BBC News ‘contextualises’ terror attack with ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’

Roughly four hours after a terror attack took place near Dolev on August 23rd the BBC News website published a written report headlined “Israeli teenage girl killed in West Bank bomb attack” and a filmed report titled “West Bank bomb blast kills 17-year-old Israeli girl”.

The synopsis to the filmed report states: [all emphasis added]

“An Israeli teenage girl has been killed and her father and brother injured in a suspected Palestinian militant attack at a natural spring near a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military says an improvised explosive device was used.”

All four versions of the written report similarly opened by telling readers that:

“A 17-year-old Israeli girl has been killed in a bomb attack near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military says.”

A Tweet promoting the article used the same terminology:

“Israeli teenage girl killed in bomb attack near Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank

All four versions of the report also closed with the BBC’s standard but partial mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the story being reported.

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

In line with BBC editorial policy, the only mentions of the word terrorist came in direct quotes.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “harsh terrorist attack”. […]

“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists. We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.””

And:

“The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, tweeted that he was “heartbroken and outraged by the brutal terrorist attack”.”

All four versions of the written report included qualified references to a previous terror attack which the BBC failed to report at the time.

“Last Friday, two Israelis were injured near the settlement of Elazar in what police said was a car-ramming attack. The alleged assailant, a Palestinian man, was shot dead at the scene.”

Readers also saw a belated update concerning an earlier attack.

“Earlier this month, an off-duty Israeli soldier was stabbed to death near the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces subsequently arrested two Palestinian men in connection with the attack.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“In a speech in the Gaza Strip, the leader of the militant Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas praised the attack but did not say that it was behind it.”

They were not however informed that Haniyeh called the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl “a heroic attack” or that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad similarly described the attack on three Israeli civilians with an IED as “resistance”. 

Notably, the first two versions of the written report stated that the victim of this latest attack had been:

“…hiking with her brother and father near the Ein Bubin spring outside Dolev when an improvised explosive device was detonated.”

In the third version the names of Rina Shnerb’s brother and father were added:  

“…hiking with her brother Dvir and her father Eitan near a spring outside Dolev when an explosive device was detonated.”

That information corresponds with statements put out by officials investigating the incident.

“The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.”

However in the fourth and final version of the written report – the one that will remain as “permanent public record” on the BBC News website – the BBC amended its description from the active (“was detonated”) to the passive:

“Rina Shnerb had been hiking with her brother Dvir and her father Eitan near a natural spring outside Dolev when an improvised explosive device blew up.” 

The BBC’s refusal to describe such incidents as terrorism in its own words, along with its description of Palestinian terrorist organisations as “militants” and its editorial policy of promoting irrelevant and politically partial messaging concerning ‘international law’, as ever mars the accuracy and impartiality of its coverage of violent attacks against Israelis.   

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BBC reporting on Gush Etzion terror attack

On the morning of August 8th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel hunts killer of off-duty soldier in West Bank” on its ‘Middle East’ page. The report has since undergone various amendments but the headline and opening paragraph describing Dvir Sorek as an “off-duty soldier” even though he had yet to undergo any military training remain unchanged.

Unsurprisingly, the only use of the word ‘terrorist’ throughout the report came in direct quotes from the Israeli prime minister and an IDF spokesman.

One hundred and five of the report’s 414 words were given over to uncritical amplification of statements from a terrorist organisation.

“There has been no claim of responsibility for the killing, though a spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which rules the Gaza Strip, justified the attack.

“The Etzion [Jewish settlement bloc] Operation was as much as a response to the crimes of Occupation, the latest of which was the one committed at Wadi Hummus; it is also a response to the continued occupation of the Palestinian territory,” Hazem Qasim said.

He was referring to the recent demolition by Israel of Palestinian homes in the area of Wadi Hummus which Israel said were built illegally too close to the separation barrier in the West Bank.”

Towards the end of the report readers were told that:

“Cpl Sorek’s killing has echoes of the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the same area of the West Bank in 2014.

