How did BBC News report rare criticism of the PA from the UN?

Following a surge in violent attacks against Israelis in the autumn of 2015, the BBC began using this standard mantra:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As has been noted here repeatedly:

“…the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what ‘Israel says’ is accurate.”

Neither – as we have also previously documented – have BBC audiences seen any comprehensive reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism found in Palestinian schoolbooks, official PA radio and TV children’s programmes and Hamas’ online children’s ‘magazine’.

Last week the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published a report following a reportedly stormy review earlier in the month.

“The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva expressed rare criticism over the Palestinian Authority’s hate speech in school textbooks and in its media, and voiced concern regarding the use of racist language by state officials.

The report was adopted on August 23 and became public last Thursday. The committee mentioned within the report the existence of hate speech “in certain media outlets, especially those controlled by Hamas, social media, public officials’ statements, and school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”

According to the report, the committee called on the Palestinian Authority to combat hate speech and incitement to violence, including on the Internet and by public figures, politicians and media officials, “and remove any derogatory comments and images from school curricula and textbooks that perpetuate prejudices and hatred.””

Having recommended amendments to Palestinian legislation:

“…the committee called to ensure that these laws are not used to “intimidate, harass, arrest, detain and prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The committee requested that the Palestinians will submit information about the implementation of its recommendations within a year.”

As regular readers know, BBC coverage of internal Palestinian affairs is very limited and the last time the BBC News website published a report relating to an NGO’s allegations of torture by the PA security forces was in October 2018.

So what have BBC audiences heard about this rare criticism of the Palestinian Authority from a UN committee?  The answer to that is – predictably – nothing at all.

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The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

Visitors to the BBC News website may have noticed that disclaimers appeared in a number of reports by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience published on its Middle East page in the past few days.

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The same disclaimer also appeared on other platforms.

However Yashar Ali at the Huffington Post reports that the BBC’s disclaimer – apparently made in accordance with the new editorial guidelines – does not tell all.

“The BBC has agreed to conditions set by the Islamic Republic of Iran to not share reporting materials it gathers in Iran with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, an internal email obtained by HuffPost reveals. The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom. The Iranian government routinely shuts down media organizations critical of the regime and imprisons, tortures and executes journalists.

The agreement was made with the Iranian government in exchange for Iran allowing a BBC correspondent into the country, and, according to emails that HuffPost obtained, it’s not the first time the British broadcaster has agreed to such terms.

The email, sent Saturday to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, said that BBC foreign correspondent Martin Patience and his team were in Iran “and due to leave on Sunday.”

The email goes on to say, “It is absolutely imperative that none of their material is run on BBC Persian TV, Radio or Online now or in the future. That includes any official BBC Persian social feed retweeting or forwarding the coverage. Please do not use the material and stories produced in Iran on any platform or in any format.”

It’s unclear who at the BBC agreed to the exclusivity terms.”

Just last week the UK government co-hosted an international conference in London on media freedom in which the BBC’s Director General and Director of News and Current Affairs took part and the BBC ran a “hub”. The aim of that conference was described by its organisers as follows:

“The conference is part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the importance of international press freedom, and also to increase the consequences faced by those who try to restrict it.” [emphasis added]

One can but wonder how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – which of course part funds the BBC World Service, which includes BBC Persian – squares last week’s fine declarations on media freedom with the almost simultaneous BBC acquiescence to the demands of the Iranian regime.

Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on ‘“Journalism” Hamas Style’.

“Hamas, as part of its crackdown on freedom of the media, has imposed yet another restriction on the work of journalists in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas measure has left many Palestinian journalists worried about their ability to report on what is happening in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Foreign journalists, for their part, have yet to respond to the latest assault on public freedoms. […]

Earlier this week, the Hamas-controlled Government Press Office issued a directive in which it said that, as of April 1, journalists will not be permitted to conduct interviews or enter government institutions in the Gaza Strip unless they have obtained a “press card” issued by the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information. […]

The new measure is Hamas’s way of controlling the story. Hamas clearly wants to make sure that the journalists who work in the Gaza Strip report only on issues that make the movement and its leaders look good in the eyes of Palestinians and the international community.”

