BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

As noted here previously, in the May 15th edition of BBC One’s ‘BBC Breakfast’, presenter Louise Minchin claimed that a baby was among those killed the previous day during violent rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border.

Minchin: “Fifty-eight people have been killed. We understand that some of them were children, including a baby. Is this not excessive force?”

In a filmed report aired on domestic and international BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website on May 16th, the BBC’s Middle East editor promoted the same claim.

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

Jeremy Bowen’s report was also embedded into an article titled “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN” that was published on the BBC News website on May 15th.

The last picture featured in a photo essay published on the BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ page on May 15th was an image taken by Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem relating to the same story which was originally captioned:

“The mother of 8-month-old Palestinian infant Laila al-Ghandour, who died after inhaling tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border, mourns during her funeral in Gaza City, May 15,2018.”

The same image was used to illustrate the webpage of an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on May 15th.

A report titled “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years” that appeared on the BBC News website on May 15th includes the following:

Similar images appear in a report by BBC Hindi aired on May 15th and still available online.

It is therefore more than likely that BBC audiences will have received the impression that Israel was responsible for the death of an eight month-old baby on May 15th. However, as noted here on May 16th, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry’s claim that the baby had died from tear-gas inhalation was soon called into question.

BBC Watch contacted ‘BBC Breakfast’ with a request for on-air clarification of the fact that the cause of the baby’s death is as yet unclear but, beyond acknowledgement of receipt of the e-mail, has not received a reply.

On May 25th it was reported that:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said an 8-month-old girl has been taken off a list of Palestinians killed in border clashes with Israeli troops last week, while authorities await results of a pathologist’s report.

Layla al-Ghandour had originally been listed among the 60 Palestinians killed during massive border protests on the Gaza fence on May 14. The infant’s death intensified condemnation of Israel over the violence, though the health ministry has since signaled the child may not have been killed from tear gas inhalation but rather because of a pre-existing condition.”

The BBC’s newspaper of choicethe Guardian – reported that:

“Leila’s family has blamed the Israeli army for her death. The New York Times cited the family as saying the child suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease.

A copy of an initial hospital report seen by the Guardian said the infant had heart defects since birth and suffered a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration”. It did not say if teargas inhalation had contributed to her death.”

However, as we see above, there is still plenty of BBC material available online which leads audiences to believe that Israel is responsible for the baby’s death and to date the BBC has failed to clarify to its audiences that the claim it widely promoted has been called into question.  

 

 

Advertisements

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

On May 15th the BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ page published an item headlined “‘Hear our message’: Gaza border violence in pictures” which related to the previous day’s events and opened by telling audiences that:

“Monday was the deadliest day since violent unrest returned to the Gaza Strip border fence with Israel almost two months ago.

Palestinian protests were fuelled by the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli troops guarding the border killed at least 58 people and injured almost 3,000.”

Obviously “violent unrest” did not just appear out of the blue at the end of March: it was meticulously planned weeks in advance. BBC audiences have however been told nothing of what was organised, by whom, when and why and that means that the corporation can continue to promote false linkage between the pre-planned violence along the border and the relocation of the US embassy to an existing building in Jerusalem.

Notably, this item has not been updated to inform BBC audiences that 50 of the people killed on May 14th were – according to Hamas – linked to that terrorist organisation.

Scattered among the photographs are what the BBC describes at the bottom of the report as “witness interviews” gathered by “Reuters and AFP news agencies”. Notably, those ‘witnesses’ – identified only by their first name – tell only one side of the story.

“Many may get martyred today, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end.

Ali, science teacher, Gaza”

“Killing me will not change anything. They need to kill every last one of us to change the facts.

Samir, refugee, Gaza”

“I am happy that my son is a martyr. He is among dozens who died for the sake of Palestine.

Ibrahim, 50, whose son was killed near Gaza City”

Although all the photographs used in this item were sourced from various agencies, the BBC replaced their original captions with its own. Photo number one, for example, was originally captioned:

“Palestinians protesters pull barbed wire fence installed by Israeli army along the border during clashes after protests near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018.”

The BBC replaced that description with:

“Israel says some 40,000 Palestinians took part”

The seventh photo was likewise originally captioned:

“Palestinians protesters pulling barbed wire fence installed by Israeli army along the border during clashes after protests near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza Strip, 14 May 2018.”

