BBC Radio 5 Live goes for the emotional jugular in context free promoted item

Last week BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast an interview with a doctor from ‘Medecins du Monde’ who inaccurately claimed that the shortage of medicines and disposables in Gaza Strip hospitals is attributable to Israeli policies.

“As you know we are under siege for a long time in Gaza and this affects the medical parts in Gaza and there is a lack of disposables and basic drugs needs in emergency. We need really, really action from the world for intervention to help people in Gaza.”

Despite that previous failure to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality and despite the fact that Dr Hosam Abu Elwan’s claim was – like sadly too many of the claims made by medical staff in Gaza Strip at present – clearly political in motivation, on July 29th the same radio station saw fit to invite the doctor to speak again and his reportappearing on a dedicated webpage – was promoted on the Radio 5 Live official Twitter account.

R 5 live doctor 29 7

 

“I am Dr Hosam Abu Elwan from Nasser hospital south of Gaza. We see that is no clear ceasefire declaration. We are not sure if it’s valid or not but we see the number of wounded cases is decrease but the number of murders is increased because they was killed two, three or five days before and the number of murders is increased about 20 cases per day coming to hospital by…Unfortunately I want to speak that is bad situation in hospital because the murders dying before five days with offensive odours and I can’t describe the situation because it was very bad in hospital. The number of murders is increased at least 20 cases per day. There is no spaces in the hospital for this huge number. And we hope to be there is ceasefire declaration and for medical teams to evacuate their murders and dead body from their houses or from under destroyed houses.”

R 5 live doctor 29 7 web

The version of this ‘report’ promoted by BBC Radio 5 live on Twitter and on the dedicated webpage lacks all context and clearly plays exclusively on the emotions of listeners who cannot possibly discern from it whether the dead are civilians or combatants or in what circumstances – or by whom – they were killed.

The term ‘murder’ – used no fewer than five times in the 77 second-long report, twice on the webpage and twice in the Tweet – has a specific meaning in the English language which attributes intention and premeditation – as this programme’s UK listeners will know. As someone for whom English is not a first language, Dr Abu Elwan may perhaps not be aware of that nuance, but the editors of this item most definitely should be and hence their decision to air and promote such a recording as a raw, stand-alone item and to use the word ‘murder’ as part of their promotion clearly calls editorial standards of impartiality into question. 

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BBC Radio 5 live broadcasts inaccurate claim on shortage of medicines in Gaza

Readers may recall that the first day of Operation Protective Edge saw the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell promoting the claim that the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is caused by “tight border restrictions” imposed by Israel.Knell 8 7 medicine

As we pointed out here at the time, that claim is completely inaccurate.

“Firstly, the claim that medical supplies are affected by restrictions on dual-use goods (which can also be used for purposes of terrorism) into the Gaza Strip is a complete fabrication. There is not – and never has been – any restriction on the entry of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. The actual causes for the permanent and already existing shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip are explained here. […]

Further, BBC Watch inquired on July 9th regarding the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge and was informed by a Ministry of Defence official that: [emphasis added]

“Border crossings into Gaza are open but for limited use.  Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings are open for emergency medical assistance and the transfer of humanitarian aid (i.e. televisions, appliances etc. are not being let in, but food, medicine etc. is).  Yesterday alone [the day of Knell’s report – Ed.] more than 180 trucks crossed into the Gaza Strip via the border crossings.  Red Cross workers can pass when necessary, but access for reporters is conditional on the security situation and must be coordinated a few hours beforehand.”

In the two weeks since then, nothing has changed. Humanitarian aid continues to enter the Gaza Strip as daily reports show, despite terrorist attacks on the crossings themselves. The video below was filmed this last Saturday – July 19th.

Nevertheless, on July 23rd BBC Radio 5 live promoted that same inaccurate claim yet again in an interview it broadcast with a doctor from Medecins du Monde at the Nasser hospital in the Gaza Strip. The same interview was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza doctor claims there’s a ‘lack of basic drug needs’“.R 5 live doctor

In that Radio 5 live Breakfast interview, the doctor named by the BBC as Dr Homam Abu Elwa (but more likely to be Dr Hosam Abu Elwa) says:

“As you know we are under siege for a long time in Gaza and this affects the medical parts in Gaza and there is a lack of disposables and basic drugs needs in emergency. We need really, really action from the world for intervention to help people in Gaza.”

Let’s be quite clear about this: there is a shortage of medicines and disposables in Gaza Strip hospitals and that shortage existed even before Operation Protective Edge began, but it has absolutely nothing to do with any Israeli policies or actions.  

The attempt to create linkage between actions taken by Israel to curb the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip and the shortage of medicines there is entirely politically motivated. By promoting and amplifying that false claim, the BBC breaches editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality and displays its political campaigning colours very plainly.

Contact details for Radio 5 live: e-mail: 5live@bbc.co.uk, Twitter: @bbc5live