BBC reframes a story about a man denied entry by his own country

On February 18th an article by the BBC’s Addis Ababa correspondent Emmanuel Igunza appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Africa’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the headline “Niger man deported by Israel marooned in Ethiopian airport”.

“A Niger national who was expelled from Israel has been stuck at the international airport in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, since November after his home country refused to take him back.”

Igunza’s account of the story of “24-year-old Eissa Muhamad” went as follows:

“He had been living in the Middle Eastern state since 2011, having left Niger’s north-western Tilaberi region as a 16-year-old in search of a better life.

He said he paid traffickers to take him across Libya and Egypt before he entered Israel by foot.

Once in Tel Aviv, Mr Muhamad survived by doing odd jobs in hostels and in a sweet factory until April 2018 when he was arrested for being in Israel without proper documents.”

In other words, it is patently clear to the BBC’s correspondent that Eissa Muhamad entered and remained in Israel illegally. He continued: 

“After several months in detention, Israel issued him an emergency travel document and put him on an Ethiopian Airlines plane, via Addis Ababa, to Niger in November. But on arrival in Niamey, Niger’s capital, he was refused entry by Niger’s authorities who alleged his travel document was false.

“They didn’t want me in Niger. They didn’t accept me,” Mr Muhamad said.”

Igunza did not bother to inform readers of the relevant fact that Niger severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2002 before going on:

“After more than a week of being detained in Niger he was deported back to Israel. But Israel refused to accept him and detained him again for several weeks.

“They tied my hands and legs and forced me into a plane back to Niger which refused to accept me again,” the 24-year-old said.

Then the travel document issued by Israel expired when he was stuck in transit at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport after Niger refused to accept him for a second time.”

A month before this BBC article was published Eissa Muhamad told a somewhat different story to another journalist. [emphasis added]

“Muhamad tells me he has been deported twice from Israel in 2018. When he returned to Niger the first time, Muhamad’s Israeli travel documents were still valid, so he turned around and booked another flight back to Israel. When he arrived in Israel, authorities confiscated his travel documents and deported him again back to Niger. When Muhamad returned to Niger the second time, authorities requested proof of citizenship but he failed to produce valid documents, either Israeli or Nigerien, to support his citizenship.

Muhamad remained in Nigerien custody for eight days before being deported back to Israel via Ethiopia on an Ethiopian Airlines flight. When he arrived at Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, Ethiopian authorities, in collaboration with the Israeli government,  prevented him from boarding his connecting flight to Israel. They informed him that Israel was not willing to accept him, and since then, he has been stranded inside the airport, stuck between Niger and Israel.”

Whichever of those versions of the story is more accurate, obviously the core story here is about a man from Niger refused entry by his own country. That story received just one sentence of treatment in Igunza’s report:

“The BBC has repeatedly tried to contact Niger’s foreign ministry and its embassy in Ethiopia without success to ask why their authorities believed the document was false.”

In comparison, the country which Muhamad entered and remained in illegally got four paragraphs of coverage:

“Israel’s immigration department defended itself, saying in a statement issued to the BBC that Mr Muhamad had been deported because he had been in the country illegally.

“He is a citizen of Niger. It has nothing to do with us because he was expelled from here and when he arrived in Niger, he refused to co-operate with the authorities. How is Israel connected? He is not an Israeli,” the statement said.

It rubbished [sic] allegations that the emergency travel document was a fake.

“The Laissez Passer is a transit document for foreigners. It was legally designed precisely for such cases,” the statement said.”

In addition, Igunza gave generous promotion to the view of a campaigning NGO which the BBC has quoted in the past in stories relating to African migrants.

“An Israeli non-governmental organisation working with migrants and refugees said Mr Muhamad’s case was similar to that of other migrants expelled from Israel.

“Other migrants deported from Israel with the Israeli travel document have been refused entry to their countries of origin, or other countries en route, because the authorities claim the Israeli travel documents are false, ” the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants said in a statement.

“In 2016 we published a report, Forgotten in Prison, which details the cases of migrants who are faced with the same problem,” it added

It also wants Israeli officials to investigate Mr Muhamad’s allegation that he was brutally assaulted while in detention.

“What is required now is that Eissa Muhamad be returned to Israel so that his accusations of brutality at the hands of Israeli immigration authorities can be investigated, and a solution found so that he may return to Niger,” said Shira Abo, [sic] the organisation’s spokesman [sic].

