BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part four

In the first three installments of this post (see ‘related articles’ below) we documented BBC News website coverage of the first thirty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part four relates to the next ten days: August 7th to August 16th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately. Also not included in this chapter are three separate filmed reports about NHS activities (delegations to the region, donations of equipment) which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 9th, 11th and 12th.

August 7th:Chart Aug 7

Written:

Israel offers Gaza truce extension but Hamas has yet to agree

DEC launches Gaza emergency appeal

Israel Gaza: Mediators seek to extend truce in Cairo

Features:

Israelis along the Gaza Border keep calm and carry on  Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Filmed:

Israeli army say main objective in Gaza achieved ‘completely’  Lyse Doucet in Israel (discussed here)

 Israel’s military strategy in Gaza under scrutiny  Paul Adams (discussed here)

Gaza awaits Israeli-Hamas truce talks verdict   Orla Guerin in Gaza

August 8th:Chart Aug 8

Written: (discussed here)

Gaza ceasefire ends as Israel reports rocket fire

Israel air strikes resume in Gaza amid rockets  

Features:

Graphic content: How media differ on use of Gaza images  BBC Monitoring

After the Gaza ceasefire: Hyper-tense and under fire   Wyre Davies (discussed here)

Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures  (discussed here, later amended, date changed – discussed here)

Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Air strikes and rocket attacks after Gaza ceasefire ends  Orla Guerin in Gaza

BBC reports from blockaded Israel-Gaza border crossing   Wyre Davies at Kerem Shalom (discussed here)

‘We’ve seen and heard a number of explosions here in Gaza’  James Reynolds in Gaza (discussed here)

August 9th:Chart Aug 9

Written:

Gaza conflict: US and UN condemn new Gaza violence

Gaza air strikes ‘kill five’ as rockets hit Israel

Filmed:

Strikes resume in Gaza as ceasefire ends  Kevin Connolly in Gaza (discussed here)

Violence resumes is Gaza as truce comes to an end  James Reynolds in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel ‘very restrained’ with its offensive in Gaza  Danny Ayalon

August 10th:Chart Aug 10

Written:

Gaza conflict: Egypt seeks new Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Gaza conflict: New three-day ceasefire begins

Filmed:

New truce agreed in Gaza conflict  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel refuses to negotiate while ‘under fire’  Kevin Connolly in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Fears that talks in Cairo could collapse  Lyse Doucet

August 11th:Chart Aug 11

Written:

Gaza conflict: New three-day ceasefire holds

Gaza conflict: Fresh talks begin in Egypt

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Families return home as Gaza ceasefire holds  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Mid-East crisis: Gazans hope for ‘open seas and borders’   Orla Guerin in Gaza (discussed here)

August 12th:Chart Aug 12

Written:

Israel export licences warning from UK

August 13th:

Written:

Six dead as Gaza disposal team tackles Israeli missile

Rocket fired from Gaza hits Israel

Filmed:Chart Aug 13

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres ‘seeks peace’ over Gaza  Wyre Davies interview with Shimon Peres

Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes  Orla Guerin in Gaza (discussed here)

Mid-East crisis: The blockade of Gaza – in 60 seconds  Michael Hirst (discussed here)

Israel, Palestinians ‘extend Gaza truce by five days’  Yolande Knell

August 14th:Chart Aug 14

Written:

Israel and Palestinians begin tense five-day Gaza truce  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Ceasefire extended by five days  Yolande Knell in Gaza

August 15th:

Written:Chart Aug 15

Jewish Chronicle apologises after running Gaza appeal advert   later amended and date changed (discussed here)

Filmed:

Yolande Knell meets Gazans working to restore utilities  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

August 16th:

Features:Chart Aug 16

Dutchman returns Holocaust medal after family deaths in Gaza  (discussed here and here)

Clearly the most striking aspect of this period of coverage of the conflict is the sudden decline in the number of reports produced by the BBC in comparison with the previous thirty days. Two factors contributed to that drop: like much of the foreign media the BBC apparently assumed that the August 5th ceasefire was going to hold and began moving journalists who do not normally cover the region, but had been ‘parachuted in’ to provide back up to its Jerusalem Bureau team, out of the area. Concurrently, the ISIS story in Iraq and Syria began to gather pace and resources were diverted to covering that issue.

The most obvious effect of those changes is that after the withdrawal of Israeli ground troops from the Gaza Strip on August 5th and despite the breakdown of the ceasefire of that date and the continuation of missile fire into Israel, BBC audiences saw only one filmed report depicting the situation as far as civilians in Israel were concerned between August 7th and August 16th. They did, however, see twelve filmed reports from the Gaza Strip during that period.

 Graph Aug 7 to Aug 16

By August 16th visitors to the BBC News website (and television audiences) had seen almost three times as much filmed coverage from the Gaza Strip as they had from Israel (37.5 reports compared to 100.5) since the beginning of the conflict.  

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 16

The major theme dominating BBC reporting during the period from August 7th to August 16th remained the vigorous amplification of Hamas’ demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions and the construction of a seaport. Missile attacks on Israel were severely under-reported or ignored and ceasefire violations by terrorist groups downplayed or distorted. The amplification of the agendas of NGOs engaged in political warfare against Israel continued, as did the promotion of claims of ‘war crimes’.