The murders of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, triggered a massive search in the West Bank, and eventually escalated into a conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The killers of the teenagers came from Hamas.”

As has been noted here on numerous other occasions in the past five years when the BBC has presented a similarly misleading portrayal of the background to Operation Protective Edge:

“…the BBC has completely airbrushed from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.”

A filmed report embedded into that article and also posted separately on the BBC News website described the victim as a soldier, without the term “off-duty”. While that portrayal is technically correct, it is also irrelevant seeing as the attacker would not have been aware of the fact that he had recently been recruited.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on the morning of August 8th were told in a news bulletin (from 2:07:04 here) that:

“An Israeli soldier has been found stabbed to death near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. The 18-year-old is thought to have been off-duty at the time of the attack near Hebron. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he was killed by a Palestinian.”

Once again the victim was described as a soldier even though the IDF spokesman had clarified that:

“The slain youth is a resident of Binyamin [in Samaria] and a yeshivah student in Migdal Oz. He had begun his recruitment into the IDF but had not yet served. He was still in the studying stage at the yeshivah.”

As for the BBC’s claim that the Israeli prime minister had, by 10 a.m. local time on August 8th, said that the victim was “killed by a Palestinian” – we have been unable to find anything on the prime minister’s social media accounts or in reports by the local media such as Ha’aretz, Ynet, the Jerusalem Post or the Times of Israel to support that BBC claim.  

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The BBC and definition of terrorism

Earlier this year we noted statements made by the BBC News Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed during a BBC Radio 4 interview about public criticism of the corporation’s reporting of the Christchurch terror attack. During that interview Ahmed claimed that:

“There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist.”

“…terrorism and a terror attack carry a huge amount of different opinions about when we should use that term…”

“There is no agreed definition of what a terrorist is. It is disputed.”

The introduction to Section 11 of the BBC’s new editorial guidelines – “War, Terror and Emergencies” – references the OFCOM Broadcasting Code:

“The BBC has a special responsibility to its UK and international audiences when reporting conflict including wars, acts of terror, sieges and other emergencies. People across the world access our services for trustworthy news and information. They expect us to provide context and analysis and to offer a wide range of views and opinions. We need to be scrupulous in applying due accuracy and impartiality [1] […]

[1] The sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relate to this are 3: Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse and 8: Privacy.”

Section 3 of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code – “Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse” – includes the following:

“Meaning of “terrorism”: see the definition in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is also summarised in Ofcom’s guidance to this section of the Code.”

Citing section 1 of the UK government’s Terrorism Act 2000 that guidance states:

““Terrorism” is the use or threat of action which:

    • involves serious violence against a person;
    • involves serious damage to property;
    • endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action;
    • creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; or
    • is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system,

where the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.”

While that definition of terrorism is not included in the OFCOM Broadcasting Code in relation to the issue of “use of language”, obviously the claim from the Editorial Director that the BBC only uses the term terrorist with attribution because “[t]here is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist” does not hold water.

As we see the UK government has defined terrorism and OFCOM has adopted that definition. The question therefore arising is why the BBC – to which the OFCOM Broadcasting Code applies in relation to television, radio and on-demand content – does not also use that same definition and thus bring an end to the long evident double standards in the language it uses when reporting terrorism.  

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BBC publishes new Editorial Guidelines

Back in October 2018 the BBC announced a public consultation on the topic of its Editorial Guidelines.

BBC Watch made a submission to that consultation and on July 8th we were informed that, following approval by the BBC Board, the revised Editorial Guidelines – available here – have been published and that they “will formally come into effect for all new output from Monday 15 July 2019”.

While much of the revised guidelines will seem familiar to those acquainted with the previous ones, there are nevertheless some points worthy of note.

Section 3 – Accuracy – includes a clause titled ‘Correcting Mistakes’.

“3.3.28 We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately. Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of unfairness. An effective way of correcting a serious factual error is saying what was wrong as well as putting it right. 

