Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

As the year’s end approaches we will be taking a look at some of the topics that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’.

One of the BBC’s campaigns began in late December 2017 and continued until March 21st 2018, with an encore on July 29th. It related to Ahed Tamimi who, together with other members of her ‘activist’ family, had been featured in BBC content in the past.

However, in this case the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC elected to lend its voice – and considerable outreach – to promotion and amplification of a blatantly political campaign. 

19th December 2017, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video

Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video

Both items discussed here.

“To sum up, the BBC’s ‘reporting’ on this story promotes – twice – filmed footage for the most part produced by family members of the story’s main protagonist, two Facebook posts from her father, one article from a notoriously partisan and inaccurate media outlet quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved.”

1st January 2018, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl charged after slapping soldier on video

Discussed here.

“Notably, while the BBC did elect to amplify the Tamimi family’s claim of “legitimate resistance” and to inform its audiences that “many Palestinians have hailed Tamimi as a hero of the resistance to Israeli occupation”, it refrained from telling them of her support for terrorism and advocacy of the murder of Israelis.”

1st January 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

“…the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.”

3rd January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Discussed here.

“No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.”

8th January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

In this report from Yolande Knell, listeners heard from former IDF chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsh who noted the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. They also heard interviews with an Israeli MK, Tamimi’s lawyer, Tamimi’s father and statements from a member of an anti-Israel NGO.

“Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.”

17th January 2018, BBC News website, Yolande Knell:

Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen

Discussed here.

“The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.”

31st January 2018, BBC One, BBC News channel, BBC News website, Jeremy Bowen:

Is a slap an act of terror?

Ahed Tamimi: Was Palestinian teenager’s ‘slap’ terrorism?

Both discussed here.

“Clearly both those headlines and presentations suggest to BBC audiences that Ahed Tamimi has been charged with terrorism following her assault of a soldier – but that disingenuous implication is false.”

5th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

13th February 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial

Discussed here.

“However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge.”

13th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, James Reynolds

Discussed here.

“All the more significant is the fact that he [Reynolds] failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.”

21st March 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal

Discussed here.

“…BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.”

Between December 19th 2017 and March 21st 2018, the BBC produced at least thirteen written, filmed or audio reports on that topic: clearly an unusual volume of coverage clearly intended to secure audience attention.

All the written and filmed reports (eight) included the word “slap” (or derivatives) in their title – an indication of what the BBC wanted audiences to think the story was about and how perception of the story was manipulated. Several of the reports told BBC audiences that Tamimi was imprisoned because of a ‘slap’ while failing to adequately explain – or even mention – the most serious charge against her: that of incitement to violence. Only one of the reports (BBC Radio 4, January 8th) provided audiences with a reasonable explanation of the charges against Tamimi.

The reports included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor. In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists such as B’tselemJonathan PollackAmnesty International, Avaaz (including a link to a petition set up by Tamimi’s father) and Human Rights Watch.

The BBC returned to the story in late July, with the same editorial policies in evidence in four additional reports.

29th July 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel

Discussed here.

“…once again BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement to which Ahed Tamimi pleaded guilty relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which she was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a public call for violence.”

29th July 2018, BBC World News TV, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

29th July 2018, BBC News website, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“In the film itself the charge of incitement was likewise entirely erased from audience view.” 

29th July 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this latest instalment of the Ahed Tamimi story, the fact that the charge of incitement was the most serious of the charges against her – and its details – was erased from audience view.”

Throughout the BBC’s generous coverage of this story, audiences saw her described as “a prominent child activist“, a “star on social media”, “a modern-day Joan of Arc“, “a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation“, “a national icon” and “the new iconic face of Palestinian resistance“.

BBC audiences were told that Tamimi is to be seen as “standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands” and “standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land” and that her aim is “to resist the occupation“.

The one-sided politicised campaigning that BBC audiences saw instead of objective coverage of this story is a slap in the face for journalism and – not least in light of the BBC Middle East editor’s campaign contribution – detrimental to the BBC’s reputation as a trustworthy media outlet committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Ahmad Tibi – part one

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

 

 

 

 

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Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the January 8th edition of ‘Hardtalk (aired on the BBC World News channel, the BBC News channel and on BBC World Service radio) was devoted to an interview with Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar in which some of the messaging audiences have previously received from the BBC was contradicted.

Throughout the interview Zahar also promoted numerous falsehoods, smears and inaccuracies which went unchallenged by presenter Stephen Sackur – thereby leaving audiences with misleading impressions and false information.

