BBC Sport reports the outcome of a story it ignored last month

BBC Sport did not show much interest in the Judo World Championships which took place in Tokyo between August 25th and 31st. During that period of time visitors to the BBC Sport website’s Judo page saw just two reports (see here and here), both of which concerned a Scottish Judoka.  

However, on September 2nd a report on a five day-old story titled “Saeid Mollaei: Iranian judoka fears for safety after refusing to quit World Championships” was published on that page as well as on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Readers were told that:

“Iran’s Saeid Mollaei says he fears for his and his family’s safety after ignoring calls from Iranian authorities to pull out of the World Judo Championships in Japan.

Mollaei said he was told to withdraw from his match against Russia’s Olympic champion Khasan Khalmurzaev to avoid the prospect of facing Israel’s Sagi Muki later in the tournament.”

Only in the tenth paragraph were readers informed that “Muki later beat Casse to win the gold medal” but they heard nothing of an earlier incident involving an Egyptian competitor.

The BBC’s report gave a distinctly tepid portrayal of the pressures put on Mollaei. In addition to citing “calls from Iranian authorities to pull out”, the report told readers that Mollaei said:

“But the National Olympic Committee of Iran and the Sport Minister told me to not compete, that I had to comply with the law.”

Only those readers who bothered to click on a link to the International Judo Federation website would learn that considerably more underhand tactics were employed by the Iranian authorities.

“Mollaei’s next fight was against the Olympic champion, Russian Khasan Khalmurzaev. A few minutes prior to the contest, the Iranian coach received a call from his country. On the other side of the line, the Iranian first deputy minister of sport, Davar Zani, gave him the order to withdraw Mollaei from the competition to avoid a potential contest between Iran and Israel. A demand accompanied by a double threat against Mollaei and his family. […]

…a delegation from the Iranian Embassy came to the venue. One delegate illegally, by means of the Iranian coaches accreditation, trespassed into the athlete warm up area to approach him with messages of intimidation.

Just prior to the semi-final, Mollaei’s coach received another phone call, this time from the Iranian Olympic Committee President, Reza Salehi Amiri. He put the phone on speaker and video, so the World Champion could follow the conversation.

The NOC President explained that National Security were at his parent’s house. Mollaei’s friends from Iran also texted him that people came to his house and asked his father to tell his son to follow the law or he would have problems.”

Apparently the BBC did not consider that information newsworthy. Linking to the IJF website, the BBC Sport report went on:

“Earlier in 2019, the National Olympic Committee of Iran had said it would comply with the Olympic charter and statutes of the International Judo Federation (IJF), paving the way for Iranian athletes to compete against Israeli athletes.”

However, as noted here when the BBC ignored the story last month, a top Iranian sports official reneged on that commitment made in May.

“President of the Iran National Olympic Committee Syed Reza Salehi Amiri said that Iranian athletes will not compete against Israeli athletes, despite Iran claiming in a letter addressed to the International Judo Federation (IJF) that things might change.

The Judo World Championship will take place at the end of August, where the most anticipated encounter will be between Iranian Saeid Mollaei, who is ranked No. 1 in the 81 kg. weight group, and second ranked Israeli Sagi Muki. […]

“Refraining from participating in competitions with athletes of the Zionist regime is an issue of the Muslim world, and athletes from 20 countries refrain from doing so. I said that we are acting within the framework of the Iranian regime’s policy – and for this reason, we are not competing with athletes of the Zionist regime,” Amiri said.”

Had the BBC covered that story at the time it may have been better placed to report on the predictable pressures put on Mollaei during the championship as well as subsequent events unmentioned in this report.  

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Discrimination in sport continues to be ignored by the BBC

Sporting body’s anti-discrimination results get no BBC coverage

BBC muddies a story of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

More tepid BBC coverage of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The BBC’s double standards on annexation

Back in April the BBC got rather excited about a pre-election statement made by the Israeli prime minister concerning the possibility of annexing Israeli communities in Area C.

An article headlined “Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected” informed audiences that “Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat” referred to such a move as a violation of international law and the BBC’s Arab affairs editor described Netanyahu’s comments as “potentially explosive” and bound to rouse “Palestinian fury” and “international condemnation”.

A commentator brought in by BBC Radio 4 described any such move as “another severe blow for the Palestinians” which “would cause massive riots across the West Bank”. The BBC’s Tom Bateman told visitors to the BBC News website that “the possibility of Israel annexing parts of the occupied West Bank” indicate that Israel has undergone “a marked shift to the right”.