Additional signposting to readers of this article comes in the form of an embedded video dating from March 2018 titled “The Eritrean runner fearing deportation from Israel”, an image captioned “Many migrants who enter Israel illegally end up in detention centres” and a link to a report from February 2016 by Kathy Harcombe titled “Israel’s unwanted African migrants”.

It is hence amply clear that BBC audiences were steered towards the view that it is yet another story about Israel’s treatment of African migrants rather than one about Niger refusing to give entry to one of its own citizens following his deportation from a country which he entered illegally.

Related Articles:

BBC Africa misrepresents campaigning reports as ‘scoop’

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

BBC ignores developments in story it reported in 2014

Nearly five years ago a filmed report titled “Ethiopia’s Jewish community divided“ was broadcast on BBC World News television and promoted on the Middle East and Africa pages of the BBC News website. 

“As Jewish people around the world marked the festival of Passover, thousands of Jews living in northern Ethiopia, did not have much to celebrate.

Many have been left disappointed by an Israeli government decision to end a 30-year-old programme that saw tens thousands of Ethiopian Jews airlifted to the Holy Land.

And many families are grappling with being separated from their loved ones, as Focus on Africa’s Emmanuel Igunza found out in the north-western city of Gondar.”

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s correspondent left out some very critical details in his story about “the last Jews of Ethiopia” – the most obvious one being that the Falash Mura are Christians whose Jewish ancestors were converted by Western missionaries from around the end of the nineteenth century.

BBC audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting on that story despite the fact that following a 2015 change in government policy, 1,300 Falash Mura immigrated to Israel in 2017. In October 2018 the Israeli cabinet authorised a plan to bring a further 1,000 members of the community to Israel and the first group arrived this week.

“The first 83 immigrants from Ethiopia, out of a total of some 1,000 approved last year for entry into Israel, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday night after waiting in Gondar for an average of 15 years.

In October, the government approved for immigration 1,000 members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia who have children currently living in Israel. […]

The immigrants were welcomed by Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and Aliyah and Integration Minister Yoav Galant, as well as by several well-wishers, including a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Chicago.”

The BBC has to date not found those developments in the story it reported in 2014 worth covering.

Related Articles:

In which the BBC’s Addis Ababa correspondent decides who is Jewish

NGOs’ political campaign opportunistically recycled by BBC News

As readers may be aware, on July 4th the Israeli prime minister embarked on an official visit to four countries in Africa.Africa visit art 1  

The BBC News website’s Middle East page published two articles on that topic: “Israel’s Netanyahu in Entebbe to mark hostage-rescue anniversary” and, in the ‘Features’ section, “Netanyahu in Entebbe: A personal journey amid a diplomatic push” by defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Both those reports include features made no less noteworthy by their predictability.

In Marcus’ article readers found context-free amplification of the narrative of ‘occupation’.

“A whole combination of factors prompted a souring of ties between Israel and African capitals between 1966 and 1973.

There was Israel’s occupation of territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War. There was growing pressure from Arab states and, by the Middle East War in 1973, the oil weapon was a potent tool.”Africa visit art 2

In the other article terrorists were described as “militants”.

“His [Netanyahu’s] elder brother, Jonathan, was shot dead as he led the operation to free hostages, who had been taken captive on an Air France flight by Palestinian and German militants.”

Uncritical amplification was given to the false narrative of “colonialism” in a superfluous quote from a party unconnected to the story.

“However, Palestinian government spokesman Jamal Dajani said he believed Israel’s attempt to gain influence would fail.

African states would see through Netanyahu’s “propaganda” because Africans and the Palestinians shared a history of “occupations and colonialism”, he told AP news agency.”

But perhaps most remarkable is the fact that among the related reading promoted in both these articles is a link titled “Israel’s unwanted African migrants”.links Africa visit arts

The article to which the link leads has nothing at all to do with the subject of Netanyahu’s current visit to Africa and yet the BBC opportunistically recycled that highly problematic report (one of several produced by Kathy Harcombe in February 2016) which is nothing more than a self-conscripted contribution to the PR efforts of a campaign run by a coalition of political NGOs and certainly does not provide readers with accurate and impartial information likely to enhance their understanding of either that unrelated issue or the subject matter of these two reports. 

Somebody at the BBC News website made the editorial decision to include that link in both of its articles covering the Israeli PM’s visit to Africa and that person apparently believes that enhances the corporation’s reputation for ‘impartial’ journalism.