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

1) Despite Hamas’ known misappropriation of thousands of tons of building materials intended for the repair and reconstruction of civilian homes damaged during the 2014 conflict and its spending of millions of dollars on tunnel construction and missile production rather than on public services for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip, Sackur failed to challenge Zahar’s claim that the poor quality of life in Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas “management”.

Zahar: “Yes, our life is very miserable – not because of bad management on our side but because of the crime committed by the Israeli occupation and by the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority with them and lastly by the impact of the international community, represented mainly by Mr Trump, against our human rights in the most important third shrine in Islam, al Aqsa Mosque.”

2) Sackur also refrained from questioning that claim from Zahar that the “human rights” of Muslims at al Aqsa mosque are being abused and failed to clarify to BBC audiences that in fact Muslims alone are allowed to pray there.

3) Zahar’s inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is under “siege” went unchallenged, as did the false allegation that the problems plaguing medical services in the Gaza Strip are the result of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

Zahar: “The siege for a long time destroyed our medical, our social, our economic life and nobody is interested about human rights where 2 million Palestinian people are living in this area.”

4) The issue of discrimination against Palestinians in some Arab countries was not raised by Sackur when Zahar mentioned refugee camps and neither was the subject of the deliberate perpetuation of their refugee status.

Zahar: “Add to that our miserable life in the West Bank in addition to the very distress life in the refugee camps outside Palestine, whether in Jordan, especially in Lebanon and Syria. For this reason I think it’s a big crime. It’s a big crime against the Palestinian human rights.”

5) Zahar’s repeated claims of “occupation” since 1948 were not challenged by Sackur even once and neither was his inaccurate characterisation of the British mandate administration.

Zahar [04:00]: “…we are living under occupation since many, many years. Since 1948 they occupied what is now called Israel and after that at ’67.”

Zahar [14:36]: “We are here speaking about national interest. Our interest is our land. Our land well-known occupied at ’48.”

Zahar [19:50]: “Listen, listen: this [Israel] is Palestine. This is Palestine occupied ’48. Occupied by ’48 by the support and by a built by the British occupation.”

6) Zahar’s repeated portrayal of Palestinian terrorism as “self-defence” went unquestioned.

Zahar [04:00]: “But lastly, lastly by our method of self-resistance, self-defence against the occupation in Gaza we succeed[ed] to eliminate the occupation in Gaza.”

Zahar [05:36]: “The people in the West Bank have their right to defend themselves by all means. […] We have to defend ourselves by all means in the West Bank in order to avoid the expansion of the settlement not only on Jerusalem but also on the rest of the West Bank.”

Zahar [12:19]: “We are not a terrorist and we are not launching rockets against Israel randomly. But we are defending ourself against the fifth…the Phantom fifty-five. […] You [are] speaking [about] us as we are launching rockets against Israel as terrorist. We are not terrorist. We are freedom fighter.”

Zahar [16:51]: “We practiced as a Palestinian people all the peaceful methods in order to achieve our right as a homeland and now we see no square meter for the Palestinians except Gaza – liberated by armed resistance. […] We are insisting to defend ourself by all means including the armed resistance […] people are admiring to sacrifice [i.e. suicide bombings] in order to achieve their homeland.”

Zahar [14:36]: “Humanitarian aid [from foreign donors] is our right whether we are fighting as a freedom fighter or living in prison.”

Zahar: [21:43] “Why you describe it as violence? This is not a violence. This is one of the methods to have a self-defence.”

7) When Sackur raised the issue of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians, Zahar’s claim that they “are not citizens” [from 05:36] went unchallenged by Sackur, as did his repeated inaccurate and bigoted portrayal of all Israelis as ‘foreigners’ and his portrayal of Israel as a colonial implant for which Europeans are to blame.

Zahar: “First of all these are citizens…are not citizens. These are settler. These people left their homeland from America, from Russia and come. For this reason we are against foreign people took our land, violated our rights.

Zahar [14:36]: “I’m asking just simple question: what moral principle justify Netanyahu to come from America and while his father is still there and to occupy our land? What justified for Lieberman coming from Russia to be in our land?”

Zahar [12:19]: “We are occupied by foreigner, dismissed all through your history. You as European people and Americans are particularly the people responsible about the disaster of the Jews when you destroyed […] the existence of the Jews in your country and dismissed these people to our people as part of the occupation.”

Zahar [14:36]: “Do you believe that your capital [Jerusalem] can be occupied by a foreigner and the price will be material aids [aid]?”