2) At the INSS, Orna Mizrahi takes a look at “Challenges Facing the New Government in Lebanon, and Implications for Israel”.

“Following nine months of difficult and tiresome negotiations, a new government has been formed in Lebanon that includes 30 ministers: 18 from Hezbollah’s relatively united camp, and 12 from Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s divided camp. Hariri was forced to accept almost all of Hezbollah’s demands, first and foremost control over portfolios that will provide the organization with access to national budgets (the Ministry of Health, with its large budget; and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs), and the appointment of a Sunni minister from among Hariri’s opponents, which will enable Hezbollah to can gain support from the greater Sunni camp. […] From Israel’s perspective, Hezbollah’s continued takeover of the political system in Lebanon, along with its ongoing military buildup, is a negative development. At the same time, this trend deepens Hezbollah’s responsibility for the Lebanese state and strengthens Israel’s claims regarding Lebanon’s responsibility for the organization’s actions, including Iran’s influence over Lebanon.”

3) At Foreign Policy, Colin P. Clarke proposes that ‘Hezbollah Is in Venezuela to Stay’.

“Hezbollah has long maintained a presence in Latin America, especially in the infamous Tri-Border Area, a semi-lawless region where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil converge. But even beyond the Tri-Border Area, Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where the Shiite terrorist group has long worked to establish a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and illicit smuggling. For example, Margarita Island, located off the coast of Venezuela, is a well-known criminal hotbed where Hezbollah members have established a safe haven. Under the regime of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the government took a more active approach to offering sanctuary to Venezuela-based supporters of Hezbollah.”

4) Philip Mendes presents a case study in ‘How the BDS movement is poisoning academic discourse’ at the Fathom Journal.

“In September 2018, the respected journal Critical and Radical Social Work (Policy Press, University of Bristol) published a remarkably simplistic and arguably non-scholarly paper by an academic from Scotland about the controversy concerning left-wing anti-Semitism within the British Labour Party (Maitles 2018). The paper, whilst of minimal importance in itself, can be seen as symbolising the extent to which sections of the academic Left, influenced by the Boycott, Divestment and Sections (BDS) movement, have abandoned even the pretence of applying core academic standards to debates regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Instead, the presentation of historical facts and empirical evidence concerning Jewish history and experiences, and indeed the determination of political strategies towards anti-Jewish racism, is increasingly subordinated to the higher priority of fighting what is labelled ‘Zionism’ and to aiding the Palestinian nationalist agenda.”

 

BBC ignores PA call to blacklist and punish Arab journalists

Last month Israel’s foreign ministry hosted a delegation of Moroccan, Lebanese, Syrian, Kurdish & Yemeni journalists. The first delegation of journalists from the Arab world to visit Israel in 2016 apparently included a representative from BBC Arabic.

“”The visit to Israel was exciting and unique. It is a shame that most people in the Arab world are still filled with blind hatred and prejudice toward Israel,” said G.M., an Iraqi journalist living in exile in Germany. 

The four journalists, of Iraqi, Syrian, and Egyptian descent, write from Europe for a variety of Arabic-language news outlets, including Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Sky News, the BBC Arabic, Deutsche Welle Arabic, and Kitatbat.

They asked that their identities not be revealed because if it became known that they visited Israel, they would not only be risking their job, but also their lives.”

One of those journalists did however later write about his experiences in Israel.

The latest visit produced an angry reaction from the Palestinian Authority.

“The Palestinian Authority on Thursday denounced a visit by Arab journalists to Israel and called for punishing them to deter others from following suit. […]

…the PA said that the visit was aimed at “promoting normalization” between the Arabs and Israel. The Palestinians oppose other Arab nations establishing ties with Israel until a peace deal is signed with between Israel and the Palestinians.