The BBC replaced that with:

“Israel said soldiers had fired on people carrying out “terrorist activity and not on demonstrators””

The original caption to the fourth photo read:

“An Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC) maneuvers on the Israeli side of the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip May 14, 2018”

The BBC replaced that with:

“Israeli forces responded to protesters with tear gas and live fire from snipers”

In light of the BBC’s ongoing failure to inform its audiences about the multiple incidents of damage caused by ‘Great Return March‘ participants to the crops and irrigation systems of Israeli farmers in fields adjacent to the border, the change made to one caption is particularly noteworthy.

The BBC’s caption to the eighth image is:

“Israeli soldiers patrolled along the Gaza border”

However, that photograph was originally captioned:

“Israeli soldiers walk amidst smoke from a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz of Nahal Oz, along the border with the Gaza Strip, which was caused by incendiaries tied to kites flown by Palestinian protesters from across the border, May 14, 2018.”

In other words, the BBC elected to remove that brief reference to the story of millions of shekels-worth of deliberate damage caused by rioters along the Gaza Strip border in recent weeks.

Once again the narrative – or “our message” as it is described in this item’s title – that the BBC intends to communicate to its audiences is amply clear. 

 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ portrayal of Purim

The March 18th edition of the BBC News website’s ‘Week in Pictures’ feature – billed “Our selection of some of the most striking news photographs taken around the world this week” – included a photograph captioned:

“Young Jewish men dance around a table as they visit a businessman in London during the annual Jewish holiday of Purim. It commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther.”

That image is one of a series of photographs of Purim celebrations in London taken by the same photographer. Pictures from that series which the BBC could have chosen to portray the Purim holiday celebrations – but didn’t – include these:

 

 

BBC coverage of fires in Israel misleads on Carmel casualties

On the third day of the wave of fires currently afflicting Israel the BBC News website produced its first reports on the story. Originally titled “Israel forest fires: Hundreds evacuated as flames reach Haifa”, a written article was published on the afternoon of November 24th and has since been frequently updated to reflect some – though not all – of the developments.

In addition, a filmed report (without commentary) and a feature titled “In pictures: Israel wildfires force evacuations in Haifa” appeared on the BBC News website.

All versions of the written report – which is currently headlined “Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa” – inform BBC audiences that:haifa-fires-art

“In 2010, 42 people died in a fire on Mount Carmel, just south of Haifa.”

In fact, as the state ombudsman’s report into that disaster and many additional sources note, the number of fatalities was forty-four.

Later versions of the written report open as follows:

“About 80,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes as wildfires swept into Israel’s third largest city of Haifa.

The fires follow a two-month drought and are being fanned by strong winds in the north of the city.” [emphasis added]

The winds causing the fires to spread rapidly are evident country-wide and of course are not limited to the “north” of Haifa: some of the more badly affected neighbourhoods are in fact located in the central and southern parts of the city.

Later versions of the report promoted unqualified Fatah propaganda claiming that Israeli territory (and forest) is ‘Palestinian’.

“….Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, […] said Israeli officials were “exploiting the fire” to accuse Palestinians.

“What is burning are our trees and our land of historical Palestine,” it said in a statement.”

Readers were then correctly informed that:

“On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.”

The article does not however note that similar expressions were also seen in the English language – including in response to a Tweet promoting the written report from the BBC Breaking News Twitter account.

haifa-fire-tweets-1

haifa-fire-tweets-2

haifa-fire-tweets-3

haifa-fire-tweets-4

haifa-fire-tweets-5

haifa-fire-tweets-6

haifa-fire-tweets-7

haifa-fire-tweets-8

haifa-fire-tweets-9

haifa-fire-tweets-10

haifa-fire-tweets-12

haifa-fire-tweets-13

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ showcases an anti-Israel activist

“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.” (BBC Editorial Guidelines, Impartiality, section 4.4.14 – emphasis added)

Like the BBC Editorial Guidelines as a whole, that section applies to all BBC content. However, on May 17th the ‘In Pictures’ page of the BBC News website published an item headlined “Hard Work” (which also appeared in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page) which failed to conform to that clause.

In Pictures Hard Work

That link leads to a photo essay titled “Traditional industries in the West Bank” in which audiences are told:

“In the West Bank, several traditional Palestinian industries are still utilising historical techniques fine-tuned through generations – but once flourishing industries, such as shoemaking in Hebron or olive oil soap production in Nablus, are barely surviving, with a fraction of their former workforces.

Photographer Rich Wiles has been documenting these industries, some of which may not survive much longer in the current political and economic climate.”

Rich Wiles, however, is not only a photographer: he is also a professional political activist who uses his camera as a tool for the advancement of his chosen political cause – as is apparent from an interview he gave to a local UK newspaper in 2014.