BBC World Service radio audiences were informed by Bateman that the idea of annexing Israeli communities means that “the prospect of the internationally held formula – a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians – really moved even further to the margins”. Listeners to a business programme on the same station heard about “an aggressive move…in the West Bank”.

That “vow” has of course not materialised in the five months since it was made but in recent days another regional leader decided to take unilateral steps concerning Area C.

“The Palestinian Authority announced over the weekend that it has decided to cancel the division of the West Bank into Area A, B and C according to the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Liberation Organization had signed with Israel in 1993 and 1995. 

From now on, the PA will treat all West Bank territories as Palestinian territories under its sovereignty. […]

Palestinian Minister of Local Government Majdi al-Saleh, who is backed by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, asked the district leaders and branch heads in Shtayyeh’s office to broaden the master plan for Palestinian towns at the expense of open and green spaces bordering them, without regard to the existing divisions. Saleh explained that the directive was received following instruction from the PA to cancel the division of Areas A, B and C.”

Not only have BBC audiences not been told that the PA’s Oslo Accords breaching annexation (the addition of an area or region to a country, state, etc.) of Area C is a ‘violation of international law’ or “potentially explosive” or detrimental to the two-state solution – they have not been informed of it at all.

BBC News promotes a claim it previously amended in February

Some three hours after Hizballah had attacked an army base and a military vehicle with guided anti-tank missiles near Avivim on Israel’s northern border on September 1st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel from Lebanon”. The report opened with a description of Hizballah which avoids any mention of the fact that it is a terrorist organisation.

“The Lebanese Shia Muslim militant group Hezbollah has fired several anti-tank rockets into northern Israel in retaliation for a reported Israeli drone attack in Beirut last week.

Israeli military sources confirmed rockets had been fired at an Israeli army base and military vehicles.

The Israeli army responded by attacking targets in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah sources reported several Israeli casualties, but Israel said no-one had been injured on its side.”

The report went on to tell readers that:

“The Lebanese military earlier said an Israeli drone had entered its airspace and dropped incendiary material on a forest along the border.

The Israeli army has acknowledged it started a fire. Tensions on the frontier escalated in recent days.”

The background to those opaque statements is as follows:

“The Israeli military fired artillery shells into a disputed portion of land on the Lebanese border on Sunday, amid soaring tensions along the frontier, a Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet reported.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed conducting “activities” in northern Israel, which sparked a fire near the border, but refused to comment on the nature of those actions.”

Significantly, readers of this report were told nothing of the fact that according to UN SC resolution 1701, Hizballah should have been disarmed years ago and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Neither was any information given concerning the failure of UNIFIL ‘peacekeepers’ and the Lebanese Armed Forces to stop this latest attack by the terror group.  

Readers were told that:

“The Hezbollah attack and Israel’s response represent the most serious border incident between the two parties in recent years.”

Depending on how one defines “recent” one could of course argue that the 2015 Hizballah attack in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven injured was significantly more serious.

Later versions of the report closed with a portrayal of the Second Lebanon War which failed to inform audiences that Hizballah instigated that conflict.

“In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long conflict that killed more than 1,000 civilians, most of them Lebanese.”

Following a complaint from BBC Watch in February of this year the BBC News website amended three reports promoting a similar statement in order to clarify that the unverified claim that most of the Lebanese casualties were civilians came from the Lebanese government.

As those three reports stated, 43 Israeli civilians were killed during that conflict which means that the BBC is now claiming that at least 957 Lebanese civilians also died.

Estimates of the total number of Lebanese casualties during that 2006 war range from 1,035 to 1,200. As has been pointed out here on several previous occasions, while the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants, Lebanese officials did report even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (of whom 450 were identified with certainty: see page 55 here). In August 2006 the BBC News website acknowledged that “there are no reliable figures” for the number of Hizballah combatants killed in the war that had just ended at the time.

In other words, despite having acknowledged seven months ago that the civilian casualty figures it quoted were based on statements made by a government held hostage by the Iranian terrorist proxy Hizballah, the BBC News website has resumed the practice of promoting inflated Lebanese civilian casualty figures that it has not independently verified.

Related Articles:

BBC News website amends Second Lebanon War claim

Los Angeles Times Corrects on Lebanese Casualties in 2006 War (CAMERA)

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

 

 

BBC WS radio corrects inaccurate claim of a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip

At the beginning of August BBC World Service radio aired an edition of the programme ‘The Food Chain’ which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.”

BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that programme’s repeated inaccurate portrayal of the Gaza Strip as being “under siege”, noting that in the week that this programme was aired twice, 1,768 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip from Israel, including 6,785 tons of food. We pointed out that the “intermittent power supply” portrayed in the programme has nothing to do with Israel and that as well as breaching BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by leading listeners to wrongly believe that the Gaza strip is “under siege”, it also compromises the BBC’s impartiality seeing as that false claim is one of Hamas’ main talking points.

On August 31st we received a reply from the programme’s editor.

“Thank you for your email and your comments about the episode of The Food Chain titled ‘Food under siege’.

I’m sorry you were unhappy with the programme and I should say from the outset that I agree with some of the points you are making.

The use of the word ‘siege’ in the programme was intended to be a colloquial reference to the difficulties of food provision in different parts of the world, with the programme focusing on the creative solutions that people have adopted in such circumstances.

As a food programme our aim was simply to examine how people cook under duress and we didn’t intend to imply there were exact political or military similarities between three different parts of the world.

But on reflection we can see that in the absence of providing more context about Gaza, the title of the programme and the reference to the historical notion of a siege might have led listeners to infer that we thought this was a precise description of the position in Gaza, which was not our intention.

So we agree that this episode would have benefited from more information about the blockade and I am sorry we did not provide this.

This is, as I say, a food programme rather than a detailed examination of the background to any of these conflicts so I do not think we needed to go into any great detail but even within these confines I think we should have provided more context, for the reasons I have suggested.

As a result, we have included more information about the blockade and re-worded the programme script in places where we accept the position in Gaza should have been made clearer.

We have also placed a note on our correction and clarifications page.

Best wishes,

Robb Stevenson, Editor”

We have not yet been able to locate that note on the BBC’s correction and clarifications page but the amended synopsis to the programme now reads:

“Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. A journalist reveals how it feels to feast in a cafe in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat, and an electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a message of compassion and resistance.

We also hear about the Palestinians living under the blockade of the Gaza strip. A cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and some ingredients are scarce.

This programme was originally broadcast on August 1 but has since been re-edited to provide more context about the Gaza blockade and to distinguish this more clearly from conditions in Aleppo and Sarajevo.”

Several significant amendments have also been made to the programme itself.

Update: The following clarification has been published.

 

 

 

 

BBC World Service radio’s OS promotes narrative over fact

h/t ED

The August 28th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘BBC OS’ closed with an item (from 48:15 here) promoting the filmed report about teenage Palestinian detainees published on the BBC News website on the same day which was discussed in an earlier post.

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Luke Jones: “Now one of the most watched videos on the BBC News website today focuses on Palestinian children who have been incarcerated in jails in Israel. Megha Mohan, the BBC’s Gender & Identity reporter made the video, met some of the families of these children. She’s joined us at our desk here in the newsroom. When did you first come across this as a thing that was happening?”

Mohan stated that it was not her idea but that of Yousef Eldin – the video’s producer – claiming that:

Mohan: “…the news peg for it was a couple of months ago when the Israeli Supreme Court denied a petition to allow Palestinian children in incarceration to have phone calls with their parents.”

The Supreme Court did not ‘deny’ that petition from the political NGO HaMoked: it refused to discuss it because it had not been first submitted by an individual prisoner to a District Court.

After Mohan had claimed that the “conversation” had been “bubbling around” since the year 2000, Jones asked:

Jones: “And why are these children incarcerated in the first place?”

If listeners thought they were going to be given information about terror attacks and assaults on security personnel carried out by Palestinian minors, they would be disappointed.

Mohan: “So this is when you get into technical international law. So the West Bank as we call it is occupied territory which means there’s a…it’s the only place in the world where there’s a dedicated juvenile military court system that Israel says they have to impose because they are the occupiers. So it has to…so if it’s Palestinian children they have to put them through a military court procedure. However if it’s Israeli children they go through civilian procedure. However, the process that we found when we were out in the West Bank for these children being arrested – and when we say children we mean by international law so that’s under 18s: Generation Z – when they are being arrested, a number of the clauses from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – which is a legally binding human rights document that Israel is signatory to – a number of those clauses were failed. So things like being allowed to have translators, being allowed to have legal representation. A lot of the children we interviewed told us that wasn’t the case.”

Jones: “You did the video, which lots of people are watching online. You also did a radio piece as well. Let’s listen to a bit of that.”