The PA Ministry of Information denounced the visit of the Arab journalists and called on Arab media bodies to place them and the media outlets they work for on the Arab boycott “blacklist.”

It called on the Arab Journalists Union to take “punitive and deterring measures” against the journalists and their media outlets.”

Similar criticism was voiced by the Moroccan National Syndicate of Journalists and Morocco’s Minister of Culture and Communication.

BBC journalists protest suppression of free speech in 2014

While the BBC’s charity ‘Media Action’ claims to promote “media freedom and rights” and the BBC News website has a page devoted to the subject of “press freedom”, audiences have seen no coverage at all of the PA’s call to punish and blacklist journalists merely because they visited Israel.

As readers may recall the BBC was similarly silent when, in November 2016, Hamas condemned a group of Moroccan journalists who were hosted by the MFA.

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BBC News ignores a media freedom story from Lebanon

Last year BBC Radio 4 produced a couple of programmes about a call from Gulf States to close certain media organisations – including Al Jazeera and Middle East Eye – in which the story was framed as an assault on media freedom.

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

Also last year, the BBC produced reports concerning Israeli complaints about Al Jazeera that were described as “an attack on free and independent media”.

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BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

BBC journalists protest imprisonment of Al Jazeera journalists by Egypt in 2014

Given that proclaimed interest in freedom of the press and the BBC’s track record of calling out some past cases of prison terms given to journalists, one might have therefore expected to see at least one report about a journalist sentenced to imprisonment in absentia by a military court.

“A Lebanese military court has handed down a six-month prison sentence to a journalist for comments critical of the Lebanese army, highlighting the close ties the army has with Hezbollah, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Hanin Ghaddar, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy known for her vocal criticism of the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, as well as Iran’s efforts to spread its Islamic revolution across the Middle East, stands accused of “undermining the Lebanese army.”

The court ruled that Ghaddar, a U.S. resident, was guilty of “defaming the Lebanese army, harming its reputation and accusing it of distinguishing between Lebanese citizens,” because of an expose she delivered at a conference held by the Washington Institute in May 2014. […]

The Beirut-based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom condemned the court’s ruling as “a dangerous precedent in Lebanon, in which the military judiciary intervenes in a civil case.”

The sentence is “a new step toward turning the Lebanese government into an authoritarian regime, similar to other regimes in the region, where military judiciary is used for oppressing the public under vague terms and false arguments,” the statement added.”

Curiously however, BBC audiences have to date seen no reporting whatsoever of Hanin Ghaddar’s story.

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BBC News ignores a story about press freedom

h/t Point of No Return

bbc-greste-protest

BBC journalists protest suppression of free speech in 2014

Given the BBC’s self-evident interest in freedom of the press and its track record of calling out intimidation of journalists and obstruction of free speech, one might have thought that a story about colleagues condemned by a terrorist organisation and pressured not to visit a certain country would have caught the corporation’s attention.

Ynet reports:

“A delegation of seven leading Moroccan journalists is currently being hosted by the Israeli foreign ministry with the aim of enabling the participants to view first-hand the situation in Israel and to shatter negative myths associated with the country’s image. […]

In a conversation with Ynet, one of the delegation members from a prominent Moroccan newspaper explained the climate of fear and propaganda which has hitherto precluded the possibility of such a visit from coming to fruition.

In 2009, she said, she received an invitation to visit Israel as part of Euro-Mediterranean Youth Forum but felt pressured to decline the offer.

 “I was extremely afraid of coming. We are under pressure from the Arab media, religious people and propaganda about the Palestinian issue,” the journalist confessed.

 “People are scared to become outcasts. If you say you support Israel, or even that you don’t have a negative opinion about the country in regard to the Palestinian issue, they will single you out.”