“It might not be an easy place to live, but Rich Wiles feels at home in Palestine.

The Hull-born photographer has spent the past decade in this unsettled part of the world, getting married and starting a family along the way.

Now his latest exhibition – chronicling life in parts of this frequently war-torn region – is on show in London.

“It is never an easy place to live, but it is a beautiful place to live at the same time,” said Rich, who lives in Ramallah with his wife, Cyrine, and their baby daughter, Nadia-Sue. […]

In 2001, at the age of 27, he decided to study for an HND at Hull School of Art and Design.

After becoming involved in the anti-war movement in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, he was invited by friends from the movement to join them on a trip to Palestine.

He went on to work with Creative Partnerships in Hull, where he organised photographic projects with children here and in the West Bank.

In 2005, moved by what he had witnessed, he decided to move to the Aida Camp for Palestinian refugees, which is located just outside of Bethlehem.

Since his arrival in Palestine, Rich has helped to establish the Lajee Centre Arts & Media Unit in the camp.

He now works at BADIL, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem.”

In addition to his involvement with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil’, Wiles can regularly be found promoting his campaigning photography at outlets such as Al Jazeera, the Hamas-linked MEMO (which, interestingly, describes him as “MEMO photographer Rich Wiles”) and other Hamas-linked outfits such as the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’.

“In the past Wiles has referred to his photography as a tool of activism. “A photograph is never going to give Palestinians their rights,” he says, “though art is part of a culture of change.”

“History shows us that all liberation struggles have involved elements of armed struggle, they’ve involved elements of popular struggle, demonstrations, they’ve involved art, they’ve involved culture and they’ve involved literature. All these things combined make an effective resistance movement.”” (MEMO, 20/8/14)

Little wonder then that the portrayal of  “traditional industries” in Palestinian Authority controlled areas presented to BBC audiences only briefly touches upon the issue of competition with mass production (a difficulty faced by artisan manufacturers worldwide), but does point audience attentions in one particular direction.

“Several olive-oil soap factories were destroyed by an earthquake that hit Nablus in 1927. More recently, during the second Intifada, which began in 2001, Israeli military attacks on Nablus caused further destruction to the historical buildings. And, today, only three factories remain in production.”

The second intifada of course began in September 2000 – not in 2001 – and this portrayal conveniently erases the very relevant fact that it was initiated by the Palestinian Authority and that Israeli military activity in towns such as Nablus (Schem) came after – and as a result of – over eighteen months of Palestinian terror attacks which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians.

“Historically, Palestinian tanneries got hides from neighbouring Arab states. More recently, supplies suffered from Israel’s economic embargo against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, which together with a ban on chemicals for security reasons has brought Zarai tanneries in Hebron to the brink of closure, its managers say.”

The terrorism which brought about restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip (inaccurately described here as an “economic embargo”) and the terrorism of the second intifada which brought about the (later rescinded) ban on the import of sulfuric acid “due to its potential dual use as an ingredient in explosives-making” are predictably erased from audience view.

In the world of propagandists such as Rich Wiles, Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as passive, lacking in agency and free of any responsibility for the outcomes of their choices.

Whilst that approach may be good enough for outlets with a casual relationship with facts and truth such as Al Jazeera and MEMO, the editorial guidelines quoted above were put in place precisely in order to ensure that BBC audiences get accurate and impartial news rather than politically motivated propaganda.

That means that Rich Wiles’ “particular viewpoint” should have been clarified to readers of this article – and no: the link to his personal website right at the bottom of the page does not suffice.

 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ compromises accuracy with sloppy caption

The ‘In Pictures’ section of the BBC News website included the image below in the latest edition of its ‘Week in pictures‘ feature. The photograph is captioned:

“Sahar, girlfriend of Israeli soldier Dor Nini mourns during his funeral in a cemetery at Shtulim village near Ashdod. He was one of two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish UN peacekeeper killed as Hezbollah militants traded fire with Israeli forces on the Lebanese border.”

Har Dov In Pictures

St. Sgt. Dor Nini and Maj. Yochai Kalangel were killed by Hizballah terrorists who deliberately targeted the vehicle in which they were travelling (and additional ones), on a road also used by civilians, with Kornet guided anti-tank missiles from around 4 to 5 kilometers inside Lebanese territory. They could not and did not ‘trade fire’ with their attackers.

