BBC Watch prompts correction to inaccurate extradition claim

Earlier this week we noted that readers of a report by Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield which was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on June 20th were inaccurately informed that Israel “refuses to extradite its nationals”.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue which included a link to the relevant legislation and examples of extradition cases from recent months. Two days later we received a response from the BBC News website.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our feature article entitled The fake French minister in a silicone mask who stole millions (

You raise a fair point and it was inaccurate to say that Israel “refuses” to extradite its nationals.

After further investigation it’s our understanding that Israel does extradite its citizens, but not often.

We have amended the article to make that clear and added a correction note at the bottom of the article outlining this change.”

The relevant paragraph now reads:

“In 2015, Chikli was found guilty of scamming money out of French corporations by pretending to be their chief executive. But by this time he was living in Israel, which doesn’t often extradite its nationals.”

The footnote reads:

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BBC’s Paris correspondent misleads on Israel and extradition

BBC’s Paris correspondent misleads on Israel and extradition

h/t FS

On June 20th an article by the BBC’s Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield appeared on the ‘Europe’ page of the BBC News website under the headline “The fake French minister in a silicone mask who stole millions”.

Under the sub-heading “Whodunnit?” readers were told that:

“The case is now under judicial investigation in France, with suspicions centring on a convicted French-Israeli con-artist called Gilbert Chikli.

He is currently in jail in Paris following extradition from Ukraine and faces charges of organised fraud and usurpation of identity.

Chikli, of Tunisian Jewish background, grew up in the working-class Belleville neighbourhood of northeast Paris.

In 2015, Chikli was found guilty of scamming money out of French corporations by pretending to be their chief executive. But by this time he was living in the safety of Israel, which refuses to extradite its nationals.” [emphasis added]

As we see, Schofield found it appropriate to inform BBC audiences of the suspect’s ethnic and religious background even though that is of no relevance to the case.

Schofield’s claim that Israel “refuses to extradite its nationals” is inaccurate.

Under the terms of Israel’s Extradition Law Israeli nationals can be extradited to countries with which Israel has an extradition agreement or treaty such as Holland, the UK and the US. Although France is not one of those countries, extraditions from Israel to France have taken place. In the past France has refused to extradite French citizens to Israel.

As noted on the website of Israel’s Ministry of Justice:

“One of the main functions of the Department of International Affairs is the location and extradition of criminals who have escaped from Israel, as well as the location and extradition of criminals who have escaped to Israel from abroad. Within this framework the Department maintains day-to-day contact with the parallel authorities in other countries from all over the world, and also with the enforcement agencies in Israel – including investigation and prosecution units and the Interpol Unit at the Israel Police. […]

During recent years, offenders who have committed serious and sophisticated crimes, sometimes within the framework of organized crime, have been extradited from Israel to different countries, notwithstanding that they committed the crimes without leaving Israel’s borders.”

Clearly Schofield’s materially misleading claim requires correction.




BBC editorial policy hampers audiences understanding of Wallström remarks report

On January 15th the BBC News website’s Middle East page ran an article headlined “Israel’s Netanyahu: Swedish FM’s remarks ‘outrageous’“. Readers are told that:Wallstrom art

“Israel’s prime minister has denounced a call by Sweden’s foreign minister to investigate whether recent killings of Palestinians were “extrajudicial”.

Benjamin Netanyahu said Margot Wallstrom’s remarks were “outrageous… immoral and… stupid”.

Ms Wallstrom had called for “thorough and credible investigations” into the deaths.

Some 155 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have been killed in unrest since October. […]

On Tuesday, Ms Wallstrom said it was “vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability”, according to Swedish media reports.” [emphasis added]

Leaving aside the embarrassingly uninformed nature of Margot Wallström’s latest insinuations about Israel, the remarkable thing about this BBC report is that those reading it have no way of knowing which of the two people quoted – Netanyahu or Wallström – is talking facts.

The reason for that is because – as has been noted here previously on numerous occasions – for more than three months the BBC has consistently avoided telling its audiences in its own words that the vast majority of Palestinian casualties during that time were killed whilst carrying out terror attacks or engaged in violent rioting. Instead, BBC reports have invariably used qualifying terms such as “Israel says” or “were said by Israel to be attackers”.

The question that therefore arises is does the BBC employ similar qualifying language when covering the shooting of attackers in other countries or is that editorial policy reserved for use when reporting about Israel?

In October of 2015 the BBC reported a story from Margot Wallström’s native Sweden.

“A masked man armed with a sword has killed a pupil and a teacher at a school in Sweden.

The suspect, clad in black, apparently posed for photos with students ahead of the attack, in the western town of Trollhattan.

Two further victims, a pupil and a teacher, are seriously injured. The attacker was shot by police and has died of his injuries. He was 21 and resident in Trollhattan, police said.”

