Changes made to BBC Complaints webform

The BBC has recently made changes to the online form which can be used by members of the public to submit a complaint.

Not only is the look of the form different but the order of some of the questions has been changed – for example the request to provide details of the programme/report concerned now appears after the actual complaint – which may cause some confusion to those familiar with the previous version.

As always we nevertheless recommend using the online form rather than the phone-in or postal options available and we strongly suggest taking a screenshot at the ‘review and submit’ stage for future reference.

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BBC News framing again erases internal Jordanian affairs

A BBC News website October 2018 report concerning the Jordanian king’s announcement that his country would not renew two annexes of its 1994 peace treaty with Israel told readers that:

“It follows recent strains in the relationship between Jordan and Israel over issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As was noted here at the time, that framing erased from audience view internal Jordanian affairs no less relevant to understanding of the background to the story. Nevertheless, the same partial framing was found in a report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 10th under the headline “Jordan ends border enclaves land lease for Israeli farmers”.

“The decision not to renew the lease is widely seen as a reflection of the strained relationship between Jordan and Israel in recent years, with issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians causing tensions.”

The background to the story is portrayed as follows:

“Under a 1994 peace treaty, Israeli farmers could cultivate land in the Jordanian areas of Naharayim and Tzofar – known as Baqura and Ghamr in Arabic.

The lease governing them was for 25 years, but could have been extended. […]

The agreement recognised that Jordan had sovereignty over the two areas – but Israel was permitted to lease the areas for 25 years.

Under the terms of the annex to the peace deal, the lease would be extended automatically unless one party gave notice a year before the lease ended, leading to talks on the matter.”

While the word “lease” appears twelve times in the BBC’s report, it does not appear in Annex 1b or Annex 1c of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Rather, the wording of those annexes made it very clear that while the two areas of land would come under Jordanian sovereignty, the land is owned by Israelis. The BBC’s explanation of that situation is as follows:

“One farmer, Eli Arazi, told Reuters his community had been growing crops there for 70 years, and described the end of the lease as “a punch in the face”.

The two enclaves are on the Israeli-Jordanian border, and have been privately owned by Israeli groups for several decades.”

Those “Israeli groups” are actually kibbutzim and moshavim – farming communities – and as the Reuters article cited by the BBC states, Jews and Israelis have owned land in the Naharayim area for the past century.

“Naharayim, which means “two rivers” in Hebrew, straddles the confluence of the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers. Israelis trace private ownership rights there to the 1920s, when the territory was part of British-mandated Palestine.

Arazi said his kibbutz, Ashdot Yaacov Meuhad, had been growing crops there for 70 years, including olives, bananas and avocados.

In the 1994 peace treaty, Jordanian sovereignty over the area was confirmed, while Israelis retained private land ownership and special provisions that allow free travel.”

The BBC report concludes with a reference (and a link) to a story which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Naharayim and Tzofar cases.

“In recent months, there have also been tensions over Israel’s detention of two Jordanians, without trial, for several months.

Jordan recalled its ambassador, and the two were eventually released on Wednesday.”

Remarkably though, the BBC elected not to inform readers that Naharayim was the site of an attack by a Jordanian soldier in 1997 in which seven Israeli schoolgirls were murdered and six badly wounded and that the memorial garden at the site will now be inaccessible to the victims’ families.

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BBC WS radio framing of anti-Iran protests

Earlier this month we noted that an article written by the BBC’s Middle East editor on the subject of the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon had avoided the issue of protests against Iranian intervention in those countries.

An item aired in the November 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The World This Week’ – titled “Iran in the crosshairs” – did relate to that issue, but from a remarkable viewpoint.

“There’s growing pushback against Iranian involvement in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran is being seen by some as the kind of interfering foreign state it often criticises.”

Presenter Caroline Wyatt introduced that lead item with the erroneous claim that Iran had fulfilled its JCPOA obligations concerning the Fordow nuclear plant. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Wyatt: “Iran turned the nuclear screw this week, bringing back into operation nuclear equipment it shut down under the terms of the nuclear deal agreed with Western powers in 2015 but which President Trump later walked away from. But was this a warning or a sign of weakness? The security think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London said this week that Iran was winning the struggle for strategic influence in the Middle East. But is that starting to change? Protests in Lebanon and Iraq against their political elites have focused much of their criticism on Iran with the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi city of Karbala coming under attack. So I asked Kasra Naji of BBC Persian how worried is Iran that it may now be in the process of losing the power and influence it’s acquired in Iraq and Lebanon.”

