BBC criticised over debate programme participant

The evening of June 18th saw a televised debate titled ‘Our Next Prime Minister’ on BBC One.

“Emily Maitlis presents a debate between the candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.”

Among the members of the public selected to present questions to the five candidates was a man presented as “Abdullah Patel, Imam of a mosque” (which was identified by different BBC departments as being in both Gloucester and Bristol) who brought up the topic of Islamophobia.

Writing at the Spectator, journalist Stephen Daisley continues the story:

“Shortly after the programme concluded, someone tweeting under the name Abdullah Patel (@AbdullahPatel94) claimed on Twitter to be the imam from the programme. His Twitter bio describes him as an ‘imam, primary deputy head, teacher, youth worker [and] trainee counsellor’ with a degree in psychology and counselling. He offered a critique of each candidate’s answer to the question posed on-air […]

The BBC News website embedded his Twitter thread in a follow-up article, meaning the Corporation either knows @AbdullahPatel94 to be the same man featured in the debate or its journalists assumed this to be the case and republished his comments without checking.

It’s important to establish these facts because, if @AbdullahPatel94 is, as he claims and the BBC seems to believe, the Abdullah Patel from the debate, the Corporation has some serious questions to answer about how extensively it vetted him. Guido Fawkes tweeted, before heading to bed, that those interested should have a gander at @AbdullahPatel94’s tweets about Jews. I did and what I found wasn’t pretty. Many of the tweets have now been deleted, so what follows is the screen grab. It was there for anyone to read.”

As well as the offensive Tweets highlighted by Stephen Daisley (including some suggesting an equivalence between Auschwitz and the Gaza Strip), additional information not limited to social media appears in an article by David Toube at the Quilliam Journal.

Stephen Daisley closed his article:

“…if @AbdullahPatel94 is who he claims to be, there could scarcely be a less suitable person to question anyone about prejudice. If the man who interrogated the Tory leadership candidates is the author of these tweets, the BBC has catastrophically failed in its editorial duties by giving him air time. The Corporation will have to account for this grave lapse in broadcasting standards and work to rebuild trust with viewers as well as the Conservative party. They have let both down badly.”

BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast’s Nicky Campbell apologised for interviewing the same person the morning after the debate.

The BBC put out a statement:

BBC editor Rob Burley added:

However the Guido Fawkes website pointed out that a search showed that the BBC’s interviewee had been active on Twitter as recently as two days before the debate.

The BBC is claiming that an apparently very last-minute check did not turn up anything to preclude Mr Patel from taking part in the programme and one of the Tweets the BBC says it did not see was this one:

Readers may recall that in April 2016 the BBC was incapable of recognising that same image as antisemitic when it was found to have been promoted by a Labour MP and only described it as such after Naz Shah herself defined it in that term.

The question that therefore arises is even if the BBC had seen Mr Patel’s Tweets before the BBC One debate, would it have been capable of recognising their offensive nature? The BBC’s past record and the fact that the corporation does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism unfortunately makes that debatable.

Related Articles:

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 discusses journalists’ impartiality

On April 26th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme titled “Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?” by Jonathan Coffey.

“Amid the anger increasingly directed at broadcast journalists from those who claim that the so-called “mainstream media” can’t be trusted, a battle is being fought over impartiality.

The big, regulated broadcasters – including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – argue that their output has to meet the test of “due impartiality”; their critics claim that too often programmes in fact evince bias.

In this documentary, Jonathan Coffey – who has worked on major stories for “Panorama” for over a decade – explores what impartiality means as our politics and national discourse have become increasingly polarised. Does it still matter as a concept for broadcasters? And how should broadcasters approach controversial issues like Brexit, immigration and transgenderism?

He considers how well impartiality is understood, the arguments advanced by the broadcasters’ critics about alleged failures of impartiality; the BBC’s track record on reflecting significant strands of thinking; the “liberal media bubble”; how far broadcasters are open-minded in avoiding biases; and if a more rigorous and radical open-minded journalistic approach is needed, especially in the coverage of deep value disputes.”