No qualifying “Sweden says” there.World at One

On January 7th the BBC covered an attack on a police station in Paris. BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World at One’ carried a report by Hugh Schofield (from 21:53 here, h/t HG) which includes the following statements: [emphasis added]

“He ran at the police station shouting Allahu Akbar and was not surprisingly stopped in his tracks by the guards – who now have semi-automatic weapons. They shot him and he fell and died subsequently. […]

There was this report that he was carrying some kind of suicide belt or something that looked like a suicide belt. […] I think it’ll be interesting to see whether there was a deliberate attempt to make it look as if he had one or not. It doesn’t really alter the essence of the affair which is that a man with a meat cleaver attacked a police station and was – not surprisingly, given these times – shot dead.”

No qualifying “said by France to be an attacker” there – and in the BBC’s written report on the incident, Schofield clearly signposted the attack for BBC audiences.

Schofield insert report Paris 7 1

So apparently – in contrast to Israel, where the BBC selectively avoids the use of the word ‘terror’, there are no issues surrounding the use of the word when reporting from France. Apparently too, the BBC does not feel the need to portray information supplied by the Swedish and French authorities in qualifying terms which signal to audiences that there is room for doubt as to whether the person shot was actually carrying out an attack.

And whilst the BBC obviously finds it appropriate to amplify Margot Wallström’s insinuation that the shooting of terrorists in the act in Israel might be considered “extrajudicial”, in Paris terrorists are “not surprisingly” shot whilst carrying out attacks.

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BBC News Paris correspondent goes adrift on Paris beach story

As readers may have heard, a plan by the Paris municipality to hold a Tel Aviv themed day at its annual ‘Paris beaches’ event was predictably exploited by anti-Israel campaigners and far-Left politicians for the opportunistic promotion of delegitimising propaganda.

“The monthlong festival turns the banks of the Seine River and the Bassin de la Villette artificial lake into beaches, trucking in sand and other coastal paraphernalia. This year, each day will be dedicated to a different famous beach around the world, and on Thursday, the outdoor space is slated to be turned into the shores of Tel Aviv. […]But across social media, and even among local politicians, the decision has caused an outcry.”

The event – which reportedly attracted more media attention than members of the public – passed off without incident. Nevertheless, the BBC found it appropriate to promote amplification of the nay-sayers’ cause with an item by its man in Paris, Hugh Schofield, which was placed in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Paris-Plages: Tel Aviv invite prompts Palestinian protests“.Schofield art on ME pge

In addition to the curious use of the phrase “Tel Aviv invite” in that title,  Schofield opens his piece with another unfounded assertion.

“The holiday atmosphere along the River Seine will be severely tested on Thursday as friends and enemies of Israel take their respective beefs to the sandy esplanades of Paris-Plages.” [emphasis added]

Exactly which “beefs” – i.e. grudges -“friends…of Israel” were supposedly harbouring is of course not clarified. 

Failing to provide his readers with any background information concerning its political agenda as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Schofield unquestioningly presents one of the campaigning organisations as “pro-Palestinian” rather than anti-Israel.  

“There has been a storm of outrage from the pro-Palestinian camp. An online petition calling for the event to be banned has drawn 15,000 signatures.

A group called CAPJPO-EuroPalestine has announced plans for a demonstration on the quays next to the artificial beaches.” 

He likewise fails to challenge misleading and inaccurate statements made by one of his sources.

“For opponents, the event is “indecent” and the city authorities are gullible purveyors of Israeli PR.

“A few days ago a Palestinian baby was burned to death; exactly a year ago the people of Gaza were being massacred; there’s a permanent policy of excluding Palestinians from east Jerusalem.

“You can’t just sweep that to one side for a festival of electro-dance,” said Eric Coquerel, national secretary of the Left Party.”

But Schofield does not stop there: he also adds some partisan commentary of his own.Schofield art

“It all began with an idea from the Hotel de Ville [Paris municipality – Ed] to devote a day to Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv, the Paris authorities decided, is a beach city par excellence. It is liberal. It is fun-loving. It is NOT Jerusalem.

What better way to reach out to the good guys in Israel than to create a special day of Paris-Plages (the capital’s summer attraction since 2002), with falafels, electronic music and other TA staples?”

Get it? The “good guys in Israel” are “liberal” and “fun-loving” and live in Tel Aviv. By implication readers understand that there are also people in Israel (the majority, in fact) who do not fall into the category of “good guys”.

Similar insinuation is seen in a later passage:

“What is certain is that demonstrations of pro-Israeli friendship like this are increasingly rare in Europe.

Is that because Israel’s actions are becoming so egregious? Because of a new alliance between the far-left and Europe’s increasingly populous Muslims? Because of the success of the boycott Israel movement?