That IISS report was the subject of an article which appeared on the BBC News website on November 7th.

Kasra Naji gave listeners a highly sanitised view of the Iranian regime’s decades-old activities in other countries.

Naji: “Well I think Iran is very worried. I think Iran is concerned particularly about what’s going on in Iraq. Iraq is next door and the demands of those people on the streets of Baghdad and other cities in Iraq are not all that different to the demands of the Iranians within Iran. It could easily come this side of the border so they’re watchful of that. Over the years since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 Iran has invested heavily in setting up political parties, militias, its proxies, its political influence and that is suddenly in danger. If not danger, the prestige of Iran in the region and in Iraq is under serious question today and that doesn’t look good for Iran at all. And in Lebanon also Hizballah has been a major component of Iran’s influence in the region. Iran looks at southern Lebanon as basically a province of Iran. And they don’t want to see that coming under threat.”

Remarkably, neither Wyatt nor Naji bothered to explain to listeners what “the demands of those people on the streets” actually are. Neither did they make any effort to inform audiences even in passing that over 300 Iraqi protesters are reported to have been killed by security forces which allegedly include Iranian-backed militias and that rather than merely ‘worrying’ about the situation in Iraq as suggested by Naji, the Iranian regime is taking an active role in events there.

Both Wyatt and Naji seemed intent on framing objections to Iranian intervention in neighbouring countries as something recent.

Wyatt: “According to one commentator in Iraq, the shoes are out again so the public discontent is growing. Isn’t Iran now in danger of being seen as just the kind of regime that it likes to criticise?”

Naji: “That’s right. That’s another danger of all this. Iran is suddenly seen as a usurping power, a foreign power trying to influence events within those countries, particularly within Iraq.”

After an equally superficial discussion of Iran’s involvement in Syria, the conversation turned to Iran’s recent nuclear activities with Wyatt asking “so why is it continuing to risk more sanctions?”.

Naji: “Because it doesn’t have any other choice. It’s come under heavy pressure of US sanctions and they are crippling Iran’s economy. […] So what they’re trying to do is to put pressure on the Europeans particularly and say ‘listen, if you don’t come up and save this deal and do your part of the deal – your commitments in the deal – then there’s no point in staying in this agreement. It’s a cry for help. It’s like saying that we cannot continue like this; come and help us, save this deal, otherwise this deal is going to collapse.”

BBC World Service listeners were not informed what those allegedly unfulfilled European “commitments” supposedly entail before Wyatt closed with a final question about the opinions of “ordinary Iranians” on the nuclear issue and Naji’s reply failing to inform audiences that those opinions carry little weight as far as the Iranian regime is concerned.  

Obviously this item presented BBC audiences with a decidedly one-sided view of the story which focused on framing Iran as being “in the crosshairs” rather than the Lebanese and Iraqi people actually being attacked by its proxy militias on the streets of Beirut and Baghdad.

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BBC News gives a partial portrayal of administrative detention

A report headlined “Jordanians detained by Israel for months freed after diplomatic crisis” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 6th.

“Two Jordanians whose detention by Israel for months sparked a diplomatic crisis between the two countries have been freed and transferred to Jordan.

Hiba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri were held after entering the occupied West Bank in August and September.”

The report later paraphrases a statement made by Israel’s deputy Defence Minister (who did not use the word ‘militant’) in the Knesset:

“Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, Avi Dichter, said on Wednesday that the arrest of Ms Labadi had “thwarted” a planned attack on Israel by the Lebanon-based Shia militant group Hezbollah, and that Mr Miri’s arrest had stopped an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

A lawyer for Ms Labadi said his client denied allegations of any links to Hezbollah.”

While the BBC refrains from naming that lawyer, coverage elsewhere indicates that it is the same person who told the Israeli press last month that his client’s arrest “was tied to meetings in Lebanon with people affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group”.