A particularly notable event during this period was the appearance of the article by the BBC News Head of Statistics on the issue of Gaza casualty figures after an entire month of context-free BBC citation of Hamas-supplied data. The fact that the article soon underwent changes which diluted its original message as a result of the application of outside political pressure is highly significant and of course reflects very badly on the BBC’s supposed commitment to accuracy and impartiality.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

BBC WS ‘Newshour’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

The BBC’s pictorial portrayal of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip

‘From Our Own Correspondent’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News’ blockade backgrounder not fit for purpose

With disturbing frequency we have noted here during the past few weeks many examples of BBC reporting which are in fact part and parcel of the corporation’s ongoing advocacy campaign in support of Hamas’ demand to lift border restrictions and the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

In none of those reports were BBC audiences given a clear, accurate and factual picture of the nature of restrictions themselves and at no point has the BBC explained that what brought about, and sustains, that Israeli policy is terrorism against Israeli civilians emanating from the Gaza Strip.

On August 13th those repeated failures to accurately and impartially inform BBC audiences were further exacerbated by the appearance of an item on BBC television news and on the BBC News website purporting to provide background information on the topic.

With the Yezidi community currently under existential threat in Iraq and the death-toll in Syria continually passing ever more tragic milestones, the BBC’s description of border restrictions on the Gaza Strip as an element of the “Mid-East crisis” can only be interpreted as a reflection of its priorities and vision. “Mid-East crisis: The blockade of Gaza – in 60 seconds” was produced by Michael Hirst of the BBC News website and in that backgrounder viewers are presented with a series of captioned images.60 seconds blockade filmed

1. “Blockade strengthened after Hamas militants took over Gaza Strip in 2007”

Yet again the BBC fails to clarify that the June 2007 Hamas coup itself was not the prime reason for tightened border restrictions but the subsequent rise in terror attacks against Israeli civilians which caused the Israeli security cabinet to declare the Gaza Strip hostile territory in September 2007. Clearly audiences cannot hope to understand this issue fully as long as the BBC continues to erase the topic of Hamas terrorism from the picture.

2. “Israel controls border crossings…”

All governments of course have an obligation to provide security for their citizens and a border with a territory ruled by an internationally proscribed terrorist organization is clearly going to demand stringent control, but the BBC manages to make Israeli actions sound exceptional and unreasonable.

3. “…and enforces sea blockade”

The all-important context of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip by sea is erased from the picture presented to BBC viewers.

4. “Egypt controls its crossing (Rafah)”

Again – it is Egypt’s right and responsibility to do so.

5. “Egypt’s leaders oppose Hamas”

Notably the crucial context of Gaza Strip-based terrorism in northern Sinai is not mentioned.

6. “Imports are controlled by Israel”

Only imports via Israel are controlled by Israel (not those coming through Egypt) and all imports are permitted with the exception of weapons and a specific list of dual-use goods which can be used for the purposes of terrorism.

7. “Sometimes only basic supplies are allowed in”

During times of hostilities such as the present, when the Kerem Shalom crossing is often attacked by terrorists and its staff thus endangered, entry of goods to the Gaza Strip may be limited to aid, medical supplies and basic goods, with non-essentials such as cars or washing machines given a lower priority. Normally the entry of goods is a function of demand from Gaza-based businesses.

8. “Building materials are severely restricted”

The only restricted items are those same dual-use goods which can be appropriated for terrorism purposes. Even they can be imported into the Gaza Strip if the construction project is guaranteed by an international body to be for civilian purposes only.

9. “UN says concrete and steel are vital for reconstruction”

Again, civilian projects guaranteed by an international body can import the necessary materials.

10. “Israel says Hamas uses them to build tunnels and bunkers”

One would think that the BBC would have seen enough evidence recently – including with its own journalists’ eyes – to make the use of the caveat “Israel says” superfluous to that statement. Remarkably, the BBC has shown no interest whatsoever in investigating the issue of the methods and route of appropriation of construction materials for the purpose of building those cross border attack tunnels or in reporting on the civilians projects which did not come into being in the Gaza Strip because of the commandeering of those materials. 

11. “Gaza exports are restricted”

There is no restriction whatsoever on exports abroad. Israel in fact helps farmers in the Gaza Strip to bring their produce to international standards and to export it, for example, to Europe.

12. “UN: one truck per day allowed out in 2013”

As the relevant monthly reports show, from February 2013 to December 2013 inclusive (the data for January 2013 is not available), a total of 560 truckloads of exports left the Gaza Strip in 334 days. Clearly that UN claim repeated by the BBC is inaccurate. Most of the exports from the Gaza Strip are agricultural and therefore seasonal in nature. Thus we see, for example, that in February 2013 a total of 109 truckloads of exports left the Gaza Strip.

13. “UN: 57% of Gaza households are ‘food insecure'”

That isolated statistic is of course of no use to BBC audiences and notably they are given no information regarding the political agenda of its supplier. Viewers have no way of comparing that figure with food insecurity in other parts of the world or with previous years before border restrictions had to be implemented because of Hamas’ policy of both itself engaging in terrorism and permitting other terrorist organisations to do so from territory it controls.

In summary, this backgrounder is doubly problematic in that it provides BBC audiences with inaccurate information on the one hand whilst failing completely to supply the vital context concerning the terrorism which is the cause of border restrictions and the naval blockade on the other.

As an attempt to meet the BBC’s obligation to provide audiences with information which will enable them to understand “international issues” it is neither use nor ornament. As part of the BBC’s continuing campaign to amplify and promote the current Hamas agenda, this backgrounder definitely fulfils its purpose.