Mistakes in on-demand and online content

Where mistakes in our on-demand content, which is available online after broadcast, are unlikely to be a serious breach of editorial standards, a correction should be published on that platform, so that it is visible before the output is played. Such on-demand content does not then normally need to be changed or revoked.

Where mistakes to our on-demand content are likely to be considered a serious breach of editorial standards, the content must be corrected and the mistake acknowledged, or in exceptional cases removed. We need to be transparent about any changes made, unless there are editorial or legal reasons not to do so.  

In online text content, any mistake that alters the editorial meaning should normally be corrected and we should be transparent about what was wrong.” [emphasis added]

In relation to online content, BBC Watch pointed out in our submission to the consultation that:

“The addition of footnotes to clarify that a correction has been made is sporadic and lacks consistency. This procedure needs a serious review and overhaul: the purpose of a correction is, after all, to ensure that audiences get the correct information.  The BBC should be doing much more to ensure that is the case and improve its transparency.”

Section 4 – Impartiality – includes a clause headed ‘News, Current Affairs and Factual Output’.

“4.3.11 Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal opinions of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area. They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views on such matters publicly, including in any BBC-branded output or on personal blogs and social media.” [emphasis added]

The same section also has a clause titled ‘Contributors’ Affiliations’.

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.” [emphasis added]

The word funding did not appear in the draft proposal presented for consultation.

Section 11 – War, Terror and Emergencies – includes a clause titled ‘Accuracy and Impartiality’ which states:

“We should make it clear if our reports are censored or monitored or if we withhold information under duress, and explain, wherever possible, the conditions under which we are operating.”

That section was worded slightly differently in the draft proposal presented for consultation and in our submission BBC Watch related to it as follows:

“b) Section 11.3 Accuracy and Impartiality:

“We should normally say if our reports are censored or monitored or if we withhold information, and explain, wherever possible, the rules under which we are operating.”

This important clause would benefit from the addition of the words ‘and conditions’ after ‘rules’ – especially in relation to reporting from areas under the control of terror organisations such as the Gaza Strip.”

The same clause goes on:

“Reporters and correspondents must be aware that comments they make on social media accounts that relate to their BBC work may be perceived as having the same weight as a BBC report, so should bear in mind the requirement for due accuracy and impartiality at all times.”

Section 11 gives instructions on ‘Use of Language’ which are very similar to the previous ones.

“11.3.5 Our reporting of possible acts of terror should be timely and responsible, bearing in mind our requirement for due accuracy and impartiality. Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We should not use the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution.

11.3.6 The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber’, ‘attacker’, ‘gunman’, ‘kidnapper’, ‘insurgent’ and ‘militant’. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

BBC Watch’s submission noted that:

“It is obviously futile to reuse the same editorial guidelines which BBC journalists have been openly – and rightly – breaching for years in reports on terrorism in Europe and the UK. The issue of continuity in reporting acts of terror wherever they occur is clearly a major point which this draft guideline does not adequately address.”

One area in which the revised guidelines are somewhat clearer than the previous ones is ‘Conflicts of Interest’ and the accompanying guidance document on ‘Social Media’ is also relevant.

“All BBC activity on social media, whether it is ‘official’ BBC use or the personal use by BBC staff is subject to the Editorial Guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way that our on platform content is. […]

Social media platforms provide an invaluable opportunity for both BBC output and staff to share content and engage with others in an informal environment. But just as everything we do on our own platforms is informed by the Editorial Guidelines, so is all our activity on social media platforms – whether it is in a ‘professional’ or ‘personal’ or capacity. […]

Disclaimers written in biographies such as ‘my views not the BBC’s’ provide no defence against personal expressions of opinion on social media that may conflict with BBC guidelines.