Who knows?” [emphasis added]

Schofield doesn’t tell readers exactly which Israeli actions he considers to be “so egregious” – he just parks that statement there as though it were a matter of common knowledge. Coupled with his previous failure to challenge or offer fact-based context to the allegation that “exactly a year ago the people of Gaza were being massacred”, that one-liner provides yet another example of the manner in which partisan journalists casually turn delegitimizing sloganeering into ‘common knowledge’.

A BBC correspondent based in a country in which 51% of the hate violence committed in 2014 was against Jews (who make up less than 1% of its population) really should know better.

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BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ breaches editorial guidelines, fudges on antisemitism

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ breaches editorial guidelines, fudges on antisemitism

h/t J

“The production team have been reminded of the importance of clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organisation.” 

That statement was made by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit just a few months ago as part of its ruling on a complaint.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions when the BBC has failed to make the affiliations of those interviewed and/or quoted clear, its editorial guidelines on impartiality do indeed state in section 4.4.14:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

The January 7th edition of BBC Two’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight’ included an item concerning the French government’s request to ban shows by the ‘comedian’ Dieudonne on the grounds of threat to public order. The programme can be seen here by those in the UK able to view BBC iPlayer, with the relevant section beginning from 38:00.

As Harry’s Place reports:

“According to BBC Newsnight […], this was principally a free speech issue. Jeremy Paxman introduced a report by saying:

“Now a French comedian has managed to short-circuit his country’s professed commitment to free speech. President Francois Holland, with support from both Right and Left, today encouraged local authorities to ban performances by Dieudonné M’bala-M’bala – usually known just as “Dieudonné”. It’s being done on grounds of public order because his alleged antisemitism has tested to destruction Voltaire’s supposed belief that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Before we talk about the limits of free speech, Hugh Schofield reports from Paris…” “

An audio version of Schofield’s report was also promoted on BBC radio and on social media, so those without access to iPlayer can hear it in this podcast or from 16:30 here in the January 7th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’.

Following Schofield’s filmed report, ‘Newsnight’ moves on to an interview with one Alain Soral, who is introduced to BBC audiences by the programme’s presenter Jeremy Paxman as “the French writer and film-maker Alain Soral” (with the same description appearing on screen) and described as “a close friend of Monsieur Dieudonne” who “helped him popularise the infamous quenelle gesture”.

Newsnight Soral

In fact, as noted here by the CST, Soral is a former member (until 2009) of the Front National in France with a long record of antisemitic statements and dubious connections. As Harry’s Place notes:

“He soon became notorious for campaigning alongside Dieudonné in his “Liste Anti-Sioniste” (LAS) [anti-Zionist list – ed.]  for the 2009 European elections. […] Soral is not just a friend of Dieudonné, but his Far Right political ally.”

Had viewers been informed of Soral’s background, they may of course have been able to put the statements he makes during the interview with Paxman into their correct context. But they were not, and instead Soral’s Far-Right affiliations and record of antisemitism are obscured by the fluffy description of him as a “writer and film-maker”.

The interview begins with Paxman (who curiously seems to have toned down his famous bulldog style of interviewing in this instance) telling audiences:

“I began by asking him what on earth it [the quenelle gesture] meant.”

Alain Soral: “It’s a gesture against the system, against the powers that be in France. It has only recently become – since it’s a gesture that’s been around for almost ten years – only recently the most powerful Jewish organization in France, the CRIF, decreed that it was an anti-Semitic gesture. So basically, their idea is that an anti-system gesture is an anti-Semitic one. So at the end of the day, is that simply an improper accusation? Or is there a deep link between the system of domination that Mr Dieudonne is fighting against and the organized Jewish community? Well that’s the question.”

Paxman: “But you don’t deny that Mr Dieudonne is an anti-Semite, do you?”

AS: “The problem is that this word has become a word used to scare people. A long time ago Dieudonne had a partner – a young Jew called Eli Simoun – but all of these accusations started arriving the day he did a sketch on Israeli settlers. So today we have a very powerful Zionist lobby in France which treats anyone who doesn’t subscribe to its vision of the world and to its politics as antisemitic.”

There is more, but readers have no doubt got the antisemitic conspiracy theory gist by now. 

In fact, a photograph of Soral making the quenelle gesture at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin appears in Hugh Schofield’s filmed report, but – as the CST notes – apparently no-one on the ‘Newsnight’ team was able to join the dots.

Newsnight Soral Berlin

The fact that ‘Newsnight’ breached BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by not informing audiences of Soral’s “particular viewpoint” is abundantly clear. What is less comprehensible is why in the first place the editor of the programme considered the airing of Soral’s antisemitic conspiracy theories to be of any contribution to the public’s understanding of the issue under discussion and why the BBC continues to be incapable of improving its increasingly dismal record on the reporting of antisemitism.

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