Listeners then heard a clip presented by Mohan as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager was described as having spent “8 months in detention” and audiences heard her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before saying:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

As we noted earlier, apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to portray travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Mohan went on to claim that “what we wanted to do…was to just really stick to the legal aspect of this…” and that the ‘children’ she interviewed “were also speaking on a legal ground. They want the, you know, kind of right to defend themselves”.

Jones next asked “what did the Israeli authorities say about this?”.

Mohan: “They said that they don’t believe that they’ve broken any of the UNCRC rules and they said it’s not a perfect procedure but they, you know, they’re doing what they can.”

Jones: “Were you surprised by that?”

Mohan: “Ehm I…[laughs] was I personally surprised by that? Probably not.”

Jones: “And some of the people who…we were hearing there were being interrogated in Hebrew so they didn’t necessarily even know what was happening.”

Mohan: “They were made to sign confessions in Hebrew. So the interrogations were happening without lawyers for, in the case of Ahed Tamimi, over several days, several times but the confessions were in a language they couldn’t understand.”

In the video former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch clarified that the claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions “they couldn’t understand” is not true. That information was not communicated to listeners to this programme and as we see, Megha Mohan chose to repeat those unsubstantiated allegations anyway.

The BBC is clearly very keen to widely promote this report to its audiences even though it is based entirely on claims that the BBC has obviously not been able to independently verify made by a handful of teenagers convicted of acts of violence whom it is quite possible were put in contact with the BBC by the political NGO Addameer whose director was featured in the video.

But the BBC evidently has no intention of allowing facts to get in the way of the political narrative to which Yousef Eldin and Megha Mohan have self-conscripted.

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Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

On August 28th the BBC News website published a filmed report by the ‘Gender & Identity correspondent’ for the BBC World Service and BBC World, Megha Mohan. Others involved in the production of the eleven-minute video include Yousef Eldin and Ramallah-based Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring.

The report is titled “Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention”. The word ‘childhood’ is defined as the period of time between infancy and puberty. The people showcased in this film would be better described as adolescents and of course none of them spent their entire “childhood in Israeli military detention”. That sort of manipulation however is evident throughout the entire report.

The report’s synopsis promotes an unsubstantiated claim from unidentified “critics”. The likewise unidentified “human rights group” is HaMoked: a political NGO with a very limited definition of human rights which campaigns solely on behalf of Palestinians.

“Last month Israel’s Supreme Court refused to hear a petition by a human rights group demanding that Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails be allowed to telephone their parents.

The case cast a spotlight on children tried in military courts for crimes committed in the occupied West Bank. Israel is believed to be the only country that tries children that way. Critics have said the ill-treatment of detainees is widespread.”

The first of the “children” showcased by Mohan is Ahed Tamimi, whose case was vigorously promoted by the BBC last year. Showing footage from December 2017, Mohan tells viewers:

“It was this slap that made global headlines. Then sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi spent eight months in prison after it.”

Ahed Tamimi of course spent that time in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of assault, one count of incitement, and two counts of obstructing soldiers. BBC audiences were however once again led to believe that she was convicted for a “slap” and even though towards the end of the film (10:12) viewers were told that “the Israeli military told the BBC that Ahed Tamimi accepted a plea deal for a number of charges”, they were not told what those charges were and no information concerning the context of the grooming of Ahed Tamimi by her family of professional activists was provided.

Later on viewers heard that Tamimi “alleges that she was mistreated on several occasions following her arrest” and later still Tamimi told BBC audiences of ‘difficulties’ concerning sanitary pads. When interviewed by a Russian TV journalist a year ago, Tamimi told a different story.

“I did a lot of things: a legal course, we spent a lot of time on that, and matriculation exam studies; I read books; we would sing; we even had joint breakfasts of the entire wing – we would go outside, every room would bring its things, and we would eat together. We also ate lunch together most of the time. We also had parties; we would sit and sing, and dance. There were a lot of things that we did to pass the time: We watched TV, for example we jumped around in the rooms and did silly things; we did a lot of things.” 

Another of the cases highlighted by Mohan is presented as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager is described as having spent “8 months in detention” and viewers hear her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before she says:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

Apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to describe travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Neither in this nor any of the other showcased stories does the BBC offer viewers any information concerning the incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society which prompts teenagers to try to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.

Mohan does however tell viewers that:

“Israel is the only country in the world where children are prosecuted through a dedicated juvenile military court system. Israeli military law is applied to Palestinian children in the West Bank because it is under military occupation. Every year more than five hundred Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested by Israeli forces. Israel argues that the children it detains are threats to national security.”

