.

“Franks: “And in terms of the Iranian sort of…trying to avoid this sort of thing in the future, have they ever tried to make appeals to the people who run world sport to avoid embarrassing clashes…?”

In February 2018 the BBC revisited that topic, again telling audiences that “Iran does not recognise the state of Israel” and that “[d]ozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israeli competitors since the 1979 Islamic Revolution”.

In none of those reports were BBC audiences told of the religious ideology behind that refusal to “accept” Israel.

The BBC has also shown no interest in informing its audiences of the efforts made by the International Judo Federation to fight discrimination in sport. Those efforts have included communication with Iran ahead of the Judo World Championship next month.

“The IJF said in a letter to Iran that: “The international judo community witnessed several times a disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden “injury” or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes… [because of] the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries.”

In the same letter, the federation set a March 15 deadline for the Iranian government to present to “The International Judo Federation… a governmental letter which guarantees that all athletes from Iran will compete in IJF competitions, regardless of the nationality of the athletes they oppose, and that they will participate in the medal ceremonies, regardless of the nationality of those who share the podium with them.”

The Iranian response to the letter was published by the IJF in March 11, where it claimed that it would, “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.” The Islamic republic also said that they were negotiating with parliament to “identify the proper legal resolutions.”

However, a top Iranian sports official now appears to have reneged on that commitment to non-discrimination.

“President of the Iran National Olympic Committee Syed Reza Salehi Amiri said that Iranian athletes will not compete against Israeli athletes, despite Iran claiming in a letter addressed to the International Judo Federation (IJF) that things might change.

The Judo World Championship will take place at the end of August, where the most anticipated encounter will be between Iranian Saeid Mollaei, who is ranked No. 1 in the 81 kg. weight group, and second ranked Israeli Sagi Muki. […]

“Refraining from participating in competitions with athletes of the Zionist regime is an issue of the Muslim world, and athletes from 20 countries refrain from doing so. I said that we are acting within the framework of the Iranian regime’s policy – and for this reason, we are not competing with athletes of the Zionist regime,” Amiri said.”

Once again there is no sign of that story on either the BBC Sport Judo page or the BBC News website ‘Middle East’ page.

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Sporting body’s anti-discrimination results get no BBC coverage

BBC Watch prompts correction to BBC Sport report

As documented here last week, on January 27th  the BBC Sport website published an article titled “World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event” which also appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Asia’ pages.

The article originally presented the background to the story thus:

“Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, banned the athletes because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.

The Israeli foreign ministry condemned the decision and accused Malaysia of anti-Semitism.”

However, as noted here at the time, the foreign ministry’s statement actually referred to the antisemitism of Malaysia’s prime minister rather than the country as a whole:

“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit. Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s PM Mahathir [Mohamad]’s rabid anti-Semitism,” the ministry said in a statement. “We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that point and the response received reads as follows:

“Thank you for getting in touch about the BBC Sport article ‘World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event’.

We’ve raised your concerns with the BBC Sport website editors, who have reviewed your complaint and the article in question. They have now changed the article, and sincerely apologise for the error.

Many thanks once again for bringing this to our attention.”

The inaccurate claim has now been removed from the relevant section of the report.

Before

After

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BBC Sport wakes up to Malaysia sports discrimination story

On January 27th BBC Sport reported on a development in a story it had previously ignored for over two weeks. As well as appearing on the BBC Sport website, the article titled “World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event” was also published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Asia’ pages.

“Malaysia has been stripped of hosting the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships for refusing to let Israelis compete, says the International Paralympic Committee. […]

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new championships host,” said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons.

“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination.””

BBC Sport reported the background to the story thus:

“Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, banned the athletes because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.

The Israeli foreign ministry condemned the decision and accused Malaysia of anti-Semitism.”

The foreign ministry’s statement actually referred to the antisemitism of Malaysia’s prime minister rather than the country as a whole:

“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit. Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s PM Mahathir [Mohamad]’s rabid anti-Semitism,” the ministry said in a statement. “We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event.”

The BBC Sport report continued:

“Mahathir Mohamad – who gave an interview to the BBC’s HARDtalk programme in October – became the country’s new prime minister last May and has been criticised for holding anti-Semitic views.

Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s minister of youth and sports, has defended his country’s decision.

He told the BBC last week that Malaysia would have “lost our moral conscience and moral compass” if hosting an international sporting event was “more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated [sic] time after time again”.”

A clip from that ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Syed Saddiq was embedded at the top of the BBC Sport report. The same clip had been promoted separately on the BBC News website four days earlier.

“Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq, has defended his country’s decision to ban Israeli Paralympic swimmers from participating in the World Para Swimming Championships, due to be held in Malaysia in July.

He told BBC Hardtalk’s Shaun Ley: “If hosting an international event is more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated time after time again, if that is more important it means we have lost our moral conscience and moral compass.”

There has been an international outcry against Malaysia’s decision.”

In that promoted clip from the interview BBC audiences saw how Shaun Ley twice allowed Syed Saddiq to dodge the issue of the Malaysian prime minister’s use of Nazi analogy and antisemitic stereotypes and not only failed to challenge his guest’s distorted and context-free portrayals of Israeli actions but actually endorsed them.

Saddiq: “During [operations] Cast Lead, Protective Edge, Pillar of Defence tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians had their lives murdered, families taken away and continuing sanctions.”

Ley: “And plenty of countries condemn that and take action against it but they don’t stand against the opportunity for people of all communities, countries, to come together.”

Moreover, at the end of that interview, BBC audiences heard that Malaysia – a country which reelected a prime minister infamous for his antisemitism and which bans Israelis for no other reason that their nationality – is “progressive”.    

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BBC Sport ignores anti-Israel bigotry yet again

BBC Sport ignores anti-Israel bigotry yet again

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s sports department has a record of under-reporting both anti-Israel discrimination in international sporting events and efforts to combat such bigotry.

The latest story ignored by BBC Sport involves Israel’s paralympic swimmers.

“The International Paralympic Committee expressed disappointment Saturday after Malaysia said it would not allow Israeli swimmers to attend a competition in the country that will serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Malaysia is one of a number of Muslim-majority countries that has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, with entry to the country on an Israeli passport prohibited.

The city of Kuching in the eastern Sarawak state will host hundreds of swimmers from 70 countries from July 29th to August 4th.

But on Thursday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Kuala Lumpur would deny visas to Israeli para swimmers seeking to attend the meet. […]

Israeli athletes are regularly banned from competing at international sporting events in Arab or Muslim countries, or forced to compete without displaying their national symbols. A number of incidents have led to reprimands from international governing bodies and promises to reform.”

The BBC News website’s ‘Malaysia’ page carries no coverage of that story and neither does the BBC Sport website’s ‘swimming’ page. As has been noted here on previous occasions the BBC Sport website usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport and indeed one of the stories currently at the top of its home page concerns two Indian cricketers and inappropriate comments concerning women.

 

Sporting body’s anti-discrimination results get no BBC coverage

Readers may recall that in October 2017 the Israeli delegation to a judo competition held in Abu Dhabi was barred by the organisers from displaying the Israeli flag, competing under the name ‘Israel’ or playing the national anthem. However, as was noted here at the time:

“The BBC Sport website (which usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport) has no coverage of that story either on its home page or on its Judo page. The BBC News website’s Middle East page similarly did not find this story of blatant discrimination in sport newsworthy.”

Similarly, the BBC Sport website did not report on efforts made earlier this year by the International Judo Federation to bring an end to such discrimination.

Due to those efforts, the Israeli judo team is taking part in this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam under happily different conditions.

“Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Friday to accompany Israel’s national judo team at an international tournament where — for the first time in a Gulf country — they will be allowed to compete under their national flag.

Regev is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2018 on Saturday, where the Israeli national anthem will also be played for the team. […]

Regev is the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE in an official capacity, as the countries have no official diplomatic relations.”

On October 28th (and again the next day) the Israeli national anthem was indeed heard in Abu Dhabi.

photo credit: IJF

“Israel’s national anthem was played at a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi on Sunday for the first time, after one of its athletes won gold.