While the programme focuses primarily on domestic issues and does not relate at all to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East, it nevertheless makes for interesting listening while keeping the corporation’s track record on that topic in mind.

Notably the contributors chosen by Coffey for this programme all come from the media world and include the BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis.

2:20 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] absolutely intrinsic to what the BBC does and at its centre it’s about giving the public as much as they need to understand the story better. I think it’s about helping the audience to form their views. So for us, it’s trying to work out how best we do that and to be honest it’s a really live, ongoing discussion.”

8:10 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] really, really important to hold on to. I think it’s something that we grapple with every single night. It’s what we do and I don’t want to be working somewhere that has given up on impartiality because then we’re just opinion. We’re ranty radio or ranty TV. And there’s plenty of that in other parts of the world.”

Regular readers may recall Ms Maitlis’ own departure from those fine principles less than five years ago.

“BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis however did not need to wait until investigations had been completed in order to determine whether the UN facility was hit by an errant IDF shell, a shortfall terrorist missile, terrorist mortar fire aimed at IDF troops or any combination of the above. Interviewing Israeli spokesman Mark Regev just hours after the incident – and clearly completely misunderstanding the nature and intention of IDF warnings to evacuate because of fighting in the area – she emotionally charged Regev with the following:

“But you said you were going to hit it. You hit it. You killed them.”

Beyond Maitlis’ distinctly unprofessional demeanor throughout this interview, her repeated interruptions and her obvious urgency to promote her own version of events to audiences, one patronizing statement she makes is extremely revealing and actually captures the essence of much of the BBC’s reporting of the current hostilities in a nutshell.

“You have a very effective defence system. It’s called the Iron Dome. It stops you for the most part being hit. They [the people in Gaza] don’t and they’re paying the price with their dead children.”

Another of Coffey’s contributors was ‘The Canary’ editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza who claimed that the views of the Left are under-represented in UK broadcast media.

12:45 Mendoza: “Whose view is under-represented? It’s the Left. It’s just a fact and on issues say like climate change or Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, the guest list is often weighted towards the status quo and weighted towards the media which is hostile to any kind of politics or economics outside the bubble that it’s used to.”

Mendoza has herself been a not infrequent contributor to BBC programmes such as ‘Question Time’, ‘Newsnight’ and political shows. Regular readers may recall her inadequately challenged promotion of falsehoods designed to equate Israel with the Third Reich on BBC Radio 4 three years ago.

Nevertheless, these are some of the voices that Jonathan Coffey apparently considered would contribute to Radio 4 audiences’ understanding of “open mindedness” and “escaping bias” as impartiality is defined throughout the programme.

Related Articles:

BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to Israeli spokesman: “You killed them”

What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has published a paper titled “The Collapse of the Islamic State: What Comes Next?“.

“Will ISIS continue to exist after the collapse of the Islamic State? In ITIC assessment, ISIS will exist but will change its character and the modus operandi of its activities. It will change from an organization which controlled extensive territories and administrated the local inhabitants to what it was before, that is, a terrorist guerrilla organization unconnected to a territorial base. Once it collapses, in all probability ISIS will reorganize, applying lessons learned from the failure of the establishment of the Islamic State. During that time the organization will try to continue carrying out terrorist-guerrilla attacks and eventually to upgrade them to prove it still exists as a leading jihadist organization. Its main targets will probably be the Iraqi army, the Syrian army, the Russian and American presences in Syria and Iraq, and governmental targets in Iraq and Syria, Shi’ite-Alawite targets and targets affiliated Iran and Hezbollah in Syria and Iraq.”

2) Jonathan Schanzer discusses the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem.

“…Trump’s announcement is, at its core, a bureaucratic one. He will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in recognition of the indisputable fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Jerusalem is home to the prime minister’s office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Knesset (legislature), and the Supreme Court, to name a few. So it makes sense that Jerusalem is where the majority of America’s diplomatic activity in Israel will take place once the move is made.