Individuals involved in the production or presentation of any output in News or other factual areas that regularly deal with a range of public policy issues have a particular responsibility to avoid damaging the BBC’s impartiality.” [emphasis added]

Although these revised Editorial Guidelines clearly reflect an effort to make them more user-friendly and concise, as we pointed out in our submission:

“While the periodic revision and updating of editorial guidelines is obviously necessary, there is little point in expending so much publicly-funded effort if the end product is not adhered to by BBC staff and enforced by the BBC itself. Sadly, our experience shows that is all too often not the case.”  

Whether or not the new guidelines will indeed be effective of course remains to be seen.

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Are BBC guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ about to get worse?

Citing “well-placed BBC sources”, the Daily Mail recently reported that the BBC intends to place “an effective ban on journalists using the word ‘terror’”.

“Reporters will be told to avoid using the word to describe any terror attack, unless they are quoting someone else.

Instead, they will refer to terror attacks by naming specific details, such as the location and the method of slaughter used.”

The article went on:

“But yesterday, MPs and experts accused the broadcaster of ‘failing in its public service duty’.

David Green, a former Home Office adviser and chief executive of the think tank Civitas, said: ‘If they don’t want to use that [the word terror] then they’re failing in their public service duty which is to be clear and accurate. […]

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘They are terrorists and these are terror attacks. The BBC should not try to sanitise the behaviour of terrorists by not calling it out.’”

Readers were also told that:

“Many BBC reporters are angered by the decision, which will come into force when the BBC’s new editorial guidelines are published this month. 

A source said: ‘The end result is a desire to squeeze the word terror out altogether, which many people think is nuts.’”

The Daily Mail noted that:

“According to well-placed BBC sources, bosses are eager to report terror attacks consistently, regardless of the terrorists’ political ideology. But instead of branding them all as terror attacks and risk accusations of bias, it wants to avoid the word altogether.

A senior news source said: ‘It boils down to that phrase, ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’.”

And:

“A BBC spokesman said: ‘People should wait to read the editorial guidelines.’”

Last autumn the BBC announced a public consultation on those proposed new editorial guidelines. The section of the new guidelines concerning ‘War,Terror and Emergencies’ – ‘use of language’ includes the following:

Section 11.3.5:

“Our reporting of possible acts of terror should be timely and responsible, bearing in mind our requirement for due accuracy and impartiality. Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We try to avoid the use of the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution. When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

Section 11.3.6:

“The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber’, ‘attacker’, ‘gunman’, ‘kidnapper’, ‘insurgent’ and ‘militant’. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

That approach is of course already evident in the existing BBC editorial guidelines – ironically titled “Terrorism: Language when Reporting Terrorism” – as BBC Watch pointed out in our submission to that consultation:

“This does not differ from existing editorial guidelines which have repeatedly been shown to be redundant. The BBC regularly does use the words terror, terrorist and terrorism when reporting on incidents in specific geographic areas – particularly Europe and the UK – or when British nationals are among the victims and indeed it would be ridiculous not to do so.

However, the BBC never uses the words terror, terrorism or terrorist (except in direct quotes from Israeli officials) when reporting similar attacks perpetrated against Israelis.

The responses received from the BBC when that issue has been raised by members of the public have been highly unsatisfactory.

Moreover, the BBC has used the term terrorist when reporting attacks by Jews on Palestinians.

These double standards are highly offensive and their roots are clearly to be found in political judgments of the kind the editorial guideline professes to seek to avoid. At present the BBC’s approach to the topic of terrorism does not distinguish between method and aims, means and ends. The result of that is that when a perceived cause is considered acceptable and justifiable, the description of the act is adjusted accordingly.

It is obviously futile to reuse the same editorial guidelines which BBC journalists have been openly – and rightly – breaching for years in reports on terrorism in Europe and the UK. The issue of continuity in reporting acts of terror wherever they occur is clearly a major point which this draft guideline does not adequately address.”

If the Daily Mail’s report is accurate, however, it would appear that rather than addressing the core issue of that ‘one man’s terrorist’ myth – i.e. distinguishing between means and aims – the BBC is about to damage its reputation for accuracy and impartiality even further by expanding the policy it already uses when reporting Palestinian attacks against Israelis to include other locations too. 