As was noted here last July when similar claims were made on BBC World News TV:

“Of course if Palestinians accused of security offences were tried in Israeli civil courts, the BBC would be the first to be jumping up and down shouting ‘annexation!’ because that would mean that Israeli sovereignty had been extended to Judea & Samaria.”

Viewers hear Mohan claim that “it can take the family up to six hours to cross checkpoints” in order to visit their imprisoned son. The Beit Fajjar resident interviewed by Mohan states:

“The checkpoint. The issue is with the checkpoint. Searching, come forward, go backward, go there. And the machine beeps because of anything. It’s a mess. It’s exhausting, torture. As if we’re also detained.”

Viewers are at no point provided with an explanation of why checkpoints are needed and neither are they informed that until the Palestinians decided to conduct a terror war against Israel’s civilian population – the ‘intifada’ – those checkpoints did not exist.

One of the main interviewees in the report is Sahar Francis of ‘Addameer’ who is presented as follows:

Mohan: “Conversations involving Palestinian territories and Israel are polarising and emotive. Child detention especially so. But Saher [sic] Francis, a lawyer for Addameer – an organisation that advocates for Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank – says the issue is not just moral but legal.”

Viewers are told nothing of Addameer’s political agenda – or of its ties to a terror organisation proscribed by the UK. They do however get a generous dose of Francis’ falsehoods and propaganda.

Francis: “…arresting children is part of the whole system. When you raid a house after midnight in order to arrest a 14-year-old boy it’s not just against the boy himself. It’s against the whole family. Imagine the father and the mother that they cannot protect their son and they see their son is dragged out of his bed at night. I wouldn’t believe it’s about security; it’s about control. It’s about control and maintaining the oppression against the whole society. Especially children. It’s affecting a whole generation at the end of the day.”

Mohan goes on to assert that:

Mohan: “The most controversial form of incarceration is known as Administrative Detention. It allows the Israeli military to hold people without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence that is not shown to the detainee or their lawyer. The military says administrative detainees pose a threat to the national security and their cases are therefore classified.”

That of course is not an accurate or impartial portrayal of Administrative Detention (also used in other countries including the UK), which is only used in specific circumstances.

The report includes an interview with former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch who explains that:

“The military system is specifically for the Palestinians because that is the requirement of international law. Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention said given a breach of the criminal law, protected people – the Palestinians – can only be brought to justice before the military court.”

Hirsch also clarifies that the earlier claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions written in Hebrew is not true. As we see, that did not prevent the editors of this film from airing those allegations anyway.

Mohan then moves to another topic.

Mohan: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding international agreement that states that children should only be arrested as a last resort. Israel is a signatory. The law says children should not be held in shackles, have prompt access to a lawyer and translations and be treated with respect.”

The relevant articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (37 and 40) do not mention the word “shackles” at all. Mohan of course does not bother to inform viewers that the Palestinian Authority also became a signatory to that Convention in April 2014 and that Article 38 states:

“States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”

Regular readers may recall that last December the BBC’s ECU acknowledged that there is a “question” regarding “the extent to which this [the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child] can be described as “international law”” and the BBC claimed that it had “reminded” its journalists that “the reach of international law is not always as it is claimed and should be checked for accuracy”. Apparently Megha Mohan and her team did not receive that memo because she closes her report as follows:

Mohan: “Israel currently denies Palestinian children detained in the West Bank protections granted to Israeli children. Yet agreed international law states the same legal rights should apply to every person going through the judicial process. Especially those under the age of 18.”

As Maurice Hirsch had already explained, “Palestinian children” and “Israeli children” are not subject to the same “judicial process” because:

“Article 66 of the 4th Geneva Convention refers to the role of military courts in areas under military control. The article states that members of protected populations accused of crimes may only be brought before courts whose members have military status (and are subordinate to the military authorities).”

Nevertheless, Mohan’s claim is not justified, as explained here.

It is of course amply obvious that this highly partisan report falls into the category of journalistic activism and does not meet either supposed BBC standards of accuracy or impartiality or the corporation’s public purpose remit.

Related Articles:

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

BBC’s ECU acknowledges ‘international law’ inaccuracy

 

 

 

 

 

Inaccuracy left unchallenged and unedited on BBC R4 ‘Any Questions?’