What’s more, the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was not really Trump’s to make. It’s already enshrined in a 1995 law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Successive presidents have issued waivers to postpone the embassy move. But that does not negate the official American view of the city and its relationship to the Jewish state.”

3) Michael Totten also comments on the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital for a basic and incontrovertible reason. With the single exception of the Ministry of Defense, it’s where Israel’s government buildings are located. That, and nothing else, is what makes a nation’s capital its capital. And as Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said on CNN Wednesday, “a sovereign nation has the right to choose its capital.” No nation on earth—not the United States nor any other—has the right to deny another nation its capital. One may wish that Israel’s government buildings were located in Tel Aviv—or, in Hamas’ case, nowhere at all—but they aren’t. They’re in Jerusalem. […]

Whatever happens to East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem is not going anywhere. It’s Israeli—period—and everyone knows it, including the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states even if they’re too afraid of their own extremists to say so in public.”

4) Douglas Murray discusses one example from the BBC’s ample coverage of the Jerusalem story.

“The reaction around the world in recent days has been a reminder of the one central truth of the whole conflict. Those who cannot accept that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel tend to be exactly the same as those who cannot accept the State of Israel. Consider the expert whom the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight chose to bring on to receive soft-ball questions on this issue. Dr. Ghada Karmi, from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, a notorious opponent of Israel, was inevitably given the sort of respectful interview style that Newsnight presenters generally reserve for when they are interviewing Madonna or some other mega-star they cannot believe their luck at having gotten to speak with. […]

Ghada Karmi was not challenged on the claim that the Israelis were about to take over any and all Islamic holy places (to do what?), but Ambassador Regev’s suggestion that the State of Israel already has its Parliament, Supreme Court and every wing of government in Jerusalem, and that Jerusalem might just be Israel’s capital, was treated as though it were the most inflammatory nonsense the BBC had ever heard.”

 

BBC 2’s ‘Newsnight’ squeezes Israel into Bosnia report

Next week the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is due to deliver its verdict following the trial of the former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

On November 16th BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ aired a report on that story (available in the UK here) by the programme’s diplomatic editor Mark Urban who previously covered the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

In addition to Urban’s filmed report viewers saw a discussion between programme presenter Emily Maitlis and Mark Urban, with the former introducing the item as follows:

Maitlis: “It’s time for the closing arguments in the most serious war crimes trial since Nuremberg at the end of World War Two.”

Later on in the conversation, Maitlis asked Urban:

Maitlis: “We have seen more conflicts since then; will we expect more prosecutions?”

Describing Mladić as “the architect of ethnic cleansing”, Urban noted that “he is coming up for sentencing and it is very unusual” before going on to name Syria’s Bashar al Assad and Libya’s Gaddafi.

In the same breath, he then went on to tell viewers that:

“…some people would like to see the Israelis in front of the criminal court and all of these cases have been vetoed…”

Of course some (and indeed many of the same) people would also like to see Britain in front of the International Criminal Court – particularly in relation to its military action in Iraq – but Mark Urban did not mention that.

Instead, after Maitlis had set the scene with a reference to the Nuremberg Trials and just seconds after viewers had heard two references to ethnic cleansing, he casually put an entire nation – “the Israelis” – in the same category as named heads of regimes infamous for their extreme acts of cruelty towards their own people.

BBC interviews: CAMERA’s Alex Safian compares and contrasts

MicrophoneOur CAMERA colleague Alex Safian has been taking a look at the differing styles of three recent BBC interviews with officials from Israel, Hamas and UNWRA.

Read the article here.

