BBC Watch prompts correction to BBC Sport report

As documented here last week, on January 27th  the BBC Sport website published an article titled “World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event” which also appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Asia’ pages.

The article originally presented the background to the story thus:

“Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, banned the athletes because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.

The Israeli foreign ministry condemned the decision and accused Malaysia of anti-Semitism.”

However, as noted here at the time, the foreign ministry’s statement actually referred to the antisemitism of Malaysia’s prime minister rather than the country as a whole:

“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit. Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s PM Mahathir [Mohamad]’s rabid anti-Semitism,” the ministry said in a statement. “We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that point and the response received reads as follows:

“Thank you for getting in touch about the BBC Sport article ‘World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event’.

We’ve raised your concerns with the BBC Sport website editors, who have reviewed your complaint and the article in question. They have now changed the article, and sincerely apologise for the error.

Many thanks once again for bringing this to our attention.”

The inaccurate claim has now been removed from the relevant section of the report.

Before

After

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BBC Sport wakes up to Malaysia sports discrimination story

On January 27th BBC Sport reported on a development in a story it had previously ignored for over two weeks. As well as appearing on the BBC Sport website, the article titled “World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event” was also published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Asia’ pages.

“Malaysia has been stripped of hosting the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships for refusing to let Israelis compete, says the International Paralympic Committee. […]

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new championships host,” said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons.

“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination.””

BBC Sport reported the background to the story thus:

“Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, banned the athletes because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.

The Israeli foreign ministry condemned the decision and accused Malaysia of anti-Semitism.”

The foreign ministry’s statement actually referred to the antisemitism of Malaysia’s prime minister rather than the country as a whole:

“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit. Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s PM Mahathir [Mohamad]’s rabid anti-Semitism,” the ministry said in a statement. “We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event.”

The BBC Sport report continued:

“Mahathir Mohamad – who gave an interview to the BBC’s HARDtalk programme in October – became the country’s new prime minister last May and has been criticised for holding anti-Semitic views.

Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s minister of youth and sports, has defended his country’s decision.

He told the BBC last week that Malaysia would have “lost our moral conscience and moral compass” if hosting an international sporting event was “more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated [sic] time after time again”.”

A clip from that ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Syed Saddiq was embedded at the top of the BBC Sport report. The same clip had been promoted separately on the BBC News website four days earlier.

“Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq, has defended his country’s decision to ban Israeli Paralympic swimmers from participating in the World Para Swimming Championships, due to be held in Malaysia in July.

He told BBC Hardtalk’s Shaun Ley: “If hosting an international event is more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated time after time again, if that is more important it means we have lost our moral conscience and moral compass.”

There has been an international outcry against Malaysia’s decision.”

In that promoted clip from the interview BBC audiences saw how Shaun Ley twice allowed Syed Saddiq to dodge the issue of the Malaysian prime minister’s use of Nazi analogy and antisemitic stereotypes and not only failed to challenge his guest’s distorted and context-free portrayals of Israeli actions but actually endorsed them.

Saddiq: “During [operations] Cast Lead, Protective Edge, Pillar of Defence tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians had their lives murdered, families taken away and continuing sanctions.”

Ley: “And plenty of countries condemn that and take action against it but they don’t stand against the opportunity for people of all communities, countries, to come together.”

Moreover, at the end of that interview, BBC audiences heard that Malaysia – a country which reelected a prime minister infamous for his antisemitism and which bans Israelis for no other reason that their nationality – is “progressive”.    

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