The BBC’s use of the phrase “traded fire” to describe that incident promotes a notion of equivalence which hampers audience understanding of the cause and sequence of events by blurring the fact that a terrorist organization carried out a premeditated cross-border attack which then prompted  a military response from Israel during which a member of UNIFIL was accidentally killed.

The same misleading expression was also used in a written BBC report but at least there it was followed by the clarification “[a]fter Israeli forces were hit by missile fire, they responded by firing shells into southern Lebanon”. The constraints of space affecting photo captions obviously mean that the use of precise language is critical if BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy are to be met. 

BBC’s end of year ‘In Pictures’ feature continues to promote unverified Gaza casualty stats

On December 29th the ‘In Pictures’ section of the BBC News website published a collection of nineteen photographs described as “our favourite pictures” which “sum up the past 12 months”.

The caption to the featured photograph below reads:

“A 50-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and militant groups led by Hamas left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded. Here, Palestinians carry a wounded boy who was rescued from under the rubble of a house which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.”

In Pictures 2014

As we see, over four months since the end of the conflict and despite the existence of more up to date information showing that the civilian/combatant casualty ratio cited above is most likely inflated, the BBC has made no effort to update the information it provides to audiences and continues to quote the UN figures which were problematic from the onset. Neither is there any evidence to suggest that the BBC has independently verified the statistics it promotes in the weeks since the ceasefire came into effect.

The footnote added belatedly to the BBC article on casualty figures which was revised due to political pressure stated:

“We expect to return to this subject at a later date.”

That has not happened and the BBC’s continued blind promotion of unverified statistics is clearly not only an issue in terms of accuracy but, as time goes on and the BBC continues to stubbornly and inexplicably ignore later work done on this topic, it also obviously becomes a growing issue of impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

The BBC’s pictorial portrayal of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip

During Operation Protective Edge the BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ section produced five separate features, all of which were also promoted on the site’s Middle East page. Most of the images selected by picture editor Phil Coomes and his team are from agencies such as Reuters, AP and AFP, although usually without their original captions. In Pics 1

The first of those features appeared on July 11th under the title “In pictures: Gaza conflict escalates” and as we noted here at the time it included nine images in all:  six from the Gaza Strip and three from Israel. Of the images photographed in the Gaza Strip, four show destroyed buildings, one shows a long-shot of missiles being launched and one shows mourners at a funeral. Two of the three photographs taken in Israel show onlookers at locations where missiles landed in Netivot and one shows the aftermath of a missile hit on a petrol station in Ashdod.

On July 20th a feature titled “In pictures: Gaza conflict intensifies” was published. Of the eight images appearing in it, six show scenes in the Gaza Strip and two are intended to depict Israel. Two of the pictures taken in Gaza show casualties being evacuated by medical personnel, one depicts what is described in the caption as “intense shelling”, one shows a long-shot of a missile being launched from the Gaza Strip, one shows an Israeli helicopter and one shows a view of an urban landscape in the Gaza Strip with Israeli armoured vehicles in the foreground. Both the images depicting Israel show soldiers.In Pics 2

July 29th saw the appearance of another collection of photographs under the title “In pictures: Gaza hit again after ‘heaviest night’“. Of the eleven images featured, six were taken in the Gaza Strip and five in Israel. The photographs taken in Israel show a military funeral, the evacuation of a wounded soldier, soldiers standing on an armoured vehicle, a group of civilians taking cover in the street during a missile attack and a man looking at the Gaza Strip through binoculars. One of the pictures taken in the Gaza Strip shows a woman and children apparently evacuating their home, one shows onlookers near a shrapnel damaged car, one shows illumination flares and three show fires and explosions.

The next feature – headlined “In pictures: Israel-Hamas ceasefire collapses” appeared on August 1st and it includes eight photographs. Two of the images depict a riot near Ramallah on that date. Four of the images were photographed in the Gaza Strip: one shows a child in hospital, one shows an urban landscape and an explosion, two show damaged structures. Of the two photographs depicting Israel, one captioned “Israel’s Iron Dome defensive system intercepted rockets over Beersheba in southern Israel as the ceasefire collapsed” does not show the Iron Dome at all, but soldiers firing artillery. The second picture shows Israeli civilians in an air-raid shelter in Ashkelon (although the location is not clarified by the BBC), with the caption “In Israel, normal life is continuing despite air raid sirens and rocket alerts. Israeli public support is overwhelmingly in favour of the army’s operation in Gaza”.In Pics 3

The fifth feature appeared on August 4th under the title “In pictures: Faces from Gaza“. In contrast to the usual BBC practice of using agency photographs, all the pictures in this item were taken by the BBC’s own Jon Donnison and all eleven photographs depict civilians in the Gaza Strip. Captions to the photographs include the following statements, which of course cannot be verified, but in contrast to the few photographs of Israeli civilians in other features, use names and short stories to personalise the people portrayed.