In 2010 and 2011, the same journalist received invitations to participate in a conference on counter terrorism in Israel. “For that, of all things, I wanted to come but my manager told me that if I go there he will have the right to fire me because if someone found out that one of our radio journalists visited Israel they would attack us for normalization…This is the thing that scares us in Morocco. It is forbidden to normalize relations with the Israeli enemy and with the Israeli criminal army that robs Palestinians of their land.” “

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“In a report published on London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed’s website, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “In the shadow of the escalation of the crimes of the Israeli enemy and the actions of racist purification against our people, we condemn the visit of a team of Moroccan media persons to the Israeli entity with the goal of normalizing with it and undertaking a campaign of beautifying its image in the Arab media.

“We consider this a crime against our people, and an offense to the feelings of the Arabs and Muslims and lovers of the Palestinian cause and an encouragement of the Israeli entity in its crimes and violations,” he continued. […]

…Barhoum stressed that “urgent work is needed to stop all forms of normalization, cooperation and connection with this Israeli entity by any party and to mobilize all the energies of the [Arab] nation to support the justice of the Palestinian cause and to stand behind our people, its rights and [its] principles.””

However, that story did not receive any coverage on either the BBC News website’s Middle East page or the BBC Arabic website’s ‘Morocco‘ section – and neither did the following recent events in Rabat:

“Hundreds demonstrated in the Moroccan capital Wednesday against the Israeli flag being flown beside the colours of 195 other countries at UN climate talks in the central city of Marrakesh. […]

“The Israeli flag at COP22 means Morocco symbolically recognizing the state of Israel. It’s unacceptable,” one protester told AFP.

“Death to America, death to Israel!” demonstrators cried while burning the Israeli flag and parading anti-Israel placards.

Several pro-Palestinian associations took part in the protest after calling on authorities to take action about the flag earlier this week.”

Apparently BBC editors did not consider that these two stories would contribute to meeting their remit of building understanding of “international issues”.

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A media story the BBC ignored surfaces again

Back in 2013 we noted the BBC’s silence concerning restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate (PJS). Khaled Abu Toameh reported at the time that:PJS

“The new decision is directed primarily against Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs. […]

The Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate has long been opposed to “normalization” with Israel, and bans its members from holding meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who defied the ban were recently expelled from the syndicate.”

In February 2016 the PJS went a step further and decided “to boycott any Palestinian official who gives an interview to Israeli reporters or media organizations”. Despite its logical, long-standing interest in the topic of press freedom, the BBC similarly refrained from reporting that story.

Our colleague Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA has now published an article concerning one of the instigators of this latest PJS boycott, titled “‘Rigorous Neutrality’?: Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate’s Nasser Abu Baker Moonlights For AFP”.

“Objectivity is a difficult goal to achieve. The mere unavoidable organisation of facts can influence a reader’s judgement. However, this does not prevent us from pursuing our policy of rigorous neutrality. According to its remit, AFP is independent of the French government and all other economic or political interests.” So state the lofty principles enshrined in “Agence France Presse’s Values.”

How, then, does one explain the fact that Nasser Abu Baker, the chairman of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, the leading force for the boycott of Israeli journalists and media, also writes for the influential French news agency? […]

According to an Israeli journalist who frequently reports from the Palestinian areas, Abu Baker “is without a doubt among the leaders in the boycott movement against Israeli journalists.” The Israeli, who refused to be named because of his ongoing work in Palestinian-controlled territory, maintained that Abu Baker “carries out a witch hunt against Palestinian journalists who don’t abide by this policy” by harassing and smearing them.

Indeed, when he was deputy chairman of the syndicate, Abu Baker recently threatened:

“I call upon all male and female colleagues/journalists to boycott any Palestinian official, regardless of how senior he/she is, who conducts an interview with Israeli journalists and Israeli media…this poisonous media whose only goal is to broadcast dissent and incite against our people. Their media, which is directed by their government, is one of the tools of the occupation. Therefore, the time has come for a comprehensive boycott of their media. The Syndicate will have a clear position on this and I plead with all the journalists to abide. We will publish the name of any official who gives an interview to their media from this moment.” 

Read the whole report here.