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BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

Just after 9 p.m. UK time on the evening of May 4th BBC World Service radio aired an edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ which led (from 00:11 here) with a report described on its webpage as “Three dead in Gaza as Israel retaliates after a serious escalation of Palestinian rocket attacks which cause injuries in Israel”.

Both presenter Julian Marshall and reporter Tom Bateman initially refrained from telling listeners who was responsible for the rocket fire against Israeli civilians and promoted a sense of false equivalence.  

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “There’s been a serious outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. There’ve been fatalities and injuries after scores of rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Predictably, Bateman avoided the use of the word terror throughout his report, even inaccurately claiming that the IDF describes its targets “as militants sites”.

Bateman: “Well on Saturday morning there was a barrage of rockets that were unleashed from the Gaza Strip into Israel. At that stage around 90 rockets according to the Israeli military. Many of those were shot down – dozens according to the Israelis – but that salvo went on for hours. As Israel responded with tank and air strikes across the Gaza Strip, now there’s been a day of heavy exchanges of fire and this evening the Palestinian ministry of health said that a 14-month-old girl was killed in an air strike in the east of the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military has said that it has no information on that but it says that it only targets…ah…what it describes as militant sites in the Gaza Strip. Before that a 22-year-old man killed in an Israeli air strike in the north of the Strip. While those rocket salvos continued, some hit homes in towns in southern Israel and there were 2 people wounded, one of them seriously: an 80-year-old woman who was hit by shrapnel.”

As usual Bateman failed to inform listeners that by the “Palestinian ministry of health” he in fact means the same terrorist organisation launching those rockets at civilian targets. Three quarters of an hour before Bateman’s report was aired an IDF spokesman had already noted that “According to indications, the infant and her mother were killed as a result of terrorist activities […] and not as a result of an Israeli raid” and as we see, Bateman was obviously aware that the Hamas claim he chose to promote may be less than watertight. Neither had he apparently bothered to clarify whether or not the “22-year-old man killed” was in fact part of a rocket-launching squad.

Marshall: “I mean clearly any loss of life, any casualties are to be regretted but with so many rockets fired, Tom, it does seem that there was a relatively low loss of life.”

Rather than explaining to listeners how Israelis defend themselves in such circumstances, Bateman went on to promote the bizarre notion that rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terror groups are a relatively recent phenomenon and one that “we’ve become used to”.

Bateman: “These exchanges of fire have been something we’ve become used to over the last year. And they have varied in their magnitude. There have been serious casualties in the past, others have taken place with fewer casualties and what we’ve seen I think in the previous exchanges of fire like this is that rockets might be fired in the periphery of the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, not going further afield and Israel responding largely with strikes on Hamas militant sites that have been evacuated. Things have become more serious with this turn of events and it follows what happened on Friday which was a Palestinian sniper shooting at 2 Israeli soldiers during these weekly protests that have been taking place at the Gaza perimeter fence. Those two soldiers were wounded. Israel then responded by hitting a Hamas militant post, killing two of those militants. A further two Palestinians were then killed by Israeli fire in the protests. Already by Friday night there was a fairly serious escalation and that was then followed, as I say, by the barrage of rockets from Gaza on Saturday morning.”

Marshall: “Has any group in Gaza said that they carried out…ehm…some or all of these attacks?”

Bateman went on to uncritically amplify a Hamas statement.

Bateman: “Hamas is the militant group that controls the Strip and it was clear from the outset…they said that they would respond to what they described as the aggression by Israel yesterday that led to the deaths of two of its militants. But the other significant group in the Strip is Islamic Jihad; another smaller militant group that is thought to be behind some of the recent fire from Gaza in the recent months towards Israel. As things stand at the moment it looks as though these hostilities are going to continue despite the ongoing attempts by the United Nations and also by Egyptian intelligence to try and broker a calm between the two sides. And those efforts have been going on for many months but what we see at intervals like this is how quickly and easily that can be shattered.”