Zahar [19:37]: “It is not a matter of destroying Israel. It is a matter of liberation of our land occupied by a foreigner, by people from America…”

8) Zahar’s repeated airbrushing of the long history of suicide bombings by Hamas and other terror groups went without comment from Sackur.

Zahar [05:36]: “We started by throwing stones, using knife and lastly at a time used guns against the Israeli.”

Zahar [21:43]: “We practice…we practiced all, all methods. Since the occupation we practiced several different self-defence and in the first Intifada we threw stones, we distributed leaflets and we [unintelligible] and the result was more Israeli aggression […] and the people were enforce [forced] at that time to use violence – throwing the stone and after that using knives and after that when they succeed to have guns, they use guns and by these guns the Israelis came from Gaza.”

9) Even Zahar’s dog-whistle remarks concerning Temple Mount produced no reaction from Sackur and at no point was the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Christians clarified to audiences.

Zahar [14:36] “Our interest is our holy place al Aqsa mosque which is the most important third shrine in Islam, not only for Hamas but for every Muslim – even the British Muslim.”

While there may of course be those who argue that it is useful for BBC audiences to hear the type of extremist views espoused by Hamas straight from their source, the fact that Zahar’s lies, omissions, distortions of history and blatantly bigoted messaging falls on ears which for the most part have a poor understanding of the history of the region and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should have been reason enough for Stephen Sackur to challenge his remarks and at least set the historical record straight for viewers and listeners.

As we see, that did not happen and so BBC audiences around the world went away having been fed an unhealthy dose of standard Palestinian propaganda that erases Jewish history and portrays Jews as a foreign colonial implant in the region.  

Related Articles:

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

On January 8th the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ aired (not for the first time) a televised interview with Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar on the BBC World News channel and on the BBC News channel.  An audio version of the same interview was also broadcast on BBC World Service radio and a clip from the interview was promoted separately.

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Mahmoud al-Zahar, co-founder of the Islamist movement Hamas. Donald Trump broke with long established diplomatic convention by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His recent tweets on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been music to the ears of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So what do the Palestinians do now? Hamas controls Gaza and has been at loggerheads with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank for more than a decade. Are the Palestinians staring defeat in the face?”

One noteworthy aspect of that programme was Stephen Sackur’s presentation of terrorism as a matter of conflicting narratives.

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

Sackur: “My guest today was one of the co-founders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Mahmoud Zahar became used to the rigours of violent conflict with Israel. He was imprisoned, deported, his home was targeted, family members – including his son killed. But he and his Hamas colleagues remained committed to an armed struggle whose ultimate objective they characterise as the liberation of all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. To Israel, Hamas is a terrorist organisation and Mr Zahar is a terrorist with blood on his hands. To Palestinians he is one player in a prolonged internecine struggle between Fatah – the organisation led for so long by Yasser Arafat – and Hamas.”

And [from 04:56 in the audio version]:

Sackur: “The truth is, since that decision taken by Trump in December on Jerusalem we’ve seen – what? – a dozen or so rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel. The Israelis have responded by targeting weapons dumps. The truth is everything that you talk about in terms of violent military resistance plays into Israel’s hands. It allows them to characterise you yet again as terrorists out to kill Israeli citizens.”

Sackur’s presentation of course would not have surprised anyone familiar with the BBC’s long history of promoting the ‘one man’s terrorist’ narrative that fails to distinguish between means and ends and results in inconsistent BBC reporting on terrorism in differing locations.

Another notable point was Sackur’s adoption of Hamas’ own terminology and his breach [from 20:09] of the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” which, as noted here recently on two occasions, instructs the corporation’s staff not to use the term Palestine except in very specific circumstances.

Sackur: “Is the resistance in Palestine now in the hands of ordinary people – young people particularly – not with veteran leaders like you?”

Viewers and listeners may have noticed that during this interview some of the messaging they have previously received from the BBC was contradicted.

For example, the BBC’s long-standing and repeated claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied even though Israel withdrew from the territory over twelve years ago was contradicted by Zahar [from 04:00].

Zahar: “But lastly, lastly by our method of self-resistance, self-defence against the occupation in Gaza we succeed[ed] to eliminate the occupation in Gaza.”

In September of last year the BBC began reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ and produced a considerable amount of content promoting that topic. However, Zahar dismissed the claim of ‘reconciliation’ proposed by Sackur [from 09:02].