“A young girl and her mother shelter in a UN school in Rafah. The girl’s brother is in hospital after an Israeli bombing.”

“Three-year-old Aya was injured in Rafah when the family house was bombed as she slept. Aya cries for her mother, but she has been killed.”

“Ahmed, left, is being treated for severe burns in hospital in Khan Yunis, watched over by his brother Mahmoud. Their other brother, Mohammed, 17, was killed by Israeli bombing in Rafah. Mahmoud said they had all eaten dinner together and were laughing and joking a few hours before the attack.”

“Ali, 11, was injured as he played outside his home in Rafah when an Israeli bomb hit his neighbour’s house. Doctors are treating him in the car park of the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah as all the beds inside are full.”In Pics Donnison

In total forty-seven images appeared in these five photo essays. Two of those pictures were taken near Ramallah, thirty-three in the Gaza Strip and twelve in Israel, meaning that the Palestinian view of the story was given almost three times as much coverage as the Israeli one. Whilst several of the pictures show Israeli soldiers, there are no pictures whatsoever of members of Hamas or other terrorist organisations. Although six of the photographs show dead or injured civilians in the Gaza Strip, there are no pictures at all of injured Israeli civilians. Numerous pictures of damaged buildings in the Gaza Strip contrast with one picture of damage to a structure in Israel. Several photographs show explosions attributed to Israel in the Gaza Strip, compared to one photograph of a fire at a petrol station in Israel.

In common with its written and verbal depictions of the hostilities, the BBC’s pictorial portrayal presents audiences with a view which frames the conflict in terms of its effects on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip but largely removes Hamas’ terrorist activities from the picture and downplays the effects of that terrorism in Israel. 

BBC pictures editor apparently not sure where missile that landed in Israel came from

A photo feature titled “Gaza conflict escalates” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 11th.

The feature includes nine images: six from the Gaza Strip and three from Israel.

Four of the photographs taken in the Gaza Strip show buildings after air-strikes which are described in the captions as “houses” but no context is given regarding the frequent practice of dual-purpose use of such locations as weapons storage facilities and/or command centres for terrorist organisations. Some of the captions also cite Hamas-supplied casualty figures, with no attempt made to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties.

One image shows missiles being launched from a residential area in the Gaza Strip and one shows a group of grieving women at the funeral of members of the Kaware family, but fails to note that those killed were voluntarily acting as human shields.

Of the three pictures taken in Israel, there are none of any of the numerous houses damaged by missile fire.  One image shows a petrol station in Ashdod which was hit by a missile from the Gaza Strip and two show scenes from the town of Netivot. One of those has the curious caption shown below.

In pics 11 7 netivot a

 

 

Of camels and humps: the BBC addresses ‘media visual stereotyping’

A couple of recent BBC News website articles relating to the subject of photographed images have the most likely unintended distinction of falling into the category of the old adage “write about what you know” as far as the BBC is concerned. SONY DSC

On November 22nd an article titled “Altered Images: How to verify photos of current events” appeared in the website’s ‘News from Elsewhere’ section which is compiled by BBC Monitoring.

The article states:

“With smartphone use widespread, images of unfolding events quickly fill social media networks. While many are genuine, it is not uncommon for a picture depicting something else entirely to be passed off as documenting a protest, a natural disaster or other event.”

“Not uncommon” indeed.

Another article, which appeared in the website’s ‘In Pictures’ section on December 2nd, addresses the subject of what the BBC College of Journalism Twitter account termed “media visual stereotyping”.

Media Visual Stereotyping CoJ

Whilst the article – titled “Challenging stereotypes: Teesside’s new Roma” – deals with the work of a photographer who “challenges many of the stereotypical visuals seen in the media” in relation to Roma in the United Kingdom, the general theme will be more than a little familiar to BBC Watch readers.

In pictures 1

In pictures 2

In pictures 3

In pictures 4

In pictures 5

In pictures 6

Will the ‘In pictures’ camel finally get around to taking a look at some of its own humps?

Related articles:

Seeing Israel through the BBC’s lens

Disproportional representation: every (BBC chosen) picture tells a story

BBC’s “In Pictures” fails to meet editorial standards

BBC pictorial feature on ‘suffering’

BBC pictorial portrayals of conflict in Israel and Gaza