Three hours later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ heard another report from Bateman. By that time COGAT had also clarified that the child and the person initially mistakenly described as her mother had been killed by a shortfall rocket fired by Gaza Strip based terrorists. Nevertheless, Radio 4 listeners were told that:

[00:30] Newsreader: “A mother and her baby have died after Israeli forces launched attacks on the Gaza Strip in response to hundreds of rockets being fired by Palestinian militants.”

[07:46] Newsreader: “Israel says around 200 rockets have been fired into the south of the country from Gaza by Palestinian militants, wounding two people. Israel launched air strikes and tank fire in response. Palestinian officials said four people including a mother and her baby were killed. Israel has closed both crossings into Gaza. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns as a barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza. Israel shot down dozens of them before [sic] its tanks and war planes targeted militant sites in the Strip. This evening the Palestinian health ministry said a 14-month-old girl was killed in an airstrike. A 22-year-old Palestinian man died in a separate strike earlier. During hours of rocket fire two Israelis – one of them an 80-year-old woman – were injured after being hit by shrapnel. This latest flare-up follows months of tensions between Israel and Gaza based militants who demand an easing of the crippling blockade which Israel says is needed to stop weapons getting in. Israel demands calm on the boundary after more than a year of Palestinian protests at the perimeter fence. The rocket salvo coincided with the funerals of two Hamas militants killed yesterday in an Israeli air strike: retaliation – Israel said – for the wounding of two Israeli soldiers who were shot by a Palestinian gunman. It marks yet another ratcheting-up of hostilities, despite repeated attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term truce.”

Once again Bateman failed to clarify that “the Palestinian health ministry” is in fact controlled by the Hamas terrorist organisation and listeners heard nothing about the shortfall rocket or the circumstances in which the other two of the “four people” were killed.

“In addition, the ministry said two Palestinian men were killed in Israeli strikes Saturday: Imad Muhammad Nasir, 22, and Khaled Mohammed Abu Qliq 25.

The latter was reportedly killed in an airstrike as he and several other men were launching rockets at Israel.”

Yet again too we see Bateman conforming to BBC editorial policy by euphemistically describing violent rioting during which IEDs were thrown, infiltrations attempted and a sniper fired at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border as “protests”.

Given the BBC’s previous experiences of jumping to insufficiently verified conclusions regarding the circumstances of the deaths of small children and women in the Gaza Strip, one would have thought that lessons would have been learned and caution – especially in relation to claims from a terrorist organisation hiding behind a ‘health ministry’ mask – would be applied.

Obviously that is not the case.

Related Articles:

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BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story 

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

 

 

 

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

Those who have been following the BBC’s coverage of the recent attack at a synagogue near San Diego may have noticed that the sole use of the word terrorist appears in a quote from the wounded Rabbi in one of the BBC’s reports. A programme aired last month casts some light on related editorial policy. 

The March 22nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ included an item (from 1:03 here) concerning criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the previous week. Presenter Roger Bolton spoke with the BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed and from 5:20 the conversation turned to “the use of the word terrorism”. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Bolton: “Should the BBC have used the term ‘terrorist attack’ instead of ‘shooting’?”

Ahmed: “On the issue of terror and terrorism our guidance is clear. There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist. If we use the word we want to attribute it and we attributed it correctly to the New Zealand prime minister…”

Bolton: “What our listeners come back and say, and quite forcibly, if this had been conducted by Islamists you would have called it terrorism. Because it was conducted by someone who is not, you’re more reluctant to apply the term terrorism.”

Ahmed: “We went through a long list of other headlines and how we had covered other atrocities like the London Bridge attack, like the Westminster attack, like the Manchester concert attack. Because terrorism and a terror attack carry a huge amount of different opinions about when we should use that term, we need to explain what happened first, as I say…”

Bolton: “You say that straightforwardly but for some reason – the audience largely I think does not understand this – you are reluctant to use the word terror. Clearly one of their aims is not just to kill people but to gain publicity and to create a sense of terror.”

