Last week BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast an interview with a doctor from ‘Medecins du Monde’ who inaccurately claimed that the shortage of medicines and disposables in Gaza Strip hospitals is attributable to Israeli policies.
“As you know we are under siege for a long time in Gaza and this affects the medical parts in Gaza and there is a lack of disposables and basic drugs needs in emergency. We need really, really action from the world for intervention to help people in Gaza.”
Despite that previous failure to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality and despite the fact that Dr Hosam Abu Elwan’s claim was – like sadly too many of the claims made by medical staff in Gaza Strip at present – clearly political in motivation, on July 29th the same radio station saw fit to invite the doctor to speak again and his report– appearing on a dedicated webpage – was promoted on the Radio 5 Live official Twitter account.
“I am Dr Hosam Abu Elwan from Nasser hospital south of Gaza. We see that is no clear ceasefire declaration. We are not sure if it’s valid or not but we see the number of wounded cases is decrease but the number of murders is increased because they was killed two, three or five days before and the number of murders is increased about 20 cases per day coming to hospital by…Unfortunately I want to speak that is bad situation in hospital because the murders dying before five days with offensive odours and I can’t describe the situation because it was very bad in hospital. The number of murders is increased at least 20 cases per day. There is no spaces in the hospital for this huge number. And we hope to be there is ceasefire declaration and for medical teams to evacuate their murders and dead body from their houses or from under destroyed houses.”
The version of this ‘report’ promoted by BBC Radio 5 live on Twitter and on the dedicated webpage lacks all context and clearly plays exclusively on the emotions of listeners who cannot possibly discern from it whether the dead are civilians or combatants or in what circumstances – or by whom – they were killed.
The term ‘murder’ – used no fewer than five times in the 77 second-long report, twice on the webpage and twice in the Tweet – has a specific meaning in the English language which attributes intention and premeditation – as this programme’s UK listeners will know. As someone for whom English is not a first language, Dr Abu Elwan may perhaps not be aware of that nuance, but the editors of this item most definitely should be and hence their decision to air and promote such a recording as a raw, stand-alone item and to use the word ‘murder’ as part of their promotion clearly calls editorial standards of impartiality into question.