Revisiting the BBC’s policy on naming and personalising victims of terror

Earlier this month the trial of one of the two terrorists who carried out an attack on a Jerusalem bus last October in which three Israelis were murdered and dozens injured came to a close.

“A Jerusalem court on Monday sentenced an East Jerusalem terrorist to three consecutive life sentences and an additional 60 years in prison for killing three people in an attack on a bus in the capital last October.

Last month, Bilal Abu Ghanem was convicted of three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and aiding the enemy in wartime for his role in killing three people in a terror attack on a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.”

As readers may recall the BBC News website reported the murders of Chaim Haviv and Alon Govberg but did not name them or provide any other personal details. The death of a third victim of the same bus attack – Richard Lakin – two weeks later did not receive any BBC coverage at all.

In another trial this month:

“A Palestinian man who stabbed two Israelis to death in Tel Aviv last year was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday on two counts of murder and three of attempted murder after confessing to the charges.

Raed Masalmeh, 36, a father of five from the Hebron-area town of Dura in the West Bank, previously pleaded not guilty to murdering Reuven Aviram and Aharon Yesiav in a Tel Aviv office building synagogue on November 19, 2015.”

The BBC News website reported that attack, together with another one on the same day, but once again the victims were not named. There has been no BBC reporting on either of these trials.Istanbul attack victims

After last November’s terror attacks in Paris, the BBC News website produced an article paying tribute to the people murdered and that practice of naming, personalising and humanising victims of terror attacks has since continued.

BBC audiences have learned about victims of the March 2016 attack at Brussels airport and the June 2016 attacks in Orlando and at Istanbul airport. In July 2016 the BBC News website made efforts to personalise victims of terror in Baghdad, in Kabul, in Nice and in Munich. Five policemen killed in a shooting attack in Dallas were the subject of an article titled “Dallas police shootings: Who are the victims?“.

However, for BBC audiences the vast majority of terror victims in Israel remain faceless and in very many cases such as those noted above, even nameless.  

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BBC News puts words in the Turkish president’s mouth

The BBC News website’s main article about the June 28th terror attack in Turkey – “Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 41 dead and more than 230 hurt” – includes the following:

Erdogan statement

Interestingly, two earlier versions of the article informed readers that:

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack, calling for a “joint fight” against terrorism.”

The word ‘terrorism’ was then removed and the article was amended to read as above.

So did the Turkish president really use the BBC favoured euphemistic terminology “militant groups” just hours after his country (and its important tourism industry) had been hit by a major terror attack?

Not according to the Guardian:

“President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on all governments, especially in the west, to join forces in taking a “firm stand against terror”.

“The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world. Make no mistake: for terrorist organisations there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome.

“Unless all government and the entire mankind join forces in the fight against terrorism, much worse things than what we fear to imagine today will come true.””

And not according to the New York Times:

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that the bombing came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and he called for global unity in the fight against terrorism.

“Despite paying a heavy price, Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end,” Mr. Erdogan said in a statement.

Mr. Erdogan added: “The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world. Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago, or Antalya and Rome.””

And not according to Reuters:

“President Tayyip Erdogan said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against terrorism, which he said had “no regard for faith or values”.”Istanbul attack main art

But maybe all three of those media organisations (and many others) got it wrong and – as claimed by the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” – Erdogan really did use the term “militant groups”? The answer to that can be found at the official website of the Turkish presidency.

“…President Erdoğan said: “However, I would like to remind that today’s attack targeted not only 79 million Turkish citizens but also 7.5 billion human beings around the world. Due to the treacherous nature of terrorism, the bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world. Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome. Unless all government and the entire mankind join forces in the fight against terrorism, much worse things than what we fear to imagine today will come true.”

“I hope the Ataturk Airport attack will serve as a turning point in the world, particularly for the Western countries, for a joint struggle against terror organizations,” President Erdoğan said…” 

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on Language when Reporting Terrorism specifically state:

“…we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves”

Will the BBC justify its patent distortion of the Turkish president’s comments (which, incidentally, led to the word ‘terror’ being completely absent from this entire report after an earlier reference to ‘a terrorist’ in a quote from the Turkish Justice minister was also removed) by claiming that it was not quoting him directly, but paraphrasing his remarks?

Resources:

BBC News website contact details

 

BBC News confusion on number of Israelis killed in Istanbul terror attack

Despite the fact that those killed in the terror attack in Istanbul on March 19th came from Middle Eastern countries, the BBC News website’s article on the subject was not posted on its Middle East page.

Europe pge 20 3

The latest version of the BBC News website’s main report which appeared on its ‘Europe’ page throughout Saturday and most of Sunday – “Istanbul shopping area hit by suicide bomber” – tells readers that two Israelis were murdered in the attack.Istanbul attack

“A suicide bomb attack at a busy shopping area in the Turkish city of Istanbul has killed at least four people, officials say.

They include two Israelis with dual US nationality, and an Iranian. Another 36 were injured in the blast near a government building. […]

Eleven Israelis were among the injured. Two Irish citizens, one national each from Germany, Iceland, Dubai and Iran were also injured.”

Curiously, earlier versions of the report were more accurate but were later amended.