Ahmed: “There is no agreed definition of what a terrorist is. It is disputed.”

Bolton: “So does that mean we will never use it independently?”

Ahmed: “No, there is no ban on any use of words in the BBC…”

Bolton: “So would you use the expression without attributing it to somebody?”

Ahmed: “We have very clear guidelines that the use of the word is surrounded by all sorts of complications and actually confuses the issue.”

Bolton: “So it’s something you are reluctant to use, that term. Does that mean your instruction to those who write scripts and so on is avoid using the word terrorism?”

Ahmed: “Not at all. Not at all.”

Bolton: “I still don’t understand when you think it would be suitable to use it other than when you’re attributing it to someone else.”

Ahmed: “I think, Roger, we’re trying to get down to a kind of precise definition which we’re not going to get to. We want to be consistent. One of your listeners said that it was because we were worried about inflaming the masses. That is not the issue. These are live discussions. These are delicate, complicated areas which we discuss with colleagues throughout. But we’re very clear: the most important point is that audiences understand what has happened.”

Roger Bolton is of course understandably confused by the BBC’s approach to the issue because despite Ahmed’s claim that the BBC wants “to be consistent”, it is anything but.

Just over a month before the New Zealand attacks the BBC News website had once again described the 2015 attacks against mainly British tourists in Tunisia as terror.

The 2017 Westminster Bridge incident mentioned by Ahmed was described from the outset by the BBC as terrorism and the term has been used in reports on the Manchester and London Bridge attacks.  

Attacks in Barcelona, Stockholm, NiceBerlinBrussels and Paris have been reported using the term terrorism while attacks in Egypt – and of course Israel – have not.

Notably among the BBC reports tagged ‘Christchurch mosque shootings’ is an article headlined “Far-right terror poses ‘biggest threat’ to north of England”.

Kamal Ahmed is of course not the first senior BBC journalist to defend the corporation’s double standards on language when reporting terrorism but his claim that “there is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist” is weakened by the fact that when it has wanted to, the BBC has found just such a definition.

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BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

 

 

 

 

 

Another BBC absurd on ‘language when reporting terrorism’

In January 2018 we noted that in a report about the Israeli TV drama series ‘Fauda’:

“…the BBC has expanded its selectively applied guidance on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ to apply even to reporting on fictional Palestinian characters in a TV drama show. Can it get any more ridiculous?”

The April 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Fauda’s co-creator Avi Issacharoff (from 2:45:13 here) during which presenter Martha Kearney posed the following question: [emphasis added]

Kearney: “And do you try to challenge the audiences on both sides of this very divided…eh…territory in terms of the…you have people – Palestinians – who’ve been carrying out actions that could be described as terrorists and Israeli special forces out of control so both…both sides are challenged.”

Yes, the BBC’s controversial policy on ‘language when reporting on terrorism’ continues to influence even items concerning a TV drama.

Related Articles:

BBC reports on fictional counter-terrorism but not the real thing

 

BBC unquestioningly amplifies unsubstantiated Hamas claims

Early on the evening of March 25th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house”. Since its initial appearance the article has undergone amendment twelve times. The latest version (at the time of writing) gives readers mostly reasonable portrayal of events but a few points are nevertheless noteworthy.

On two occasions the report refers to “Gaza’s health ministry”.

“Gaza’s health ministry said seven Palestinians were injured.”

“The IDF said, in response to the rocket fire, fighter jets and helicopters struck 15 targets in Gaza, including a Hamas military compound in the central town of Deir al-Balah. Gaza’s health ministry did not report any casualties as a result of those strikes.”

Interestingly, several previous versions of the report had accurately referred to “the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry” but the obviously relevant fact that the body reporting injuries and casualties is the same body firing the rockets and mortars was curiously erased from the final version of the article set to remain online.