A visibly moved Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who was at the contest to support the Israeli team, presented the medals and hung the gold medallion around the neck of judoka Sagi Muki. […]

Muki beat Belgian competitor Matthias Casse to take first place in the under-81 kilogram category at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

Following the medal distribution, the tournament presenter announced, in English, “Ladies and gentleman, please rise for the national anthem of Israel” after which the “Hatikva” melody began playing. […]

It was…the first time an Israeli delegation participated there under its national flag, after the International Judo Federation warned UAE organizers the competition would be canceled unless all athletes were allowed to participate on an equal footing.”

Once again, however, no coverage of that story was to be found on the BBC Sport website home page or Judo page (even though a report about British competitors in the same tournament did appear) or on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

BBC Sport website Judo page, 29/10/18

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BBC Sport report amplifies bizarre Palestinian FA claims

As readers no doubt recall, back in June the BBC News website published a report on the cancellation of a friendly football match between Israel and Argentina which falsely promoted the notion of its linkage to events along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel while avoiding relevant background to the story that was seen in a report from a different BBC department.

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

Four weeks later, following communication from BBC Watch, some amendments were made to that report.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC did not produce any follow-up reporting on that story after FIFA announced that it had begun disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian Football Association head, Jibril Rajoub, in relation to his call to Lionel Messi’s fans in “Arab states, Islamic states, in Asia, in Africa, and in states that are friends of the Palestinian people” to burn replica shirts and photographs “and renounce him”.

On August 24th FIFA announced the result of that disciplinary and the following day a report appeared on the BBC Sport website, initially under the rather confusing headline “Lionel Messi: Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub banned for ‘inciting hatred and violence’” and illustrated using an image showing political graffiti. The same report was also published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. 

Sixty-one of the report’s 298 words related to FIFA’s decision.

“Fifa has given the president of the Palestinian Football Association a 12-month suspension after he urged fans to burn Lionel Messi shirts and pictures.

Jibril Rajoub has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£15,826) for “inciting hatred and violence” with statements made before a friendly between Argentina and Israel. […]

Rajoub will not be able to attend football matches in any capacity.”

The background to the June cancellation was given in thirty-eight words – including a link to the BBC News website’s report on the story.

“The match was due to take place in June in Jerusalem but was then cancelled. […]

In June, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie had said he believed his country’s footballers “were not willing to play the game” against Israel.”

Once again BBC audiences were not provided with the context to Mr Faurie’s words.

“Faurie said players had received threats over playing the game and were uncomfortable with it going ahead.

He also cited jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood which had been displayed at a protest outside the team’s practice facility in Barcelona Tuesday as a cause for concern.”

The Palestinian Football Association’s reaction to the June cancellation was portrayed in forty-nine words and that of the Israel Football Association in forty-three words.

The report’s remaining 107 words – i.e. 35.7% of its content – were given over to uncritical amplification of some decidedly bizarre remarks from the Palestinian Football Association concerning its president’s suspension.

BBC audiences were not told what the phrase ‘”some settler extremist group” who “reside, illegally, in the Palestinian occupied territories”‘ is supposed to mean or what is its relevance to the story. Neither were they informed that what is opaquely described as ‘media statements made by Rajoub to a Lebanese media channel in 2013’ in fact refers to an interview with Al Mayadeen in which Rajoub said “We [the Palestinians] as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning”.

How the generous yet uncritical amplification of those statements from the Palestinian Football Association can be claimed to enhance audience understanding of the story is of course unclear.

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No BBC coverage of sports anti-discrimination move

Readers may recall that last October the Israeli delegation to a judo competition held in Abu Dhabi was barred by the organisers from displaying the Israeli flag, competing under the name ‘Israel’ or playing the national anthem. However, as was noted here at the time:

“The BBC Sport website (which usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport) has no coverage of that story either on its home page or on its Judo page. The BBC News website’s Middle East page similarly did not find this story of blatant discrimination in sport newsworthy.”

The International Judo Federation subsequently took steps to end such discrimination.

“Based on experiences from previous years and in an attempt to take a firm and constructive stance in the fight against discrimination in sport, the International Judo Federation announces that it will suspend two of its events, namely the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix.

Prior to this decision and after carefully analysing the past situations involving the denial of participation in equal conditions of all IJF member federations – with their national insignia and anthem at the aforementioned events, and after repeated past interventions, the IJF officially requested the two organisers to provide a letter of guarantee signed by the government that all IJF member nations would have the right to participate in their events in equal conditions. […]

As no positive answer was received to date, although past the given deadline, the International Judo Federation’s Executive Committee decided to suspend both the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix until governmental guarantee is given to ensure free and equal participation of all nations at the said events.”