The BBC report presents a typically partial portrayal of the subject of administrative detention.

“Ms Labadi, 24, and Mr Miri, 29, were stopped by Israeli border police after passing through the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge crossing, the only land route connecting Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.

They were held under a controversial system known as administrative detention, which allows suspects to be detained without charge or trial for six-month intervals and can be renewed indefinitely.

Israel says administrative detention is necessary for security, but civil liberty groups say the practice is a violation of human rights.”

That very superficial description does not clarify to readers that administrative detention is also used in other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Australia – and Jordan. Neither does it adequately inform BBC audiences of the very specific circumstances in which the procedure is used or the safeguards in place.

Not for the first time we see that the BBC’s portrayal of administrative detention hinders rather than enhances audience understanding of the topic.  

 

BBC News stays mum on UNRWA head’s resignation

For over three months the BBC has refrained from producing any reporting whatsoever on the issue of allegations of ethical misconduct at the highest levels of the UN agency dedicated solely to people classed as Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

One month on, BBC silence on UNRWA allegations persists

On November 6th the agency’s head, Pierre Krahenbuhl, resigned.

“Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl was replaced earlier on Wednesday until a review of “management-related matters” at the agency was completed, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement.

Krahenbuhl then informed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that he was resigning, effective immediately, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. […]

Krahenbuhl was notified in March that an investigation was underway by the U.N. Secretariat in New York “based on allegations received against UNRWA personnel relating to unsatisfactory conduct”, an UNRWA spokeswoman said.

Krahenbuhl, a Swiss national, took over the UNRWA post in 2014. He was previously director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Dujarric said in a statement on Wednesday that the preliminary findings of the investigation by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services “exclude fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krahenbuhl.

“There are, however, managerial issues that need to be addressed,” he said.”

The BBC News website has to date failed to produce any reporting about Krahenbuhl’s resignation.

As documented here in recent months, the investigation has affected UNRWA’s funding.

“Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium have separately suspended payments to UNRWA over the management issues that are now under investigation. The agency’s spokeswoman says it still needs $89 million to keep operating until the end of this year.”

Throughout most of 2018 the BBC showed considerable interest in the topic of UNRWA funding after the US cut its contributions to the agency:

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Remarkably, the same level of interest in UNRWA funding is now completely absent and the BBC apparently does not consider that audiences need to know about the investigation taking place at the UN agency it has uncritically championed and promoted for so many years or the related resignation of its often interviewed commissioner-general.

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2019

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during October 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 112 incidents took place including 92 in Judea & Samaria, 16 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and four in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 82 attacks with petrol bombs, 14 attacks using pipe bombs, four arson attacks, one shooting attack, two stabbing attacks, one vehicular attack and one stone-throwing attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included two attacks with petrol bombs, one shooting attack and one incident of mortar fire.

Two people were wounded in attacks during October – one in a pipe bomb attack at Rachel’s Tomb on October 16th and one in a stone-throwing attack in Samaria on October 26th.

The BBC News website did not report any of the incidents which took place throughout the month.

Since the beginning of 2019 the BBC News website has covered 22.2% of the attacks which have taken place and 72.7% of the terror related fatalities. In five of those ten months no reporting on terrorism was seen at all.

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BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

On the afternoon of November 5th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘Middle East’ page which was presented to audiences with a ‘halo effect’ reference to a “rights activist”.

The report itself (tagged, inter alia, ‘human rights’) is headlined “Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal” and the caption under the photograph at the top of the article reads:

“Omar Shakir said he had not called for a boycott of Israel during his time at Human Rights Watch”

Obviously the BBC did not fact-check that claim from the person it had already flagged up as a “rights activist” (i.e. good) before amplifying it.

Had it done so, it would know that analysis of Tweets sent from Shakir’s personal Twitter account between June 2018 and February 2019 by NGO Monitor shows that 16% of those Tweets focused on BDS campaigns against Booking.com and TripAdvisor and additional Tweets supported a UN “blacklist” of businesses operating in Judea & Samaria.

45% of the BBC article’s word count is devoted to uncritical amplification of talking points from Omar Shakir (including a link to a Tweet) and his employer ‘Human Rights Watch, including the following claim:

“The group [HRW] insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel.”