While people who deliberately attack civilian targets are clearly terrorists, the BBC – as usual – could not bring itself to use that term in this report. [emphasis added]

Militants later launched a barrage of rockets towards southern Israeli towns despite reports of a ceasefire, triggering further Israeli strikes.”

“So far no Palestinian militant group has said it fired the long-range rocket that hit the house in Mishmeret, north of Tel Aviv, on Monday morning.”

“Overnight, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 60 rockets and mortars towards Israel, according to the IDF.”

And so, as ever, we see the BBC using the euphemism ‘militants’ because it considers it more important to avoid making “value judgements” about terrorists who target sleeping Israeli civilians with military grade mortars and rockets than to inform its audiences by means of precise and appropriate language.

Right at the end of the final version of this report, readers find a section sub-headed “What did Israel strike in response?”.

“The targets included the office of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniya in Gaza City’s Rimal district. There was no indication that Mr Haniya was inside at the time.

The IDF also said it had bombed a five-storey building in Gaza City housing the offices of Hamas’ Internal Security Service, and a three-storey building in the eastern Sabra district that was the “secret headquarters” of Hamas’s General Security Forces, as well as its General Intelligence and Military Intelligence agencies.”

Finally, readers were told that:

“A Hamas website, The Palestinian Information Center, said blocks of flats, civilian facilities, agricultural land and “resistance sites” had been targeted.”

In other words, the BBC chose to close this report with unquestioning amplification of unsubstantiated claims of Israeli attacks on non-military targets sourced from a website run by a terrorist organisation.

Quite how that meets the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards” is of course a mystery.  

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Improved BBC News website reporting on Sharon rocket attack

 

 

 

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

A report titled “Hezbollah to be added to UK list of terrorist organisations” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on the afternoon of February 25th.

“The UK Parliament is set to pass new rules classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Parts of the Lebanese organisation have been proscribed since 2001, with its military wing banned since 2008.

UK authorities say they are no longer able to distinguish between the group’s military and political wings.

The changes are expected to take force from Friday, after which supporting Hezbollah will be an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Hezbollah – translated as the Party of God – is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in Lebanon.”

Once again BBC audiences saw the terror group described as being “backed by Iran”.

“The group, which is backed by Iran, has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in battles against predominantly Sunni Muslim rebel forces and the jihadist Islamic State group.”

That euphemistic portrayal obviously does not contribute to audience understanding of the fact that Iran funds its proxy in Lebanon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Later on readers found another statement seen frequently in previous BBC content.

“Hezbollah was formed as a resistance movement during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in the early 1980s.”

The origins of Hizballah actually pre-date the First Lebanon War of June 1982. As the FDD’s Tony Badran has written:

“The big bang theory of Hezbollah that puts the Israeli occupation at the alpha point is based not in fact but in legend​—​it’s an Israel-centric myth that makes the Jewish state Hezbollah’s motivation and prime mover. In reality, the story of Hezbollah’s origins is a story about Iran, featuring the anti-shah revolutionaries active in Lebanon in the 1970s, years before Israel’s intervention.”

Readers are told that:

“Mr Javid’s Israeli counterpart Gilad Erdan welcomed the decision on Twitter and called on the EU to follow suit.”

The Ministry of Public Security which Mr Erdan currently heads is not the equivalent of the UK Home Office and is not the body which designates terror organisations. In Israel that function is the responsibility of the Minister of Defence.

The report also promotes some debatable interpretations of the Home Secretary’s decision from the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent.

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has spent years cultivating the myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah and downplaying the fact that it is a terrorist organisation through use of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group” or “Lebanese political and military group”.

While we may now expect to see less of the notion of different ‘wings’ of Hizballah in BBC content, it is unlikely that the UK government’s decision to proscribe the whole organisation as a terrorist entity will prompt the BBC to abandon its use of unhelpful terminology such as the phrase “militant group” – as seen in this latest report.

Related Articles:

BBC News disregards al Quds Day hate in London once again

BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

BBC News promotes Hizballah’s lexicon and a false narrative