“A suicide bomb attack at a busy shopping area in the Turkish city of Istanbul has killed at least four people, officials say.

Three Israelis and an Iranian died, Turkish media reports. Another 36 people were injured in the blast near a government building on Istiklal Street.”

A follow-up report which appeared on the website’s Europe and Middle East pages on the afternoon of March 20th under the title “Turkey blames Islamic State for Istanbul bombing” shows that the BBC knows that three Israelis were murdered in that attack and is also aware of the operation to bring their bodies back to Israel for burial together with the additional eleven wounded Israelis.

“Three Israelis – two with Israeli-US nationality – and an Iranian died in the attack. Another 36 were injured.

Eleven Israelis were among the injured. Two Irish citizens, one national each from Germany, Iceland, Dubai and Iran were also injured.

The coffins of the Israeli nationals were being flown out on Sunday. The Israeli government advised its citizens to avoid Turkey.”

However, the previous inaccurate report remains online uncorrected.

BBC reporting on the ISIS terror attack in Paris last November included personal details of victims and survivors’ stories which – as can be seen in the above screenshot of the March 20th  ‘Europe’ page – were republished following the recent capture of a suspect in connection with that attack.

The name of one of the Israelis murdered in the ISIS attack in Istanbul – Simha Dimri aged 60 from Dimona – was released on the evening of March 19th and the other two victims – Yonathan Suher aged 40 from Tel Aviv and Avraham Goldman aged 69 from Herzliya – were named on the morning of March 20th. Neither of the BBC’s two reports includes any personalising details of the four people killed in that attack.  

Related Articles:

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

 

BBC shields audiences from antisemitism in Istanbul

On November 6th 2012, a Turkish court began its show trial of four former commanders of the Israeli security forces – in absentia – for their supposed role in the Mavi Marmara incident of May 2010. 

As was pointed out by a representative from the MFA:

“The so-called accused were not even informed or served or notified that they were going to be charged, which makes this one big puppet show” 

That fact is not reported in the BBC’s account of the opening of the obviously politically motivated trial, the eventual outcome of which is predictable to say the least.  In fact, the BBC article on the subject lends entirely unwarranted gravity and legitimacy to the proceedings. 

The BBC article also fails to relate in any way whatsoever to the antisemitic spectacle which went on outside the court on the first day of the ‘trial’ and which was obviously tolerated – if not encouraged – by the Turkish authorities.  

Under the EUMC Working Definition of antisemitism, one of its manifestations is:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”

Gaza flotilla trial in Turkey

Protest in Turkey

Kahrolsun “Israil” translates as “Damn Israel”

In addition, the BBC fails to mention the involvement of the body which co-organised the 2010 flotilla (among others) – the terror connected Turkish organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi, also known as the IHH, and fails to inform its readers of the close connections between that organisation and the Turkish government, its long history of anti-Israel incitement and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for which its leader has quite a penchant. 

IHH display outside the court in Istanbul

According to this report and others:

“Several hundred people, many wearing the Arab keffiyeh headscarf around their necks adorned with the Turkish and Palestinian flags, crowded outside the courthouse as witnesses and relatives of those killed in the raid began to arrive.

“Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!” the crowd chanted as others held up a banner with the words: “What is the difference? Hitler = Israel.”

On a board erected outside the courthouse by IHH, the Islamic humanitarian agency that owns the Mavi Marmara, protesters scribbled the slogans: “Israel, your end is near”, “Down with Israel”, “The revenge of our martyrs will be bitter”.”

The IHH vice president, Huseiyn Oruc, himself a passenger on the Mavi Marmara and among the organisers of the 2011 flotilla and the 2012 Global March to Jerusalem  has been giving interviews on the subject of the ‘trial’. According to him: 

” “Turkey is the first country in the world that will take the unlawful Israeli actions to court.” He further called the trial “a very significant case because today will mark the day that the untouchable image of Israel will be damaged.”

“Referring to the case pending at the International Criminal Court upon the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) September 2010 report, which described Israel’s actions as “crimes against humanity,” Oruç claims that Israel “has been putting political pressure on the international courts” and the international community is waiting for the outcome of the trial in Turkey.” “

The political nature of the trial is further highlighted by the report that:

“…the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and a parliamentarian from France’s Greens Party will send observers to İstanbul and a group of orphans from Gaza will also be at the court.”

But the antisemitism on the streets of Istanbul is not the only manifestation of anti-Jewish racism to be airbrushed out of the information provided by the BBC on this ‘trial’. Below the article appear links to additional background reading and information.

In the name of accuracy and impartiality, it would of course be proper for the BBC to update its anodyne profile of the Free Gaza Movement to include the recent display of blatant antisemitism by its leader Greta Berlin, who is quoted in the BBC profile. So far – over a month after the incident – that has not been done.

One cannot, it is to be hoped, imagine the BBC ignoring public displays of homophobia or racism against people of colour outside an obviously politically motived show trial enabled and promoted by a group which campaigned against gays or black people, even if that group did insert the words ‘human rights’ into its title. 

It is precisely this sort of display of double standards which tarnishes the BBC’s reputation.