Over at Presspectiva, Yishai Goldflam notes the inaccuracies promoted in Gideon Levy’s recent interview with the BBC World Service

That article (Hebrew) can be found here

What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

Here is a Tweet from one of those impartial BBC journalists currently reporting from the Gaza Strip: Tweet Chris Morris Beit Hanoun So, did the IDF actually say that “people didn’t die” in Beit Hanoun last Thursday as Morris facetiously claims? No. What the IDF investigation into the incident at the UNRWA school in which sixteen people were killed did reveal is that during a battle between IDF soldiers and terrorists located in the area, an IDF mortar did land in the schoolyard, but that yard was empty at the time. Ha’aretz has further details:

“The IDF released the findings of its investigation into the incident on Sunday morning. According to the inquiry, Palestinian militants opened fire from the area of the school, shooting mortars and antitank missiles at Israeli forces. In response, the investigation reveals, the IDF decided to return fire with mortars.

According to the army, whose inquiry included investigations of the ground forces and video footage of the incident, “one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard whilst it was empty of people.” “

An official statement adds:

“It has been established that Hamas rockets landed in the area and may have hit the UN facility. The investigation of the incident has revealed that Hamas terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers from the area of the UN school. The IDF responded with mortar fire, and one of the rounds fell in the school’s courtyard, which was empty at the time. This was the only IDF fire that hit the school compound. These findings disprove the claim, made by various parties, that IDF fire caused casualties on the school grounds. Israel regrets all civilian casualties, but they are the direct result of Hamas’ decision to use Palestinian civilians as human shields.” [emphasis added]

In light of these findings BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis would of course do well to address the topic of her hastily reached conclusion that “You hit it. You killed them.” – which was broadcast to millions of viewers in the UK on July 24th.Maitlis Likewise, the editors of the filmed report by Yolande Knell which was shown to television audiences and promoted on the BBC News website on July 24th might like to reconsider the wisdom of the inclusion – before the circumstances of the incident were clear – of footage of a woman saying:

“The Israelis hit us in our homes and they hit us at the school”

That same footage of the same woman also appeared in a filmed report by Ian Pannell from the same date which was promoted on the BBC News website and shown on BBC television news. Both Pannell’s report and the ‘Newsnight’ interview by Emily Maitlis appear in a written report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th. Listeners to an edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ heard the presenter saying:

“For the fourth time in as many days a UN facility there found itself in the eye of the storm; hit by what the Palestinians say was an Israeli shell.”

If readers are perhaps anticipating that this incident will prompt the BBC to reconsider its current policy of refraining from anything approaching robust reporting on the issue of the use of the local civilian population as human shields – which is precisely what a terrorist who fires anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers from the vicinity of a UN school is doing – then they may be in for some disappointment. That same ‘Newsday’ programme includes parts of Stephen Sackur’s recent interview with Khaled Masha’al. In addition, amplification is given to the following denial by Masha’al of Hamas’ use of human shields.GAZA MOI

“This is wrong information. Hamas does not give orders to people to stay inside their home. Hamas encourages people to stand fast and let the Palestinians show their steadfastness. This is the will of the people. Go to Gaza and see the people in hospitals and see the areas destroyed. These people are determined to preserve their land. You should not put the blame on the victims. The blame should go to the Israeli that has committed this massacre. We have several hundred Palestinians killed – most of them civilians – whereas Hamas is focusing on killing Israeli soldiers who came to Gaza to attack Palestinians. This is the ethical difference between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli aggression.”

One presumes that the BBC must be aware of the ample filmed and written evidence of Hamas’ spokesmen and Ministry of the Interior telling civilians in the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes. Nevertheless, its journalists not only fail to report adequately on the issue itself and even promote denial of it, but also amplify Masha’al’s obviously inaccurate claims. In that ‘Newsnight’ interview on July 24th, Emily Maitlis asked Mark Regev:

“If, after the fog of war has passed, this does turn out to be the fault of Israel, will you pause? Will you reset your rules of engagement tonight?”

We might well ask Emily Maitlis, her editors and numerous other BBC correspondents, editors and producers a very similar question.

Update:

Here is the IDF video footage showing the empty school yard at the time of the errant mortar strike. 