That claim was also seen in a May 2018 BBC report on the same case and as we noted at the time:

“Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials and – as Professor Gerald Steinberg recently noted:

“In the past year alone, HRW pushed divestment from Israeli banks, targeted Israel’s membership in FIFA (the international soccer association), called for arms embargoes and ending security cooperation, lobbied the UN to “blacklist” companies doing business in Israel, and petitioned the International Criminal Court to open prosecutions against Israeli officials.””

32% of the BBC report’s word count describes the position of Israel’s interior ministry. As usual the BBC abstains from providing its audiences with an explanation of the BDS campaign in its own words.

“The interior ministry argued that Mr Shakir was an “activist” for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. In 2017, it passed a law refusing entry to people with links to BDS.”

The body of the report includes links to three items of additional reading:

The first of those items promotes the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel. The second is remarkable for its lack of fact checking and the third (from 2015) uncritically amplifies falsehoods promoted by a professional BDS campaigner, including about the campaign’s origins.

Readers also find the BBC’s standard partisan portrayal of ‘international law’.

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The report’s final paragraph is devoted to amplification of the support of third parties for Shakir, including unnamed organisations portrayed as “human rights groups” which actually include political NGOs such as ‘Breaking the Silence’.  

“Former Israeli officials and human rights groups filed motions to join Mr Shakir’s appeal, while the European Union and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on Israel not to deport him.”

Remarkably though, the BBC’s report makes no attempt to provide readers with details of the Supreme Court decision. As NGO Monitor documents:

“The Court firmly rejected a key argument from Shakir’s lawyers. They tried to argue that Shakir’s personal BDS activity ended upon his employment at HRW, at which point all his expressions should be attributed to HRW as an organization. Since HRW is not on the Israeli government’s list of “BDS organizations,” Shakir’s activity as an HRW employee should be granted “immunity” from the Entry into Israel Law. In sharp contradiction, the Court determined that he is responsible for his public statements, especially those on his private Twitter account.”

For years ‘Human Rights Watch’ has been one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel and yet that organisation’s political agenda has never been adequately clarified to audiences as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. Since Omar Shakir’s work permit was not renewed in May 2018 BBC audiences have seen only superficial coverage which, like this latest report, clearly demonstrates that the BBC has no interest whatsoever in providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story and its wider BDS campaign related background.

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BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

Iran’s latest breach of the 2015 JCPOA was portrayed by the BBC as “rolling back another commitment” in the opening line of an article headlined “Iran nuclear deal: Uranium enrichment to resume at underground facility” which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 5th.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on that deal and Iran’s nuclear programme, audiences were told that:

“Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed) the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – produced a report which stated that:

“…the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.”

The BBC also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues. Nevertheless, it once again chose to amplify Iranian propaganda but not to inform readers of those relevant parts of the story.

Regarding the Fordo (or Fordow) facility at which Iran’s president announced centrifuges would resume operation, the BBC’s report states:

“Before 2015, the country had two enrichment facilities – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas was fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235. […]

Iran also agreed to install no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026, and not to carry out any enrichment at Fordo until 2031. The 1,044 centrifuges there were supposed to spin without uranium hexafluoride gas being injected.”

An illustration informs readers that “changes agreed” under the deal included Fordo being “converted from fuel enrichment to technology centre”.

Iran did not however comply with that requirement – as explained in this report – but the BBC made no effort to inform readers of that obviously relevant information.  

BBC’s UK reporting hindered by its own record on Gaza casualties

On November 4th the BBC News website published a report titled “Labour Coventry South candidate Zarah Sultana apologises for ‘celebrate deaths’ post” on its regional ‘Coventry & Warwickshire’ page and on its ‘Election 2019’ page.

Interestingly, although the article was apparently not deemed relevant for publication on the website’s ‘UK’ or ‘England’ pages, it did for some reason appear in the ‘updates’ section of its ‘Middle East’ page.

“A Labour general election candidate has apologised for saying she would “celebrate” the deaths of world leaders, including Tony Blair.

Zarah Sultana wrote on social media in 2015: “Try and stop me when the likes of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush die.””

Readers are told that:

“She [Sultana] told the BBC the tweets were from a “deleted account dating back several years from when I was a student”.