That story has been reported by a number of Israeli media organisations as well as by CNN and the BBC associate news agency AFP. Visitors to the BBC Sport website, however, found no mention of the IJF’s decision either on the main homepage or on the ‘Judo’ page and no mention of the story is found on the BBC News website’s Tunisia and UAE pages.

 

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Political messaging in BBC Sport report on bike race

On May 3rd a report by BBC Sport correspondent Tom Fordyce concerning the Giro d’Italia cycling race was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page as well as on the BBC Sport website.

Titled “Giro d’Italia: Chris Froome in spotlight at start in Jerusalem“, the report included amplification of statements made in a press release put out by an NGO with a long record of anti-Israel campaigning that is frequently uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC.

“Others see little more than a concerted effort to present an image of Israel to the world at odds with the reality. Amnesty International has accused Israel of trying to “sportwash” its reputation, as protests continue in the Gaza Strip that have so far led to the death of 35 Palestinian protestors.”

Obviously the ‘Great Return March’ events which Hamas and other terror groups have been staging weekly since the end of March have nothing whatsoever to do with the cycling race that is ostensibly the topic of this report but Fordyce nevertheless chose to amplify Amnesty International’s opportunistic false linkage and delegitimisation.

Moreover, the report also included ‘analysis’ from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which likewise encouraged sports fans to view the sporting event in a political light.

Yolande Knell’s promotion of the Old City of Jerusalem as “occupied territory” predictably fails to inform visitors to the BBC Sport website of the all-important context of the internationally rejected belligerent Jordanian occupation of that district and additional parts of Jerusalem. And so, once again, the BBC’s funding public got a dose of politically partisan messaging with its ‘news’.

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BBC muddies a story of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

On February 28th an article titled “Iran wrestling officials resign over Israel competition ban” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and on the BBC Sport website’s wrestling page. Readers found the following description of the story in the opening paragraph:

“The head of Iran’s wrestling federation has resigned after criticising authorities for letting players be punished because of the country’s ban on athletes competing against Israel.”

Which “authorities” did he criticise? That only becomes clear later on in the report.

“Wrestler Alireza Karimachiani was banned for six months after throwing a match to avoid an Israeli opponent last year.

Earlier this month, Mr Khadem criticised Iranian authorities for their stance on Israeli opponents, and called for a “fundamental solution” to the ongoing problem.

“Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right,” he said.

He suggested he was forced from the post in a cryptic letter posted on the body’s website on Wednesday.”

What the BBC euphemistically describes as “the ongoing problem” is of course Iran’s practice of pressuring its sportspeople to avoiding competing against Israelis at international events. The BBC’s report describes that practice in typically tepid terms.

“Iran does not recognise the state of Israel. […]

Dozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israeli competitors since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.”

Coincidentally or not, the BBC’s report bears a strong resemblance to an AFP article published on the same day. However, the AFP report provides a more lucid account of the statements made by the head of Iran’s wrestling federation before he – voluntarily or not – quit his post.

“Khadem, argued that Iranians should openly admit they will not compete against Israelis rather than invent excuses, and accept the consequences.

“If we must continue with the policy of non-competition against the Zionist regime’s athletes, the responsibility cannot fall on the shoulders of the coach and the athlete,” he said on public radio, according to ISNA.

He said a “fundamental solution” needed to be reached by the Supreme Council for National Security.

“Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right,” he added.

He had previously told ISNA that, if the country’s policy was to avoid Israeli rivals then it should “behave honestly and… accept the consequences”.”

Unlike the BBC report, the AFP article clarifies to readers that the Iranian policy of refusing to compete against Israelis does not comply with sporting rules.

“Dozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israelis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, either out of choice or under pressure from authorities.

But they have tended to lose earlier rounds, claim sickness or fail to show up, since an open refusal breaches international sporting regulations.”

Obviously the BBC could have done more to make this story comprehensible to audiences but instead, we once again see the corporation skirting around the issue of discrimination against Israelis in sport.  

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