 

BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to Israeli spokesman: “You killed them”

On the afternoon of July 24th an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun where many Palestinians were sheltering was hit by projectiles of origins as yet unknown. Some sixteen people were killed and many injured. It is not yet clear exactly what happened there and the incident is under investigation by the IDF. What is known, however, is that the vicinity of the school had been previously used by terrorists to fire missiles into Israel, apparently with some falling short. Because of that fact, the IDF had advised UNRWA to evacuate the civilians from that school and a four-hour humanitarian corridor had been agreed. Although UNWRA representatives claimed differently – at least one eyewitness seems to suggest that an evacuation was planned.Maitlis

“Sabah Kafarna, 35, had also been sheltering at the school. “At about 11.30 someone from the municipality came to tell us that we were going to be moved because it was too dangerous. But the buses didn’t come. That’s why [there were] so many people all outside when the shells landed,” she said.”

The New York Times reports:

“The Israeli military warned on Monday that the shelter should be evacuated. By Thursday, the United Nations had decided to withdraw its staff and to stop providing food.

Then, as the Palestinians gathered in the courtyard on Thursday, believing they were about to be bused elsewhere, blasts tore through the crowd, killing 16 people and sending scores of wounded, mostly women and children, streaming into local hospitals.”

It is also known that at the time of the incident, a battle was raging between terrorists and IDF soldiers operating in the area. Below is an IDF statement concerning the events.

“In the past few days, the area surrounding the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun has turned into a battlefield, therefore prompting the IDF to insist those present to evacuate it. Furthermore, the IDF authorized a humanitarian time window for evacuation between 10:00-14:00 IDT earlier today.  Hamas prevented the civilians from leaving it and once again used their infrastructure and international symbols as human shields. In the course of the afternoon, several rockets launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip landed in the Beit Hanoun area. From initial inquiries done about the incident, during the intense fighting in the area, militants opened fire at IDF soldiers from the school area. In order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives, they responded with fire toward the origins of the shooting. The IDF is still reviewing the incident.

Furthermore, according to the COGAT Spokesman, the UNRWA claims that Israel prevented the safe evacuation of the school in Beit Hanoun are unfounded. It should be emphasized that during recent days, COGAT has been maintaining close contact with representatives of the UNRWA, the ICRC, and Palestinians in Beit Hanoun. COGAT made every possible effort to ensure the safety of local residents by evacuating them from the area, which has been marked by intense fighting and Hamas rocket launching towards Israel, including from the vicinity of such facilities. It should be further emphasized that following this contact, the humanitarian window was authorized.”

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis however did not need to wait until investigations had been completed in order to determine whether the UN facility was hit by an errant IDF shell, a shortfall terrorist missile, terrorist mortar fire aimed at IDF troops or any combination of the above. Interviewing Israeli spokesman Mark Regev just hours after the incident – and clearly completely misunderstanding the nature and intention of IDF warnings to evacuate because of fighting in the area – she emotionally charged Regev with the following:

“But you said you were going to hit it. You hit it. You killed them.”

Beyond Maitlis’ distinctly unprofessional demeanor throughout this interview, her repeated interruptions and her obvious urgency to promote her own version of events to audiences, one patronizing statement she makes is extremely revealing and actually captures the essence of much of the BBC’s reporting of the current hostilities in a nutshell.

“You have a very effective defence system. It’s called the Iron Dome. It stops you for the most part being hit. They [the people in Gaza] don’t and they’re paying the price with their dead children.”

An abridged version of this interview is also being promoted on the BBC News website in addition to the promotion of the full item on the ‘Newsnight’ Youtube channel. The head of the BBC’s Middle East Bureau described it thus in his Twitter promotion of the item:

Colebourn Maitlis int

Whether “strong” is an appropriate adjective for the performance of an interviewer obviously less interested in hearing about the actual circumstances of an event than in promoting her own already fixed – and frankly tediously parochial and uninformed  – narrative of events is clearly a matter of taste.