“This was written out of frustration rather than any malice,” she said in a statement, explaining that her anger had arisen “from decisions by political leaders, from the Iraq War to the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians, which was condemned by the United Nations”.”

That reference to “the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians” of course relates to Operation Protective Edge which began after Palestinian terrorists launched hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and dug tens of underground cross-border tunnels to facilitate terror attacks. Notably the BBC’s report made no effort to introduce that relevant context or to inform readers that the claim that the Palestinian casualties during that conflict were “mostly civilians” is questionable.

That will of course come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s own track record on the subject. Over five years after that conflict there is still no evidence of the BBC having ever independently verified the civilian/combatant casualty ratios which it continues to promote.

Instead, as noted here in the past, the BBC quotes figures attributed to “the UN” which are in fact sourced from the controversial report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council more than a month before the conflict ended (originally headed by William Schabas) that was published in June 2015. 

A close look at that report’s methodology shows that the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health in Gaza” is one source of the report’s data, together with the UNOCHA “Protection Cluster”. As has been noted here previously, that “Protection Cluster” includes political NGOs, some of which also have a financial relationship with UNOCHA.

And so, with the BBC having spent over five years amplifying casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel that were funnelled through a UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report, it is hardly surprising that the corporation’s journalists are incapable of informing their domestic audiences that according to studies, a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge were terrorist operatives.

Also notable is the fact that although this BBC report is based on an article published by the Jewish Chronicle which notes Ms Sultana’s prior connections to the controversial advocacy group MEND (see p21 – 30 here), the BBC apparently did not consider it necessary to communicate that information to its ‘Coventry & Warwickshire’ audiences.

 

No BBC follow up on Palestinian police LGBTQ group ban story

Back in August we noted that the BBC had devoted two minutes of domestic radio airtime to a story concerning a Palestinian Authority ban on the activities of a LGBTQ group.

Newsreader: “Gay rights activists in the West Bank have been threatened online after the Palestinian police announced a ban on their campaigns and meetings and called for help to arrest them. The prohibition of the main local LGBTQ group was announced despite the Palestinian Authority having signed up to various international human rights treaties. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “In a statement posted on Facebook, a police spokesman described the actions of the LGBTQ group al Qaws – or rainbow – as a blow to the ideals and values of Palestinian society and against the monotheistic religions. Same sex relations aren’t against the law in the West Bank but homosexuality remains largely taboo, as it is across the Arab world. Those involved with the group have been threatened with arrest, accused of sedition after a recent event in the West Bank. In response to the statement announcing the ban – which has now been deleted from Facebook – members of the Palestinian public posted angry messages. ‘Arrest them and burn them all’ read one.”

However Palestinian Media Watch reports that, despite the deletion of the police spokesman’s statement from Facebook, activists say that the situation has by no means improved.

“The Israel-based alQaws organization for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society has reported that following a statement by the PA police against LGBTQ people, violence has “continued unabated” and even “with greater frequency and intensity.” The organization further said that “much of the violence and harassment perpetrated… has been at the hands of police officers themselves.” […]

According to alQaws, the PA police has refused to officially retract its statement against the LGBTQ community in general and alQaws’ activities in particular. This is despite the fact that the police has removed the statement from its official website and its spokesman’s Facebook page, apparently after pressure from human rights groups.

However, without an official retraction, the PA police’s implied sanction of violence against LGBTQ people is still valid, – also in the eyes of police officers themselves who, according to alQaws, are the ones perpetrating “much of the violence and harassment.”

The PA police has also increased their persecution of alQaws activists, possibly due to the great support the organization has received following the police’s anti LGBTQ statement. AlQaws reports on “military-style investigations involving violence, blackmailing, and interrogations marked by coercive, offensive, and insulting questions regarding private lives”.

In that August report Yolande Knell stated that:

Knell: “The EU funded mission which trains Palestinian police said it was continuing to give advice – including on LGBT rights – and that it was trying to clarify the circumstances of the statement.”

Unsurprisingly to those familiar with the level of BBC interest in internal Palestinian affairs, audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting concerning the story itself or the apparent efficacy of the “advice” given by that EU mission with an annual budget of €12.43 million.

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