BBC Radio 4 describes its programme ‘Any Questions?’ thus: [emphasis added]

“Any Questions? is the flagship political panel programme that goes out live on Friday evenings at 8pm on BBC Radio 4 (repeated on Saturday afternoons at 1.10pm). It was first broadcast in October 1948 and its current chair is Jonathan Dimbleby. Each week Any Questions? visits a different part of the country with a diverse panel of four speakers who answer questions from the audience. The programme provides the opportunity for people to challenge leading politicians, policy makers, writers and thinkers.”

The programme’s web page offers audiences the possibility of listening to past episodes – currently 521 of them – going back over a decade.

One would hence assume that the BBC would ensure that any issues arising which were not taken care of by means of the live show’s broadcast delay would be ironed out before the repeat airing and certainly before the recording was added to the archive of past episodes.  

Such issues might include what the BBC’s editorial guidelines call “a Serious Incident in a Live Broadcast” such as “offensive comments” or “factual errors”.

“If offensive comments are expressed during live interviews, the interviewer should normally intervene, challenge the comments where appropriate and/or distance the BBC from the comments. If this doesn’t happen we may need to consider making an on-air apology at the earliest opportunity. Potentially offensive comments include remarks that may be interpreted as, for example, racist, sexist, homophobic, prejudiced against a religious group, or reflecting an unflattering national stereotype. If offensive comments are made when, for example, football fans chant racist abuse we should consider making an on-air apology for broadcasting the comments.”

“If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.”

The edition of ‘Any Questions?’ which was broadcast on August 23rd and repeated on August 24th included the following question (from 34:28 here) from a member of the audience:

“Should we understand and learn the lessons of history rather than attempting to pay for them?”

Presenter Ritula Shah explained the background to that question:

Shah: “This of course follows the announcement that the University of Glasgow’s agreed to spend £20 million in reparations after finding out it benefited by tens of millions of pounds from the slave trade…”

The third of the programme’s panellists to respond to the question (from 37:24) was the Conservative MEP for South East England Daniel Hannan.

Hannan: “…I think it’s important to look at and learn from things but it’s also important to remember the basis of modernity, the basis of post-enlightenment civilisation, which is that every individual is responsible for himself and that we shouldn’t define people through membership of a group. We should all ultimately stand in defence of our own actions. It’s striking to me that when…very often the kind of people who say ‘well, you know, we need to have reparations or we need to have kind of collective identity on these things’, when the same argument is made in the case of…I dunno…eh…Israel flattening a Palestinian village as a collective punishment, they are quite rightly the first to say ‘well hang on; you don’t do collective guilt. It’s banned by the Geneva Conventions’. And they’re right the second time. So we should never lose sight of the fact that everyone is ultimately responsible for himself.” [emphasis added]

Neither Ritula Shah nor anyone else challenged that highlighted offensive and factually inaccurate statement at the time that it was made. The BBC allowed it to remain in situ in the repeat broadcast and it appears in the archived version of the programme which will be available on demand for a very long time to come, thus leading the BBC’s funding public to wrongly believe that Israel ‘flattens’ Palestinian villages “as a collective punishment”. 

Once again we see just how seriously the BBC takes its own editorial guidelines.  

Revisiting a BBC journalist’s claim about ‘Palestinian land’

Back in April 2013 we documented some less than impartial Tweets from the then BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Wyre Davies.

As was noted here at the time:

“The site of the Al Mahrour (also spelt Al Makhrour) restaurant is situated in Area C where, according to the Oslo accords signed willingly by the representatives of the Palestinian people, Israel has administrative and security control.

The restaurant was constructed without planning permission or the appropriate building permits and hence was the subject of a demolition order issued in 2005 and carried out in May 2012. The restaurant was then rebuilt – also illegally without the necessary planning permission or building permits. The restaurant’s owner/constructor was given the opportunity to appear before the planning committee of the Civil Administration. A second demolition order was issued and that was carried out on April 18th 2013. The electricity line to which Davies refers was also illegally connected.”

The story did not however end there. In late July the High Court of Justice handed down a ruling which – as the Times of Israel reported – brought a long legal battle to a close.

“Israeli security forces demolished a family’s home and restaurant near Bethlehem on Monday, ending a nearly 15 year-long legal battle against the Palestinian locals led by a subsidiary organization of KKL-JNF Jewish National Fund.

The razing of the Cassia family’s compound followed a High Court of Justice ruling last month that rejected the Palestinians’ last ditch petition against the demolition orders.

 The property, located between the villages of Battir and Beit Jala south of Jerusalem, are located in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel exercises civilian and military control.