Sackur: “I mean you in Hamas, as of October 2017 – just a few months ago – are committed to a reconciliation agreement with Fatah which is supposed to lead to a reunification of the administration in Gaza and supposed to see Fatah and PA – Palestinian Authority – forces take security control in Gaza. Are you suggesting to me that that deal is now completely off?”

Zahar: “First of all I’d like to address that it’s not a reconciliation. This is a misleading name actually. We in Cairo on 2011 agreed to have a deal and agreement in Cairo. This agreement includes the most important point is to run election for the ministerial level, for the legislative council and for the national council level. And we are dead sure that we are going to win this election. At that time we are going to change the attitude of this authority from cooperating with Israel to the degree as we did with the Israeli in 2005. For this reason we are…”

Sackur [interrupts] “We don’t have time for a long history lesson but the bottom line is just a few months ago you were prepared to talk about a deal with Fatah and Fatah insisted part of that deal would be that you would accept Palestinian Authority security control in Gaza and Hamas would ultimately have to give up its weapons. Are you prepared, in Hamas, as part of a national deal, to give up your weapons?”

Zahar: “It’s not a national deal. It’s between Fatah and other national factions but the Palestinian people in the refugee camps, more than six million people outside, they’ve not shared it. I’m speaking about what is the substantial core of this deal you describe in the last few months. It was implementation of the agreement in Cairo 2011. It’s not a reconciliation.”

Another interesting point arising from this interviewee is the discovery that the BBC does know the purpose of the cross-border tunnels dug by Hamas and other terror organisations – despite its ambiguous description of their purpose in the past.

Sackur: [11:43] “…you’re not prepared – are you? – to give up your weapons based control of the Gaza Strip and your continued determination to fire rockets into Israel and dig tunnels under your territory into Israeli territory in order to conduct terrorist operations inside Israel.”

Last year the BBC amply covered the story of the Hamas policy document published in May with some reports inaccurately describing it as a ‘new’ charter signalling a different approach from the terror group and Yolande Knell, for example, telling BBC audiences that “it really drops its long-standing call for an outright destruction of Israel”. However, when Sackur brought up that topic, Zahar put paid to that claim from Knell.

Sackur [from 18:27] “…in May of 2017 your movement came out with a new policy document. For the first time they…you in Hamas said that you would accept a solution which gave the Palestinians a state on the ’67 lines and it looked as though – with a new leader Mr Haniyah in place – it looked as though Hamas was beginning to search for a way to play a role in the peace process; to become – if I may say so – more moderate. Have you walked away from that now? Are you not interested in being more moderate anymore?”

Zahar: “I’m sorry to understand from you because we are speaking about establishment of an independent state in the area for occupied ’67 but this is the continuation of our argument. But we are not going to denounce a square meter of our land which is Palestine.”

Throughout the interview Zahar was permitted to promote inaccurate claims unchallenged by Sackur, as we will see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

 

 

BBC World News news

We are informed that the BBC has appointed a new director of the BBC World Service Group.

“BBC director of news Fran Unsworth has been appointed director of the BBC World Service Group.

Unsworth is the first female director in the 82-year history of the World Service. She replaces Peter Horrocks, who last month said he was to step down from running the BBC’s global news operations – the World Service, BBC World News TV channel, BBC.com/news website and BBC Monitoring – to “find a new challenge”.”

Ms Unsworth clearly has good intentions:

“I promise to be the guardian of the best of the BBC’s values of independence, impartiality and fairness in our international services, while continuing the successful modernisation of the World Service Group to take our journalism to new audiences worldwide.”

One of the operations set to come under Ms Unsworth’s authority – the BBC World News TV channel – recently lost several million viewers from its “audiences worldwide” due to the fact that the Israeli satellite television provider ‘YES’ has decided to drop the channel from the range of those on offer to its customers.BBC World News logo

“The Israeli satellite television provider YES, which serves over 500,000 households nationwide, is dropping the venerable BBC World news station from its roster of channels on offer, Globes reports. It will be replaced by France 24’s English-language international news channel.

The BBC is widely considered to be “anti-Israel” by the public here, and YES has gotten plenty of complaints from customers on that score. […]

“Customer satisfaction with the channel is low, which is demonstrated in part by the data on the number of people watching it, which is very low,” stated YES. […]

“The British perspective, which [BBC World] presents, will continue to be represented by Sky News,” YES said.”

Clearly – as one hopes Ms Unsworth appreciates and can rectify – there is a tangible price to the failure of the corporation’s commercial services to live up to those famed ‘BBC values’ of accuracy and impartiality.