The Cassia family claims to have owned the property for generations. To prove ownership, they provided Israeli authorities with a so-called malia document, which shows property tax payment from when Jordan controlled the West Bank.

However, the Defense Ministry on several occasions over the past two decades rejected their requests for building permits, saying the tax paper was not enough to prove ownership under Israeli law.

Nonetheless, the family went ahead and built on what long had been agricultural lands in 2005, constructing a large home as well as a restaurant and a farm. The Civil Administration – the Defense Ministry body that authorizes construction in Israel-controlled Area C of the West Bank, issued demolition orders and razed several structures in the decade and a half that followed, but the home and restaurant had remained standing as the Cassias fought the orders in court.

In 2017, Himanuta, a KKL-JNF branch organization known for purchasing lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, joined the state’s legal efforts against the Cassias, coming forward with documents showing that they purchased the land in 1969, which the court accepted as legitimate.”

In other words, Wyre Davies’ claim that the restaurant was located “on Palestinian land” has been shown to be inaccurate. That, however, is what happens when BBC correspondents make blanket assumptions based on a politically motivated narrative which inaccurately portrays all locations beyond the 1949 Armistice lines as “occupied” and “Palestinian”.  

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BBC News whitewashes one terror group, uncritically quotes another

Hot on the heels of some superficial BBC reporting on alleged Israeli strikes in Iraq, Syria and Beirut came another BBC News website report on August 26th with the headline “‘Israeli strikes’ target Palestinian group in Lebanon”.

That “Palestinian group” was no less euphemistically described as a “militant group” in the article’s opening lines.

“The Israeli military carried out air strikes on a Palestinian militant group backed by Syria’s government in eastern Lebanon overnight, Lebanese media say.

A position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command near Qusaya was hit, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The group responded with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire, it added.”

The PFLP-GC is listed as a terrorist organisation by several countries including the UK.

The BBC’s new editorial guidelines state that:

“11.2.6 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror, to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

Interestingly the article went on: [emphasis added]

“The National News Agency reported that Israel carried out three air strikes on the outskirts of Qusaya, a village in the Bekaa valley near the border with Syria, early on Monday.

A top official from the PFLP-GC told the BBC that a drone carried out the raid.

There were no reports of any casualties and the Israeli military did not comment.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“The PFLP-GC has been operating in Lebanon for decades and has close ties to the Syrian government, whose forces it has supported in the country’s eight-year civil war along with Hezbollah.”

In fact:

“During the Syrian civil war the PFLP-GC was operated by the Syrian army. Its fighters also enlisted in the ranks of the al-Quds Brigade. The organization’s main theater of operations was the al-Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus. Ahmed Jibril, interviewed by Syrian TV, said his organization had fought in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp although it had limited means. He said more than 100 of his fighters had been killed in combat and about 300 had been wounded (Syrian TV, June 10, 2013). His organization, and other Palestinian organizations operated by the Syrian regime in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp, were unsuccessful and most of the camp fell into the hands of ISIS.”

The report went on to quote a PFLP-GC official speaking to a Hizballah-linked media outlet:

“This aggression is a continuation of what happened in Beirut and a provocative attempt that is a direct reaction to Nasrallah’s statements,” Khaled Jibril, a PFLP-GC official, told al-Mayadeen TV.”

“What happened in Beirut” refers to an alleged incident the previous day. As was the case in the BBC’s previous reporting on that story, this article too gave generous but completely uncritical amplification to some far-fetched claims from Hizballah.

“On Sunday, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement accused Israel of trying to carry out a drone attack in Beirut.

After two drones came down in the capital, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said its fighters would shoot down any drones that entered Lebanese airspace. […]

Early on Sunday, two drones that the Lebanese army said were Israeli crashed in the southern Beirut district of Dahia, which is dominated by Hezbollah.

One of the drones hit a building that houses Hezbollah’s media office, while the other exploded and crashed nearby, causing material damage.

Again, no-one was injured and Israel declined to comment.

“What happened… was an attack with a suicide drone,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech later on Sunday. “This is the accurate description.”

The Hezbollah leader called it a “very, very, very dangerous development” and a “clear breach of the rules of engagement” established after the month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.”

The BBC of course did not bother to inform readers that under those so-called “rules of engagement” – i.e. UN SC resolution 1701 – there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” should have been implemented. Neither were readers told that Hizballah is funded and supplied with weapons (also in violation of that same UN resolution) by a foreign power.

The article continued with more uncritical amplification of quotes from Nasrallah’s speech as well as from the Lebanese president and prime minister (who are of course well aware that their country is held to ransom by the Iranian backed terror group) before unquestioningly promoting what the BBC undoubtedly knows to be a blatant falsehood from Nasrallah:

“Hassan Nasrallah also said the Israeli air strikes south-west of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Saturday had hit a Hezbollah rest house and not a military facility.”

The article closed with the BBC’s usual unnecessarily qualified portrayal of Iranian activities and more amplification of claims from Iranian assets in Iraq.

“Israel has been so concerned by what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” in Syria and shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah that it has conducted hundreds of air strikes in an attempt to thwart them since 2011.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the powerful Iranian-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilisation force again accused Israel of what it said was a drone attack near the Syrian border in Anbar province on Sunday that killed two of its members.”

In other words BBC audiences reading this article found a tepid and euphemistic portrayal of the PFLP-GC terror group along with uncritical repetition of unsubstantiated claims and utter falsehoods from the leader of another terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK government.

Quite how the BBC can claim that such coverage will “build people’s understanding” of the story is beyond belief.

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BBC editorial standards bypassed in Radio 4 framing of Iraq story

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy begin with a section titled ‘Gathering Material’.

“3.3.2 In news and current affairs content, achieving due accuracy is more important than speed.

3.3.3 We should try to witness events and gather information first-hand. Where this is not possible, we should talk to first-hand sources and, where practicable, corroborate their evidence.

3.3.4 We should be reluctant to rely on a single source. If we do rely on a single source, it should be credible, and a named, on-the-record source is always preferable.”

A later section titled “Material from Third Parties” states:

“3.3.13 Material supplied by third parties, including news providers, needs to be treated with appropriate caution, taking account of the reputation of the source.

We should normally only rely on an agency report if it can be substantiated by a BBC correspondent or if it is attributed to a reputable news agency.

We should only use other material supplied by third parties if it is credible and reliable.”

A sub-section titles “Sources” flags up criteria indicating the need for a “Mandatory Referral”: [emphasis added]

“Any proposal to rely on a single unnamed source making a serious allegation […] must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards and Programme Legal Advice, who will consider whether or not:

    • the story is of significant public interest 
    • the source is of proven credibility and reliability and in a position to have sufficient knowledge of the events featured
    • a serious allegation was made or substantiated off the record
    • a response to serious allegations has been sought”

And:

“When the allegations have not been independently corroborated, we should consider if it is appropriate to inform the audience.”

On August 22nd the New York Times published a report which claimed that:

“Two senior American officials…said that Israel had carried out several strikes in recent days on munitions storehouses for Iranian-backed groups in Iraq.”

The New York Times did not identify those “two senior American officials” or provide any information concerning their qualification to comment on the matter. It is therefore difficult to believe that the BBC could have ensured that “the source is of proven credibility and reliability and in a position to have sufficient knowledge of the events featured” or that the corporation ensured that the allegations made were “independently corroborated”.

Nevertheless, on August 23rd the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ aired an item which was introduced by presenter Ritula Shah (from 36:36 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Reports from US officials in American news outlets say that Israel carried out an air strike on a weapons depot in Iraq, which officials say is being used by Iran to move weapons to Syria. It appears to be a significant escalation in Israel’s campaign against what it sees as Iranian military assets in Iraq and could destabilise the country.”

Note the framing there: Radio 4 listeners are told that it would be any Israeli action to counter the transfer of weapons from Iran to Syria via Iraq which “could destabilise” the latter country rather than the transfer of weapons itself or the presence of Iranian assets in Iraqi militias.

Shah then introduced her sole interviewee – without clarifying that she is not a military correspondent – and while claiming that third hand statements – unverified by the BBC – from anonymous sources constitute “confirmation”.

Shah: “Let’s speak to Allison Kaplan Sommer who is a journalist at the Left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haretz [sic]. Ahm, just what does…what does this tell us that the confirmation of these air strikes have come from US sources?”

Towards the end of the nearly four and a half minute-long item, Shah returned to her earlier framing.

Shah: “…this is believed to be the first Israeli bombing in Iraq in nearly four decades. Do you think that this is a dangerous opening up of a new front?”

When this story first broke the BBC News website promoted unsubstantiated claims concerning Israeli involvement from an inadequately identified senior Iranian asset. The following day those claims were slightly walked back in another report.

Now we see the BBC using anonymous and uncorroborated claims published by another media outlet to promote the framing of the story it obviously wishes to amplify – with blatant disregard for its own editorial standards.

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