BBC’s Newsbeat adds redundant ambiguity to report on blogger’s tweets

An article produced by the BBC’s Newsbeat division appeared on the Newsbeat website and the BBC News website on January 22nd under the headline “L’Oreal hijab model pulls out of campaign after backlash“.

The story was introduced as follows:

“UK beauty blogger Amena Khan says she’s pulling out of a L’Oreal campaign.

In a post on Instagram she says she’s stepping down from the campaign “because of the current conversations surrounding it”.

Her decision follows the discovery of tweets she wrote in 2014, which some have branded as “anti-Israel”.” [emphasis added]

Later on readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“It follows accusations that she expressed “anti-Israel” views in a number of tweets from 2014.

Newsbeat has not seen the tweets as they have now been deleted but in her post, Amena apologises for them, saying she’s sorry for the “upset and hurt” they’ve caused.

“Championing diversity is one of my passions, I don’t discriminate against anyone,” she adds.”

Newsbeat could have taken a look at the Daily Mail’s report on the story (published over an hour before the final version of the BBC’s article appeared) which includes screenshots of some of Khan’s 2014 tweets.

Daily Mail

A simple internet search – which Newsbeat apparently failed to do – turns up screenshots of other examples of Khan’s now deleted anti-Israel rhetoric.

Obviously the qualifying language and equivocal punctuation that was used in this report to suggest to BBC audiences that the anti-Israel nature of Khan’s Tweets is open to interpretation is misleading and it would be appropriate for Newsbeat to correct the article accordingly.



BBC News’ bizarre ‘Newsbeat’ backgrounder on Syria

An article which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th was billed as follows:


The link leads to a backgrounder produced by BBC News for ‘Newsbeat‘ – and hence specifically tailored for younger audiences – which is titled “How the history books will remember Syria in 2016“.

The backgrounder – headed “Newsbeat Explains” – may well raise eyebrows both for what it does tell those ‘younger audiences’ and what it does not. No mention is made, for example, of the fact that the vast majority of casualties in the Syrian civil war have died at the hands of the Syrian regime or of issues such as the barrel bombs, the use of chemical weapons against civilians or the siege and starvation policy employed by Bashar al Assad. Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ does not consider those points worthy of the history books: a section headed “It’s hard to know exactly how many people have been killed in Syria” does not even try to inform audiences about such issues.


Readers are told that the root of the conflict in Syria goes back to “March 2003 when Britain and America and other countries decided to invade Iraq” and that the ‘Arab Spring’ can be attributed to the “economic crash of 2007/08”. The oppressive nature of the Syrian regime pre-March 2011 is severely whitewashed.


In a section concerning Syrian refugees audiences are told that Britain is characterised by “endemic racism” and in a section about the “international players” in Syria, readers are bizarrely informed that:


It is of course remarkable that the dubious notion that “Israeli security” is a prime factor behind US intervention in Syria (such as it is) was included in this BBC backgrounder without any concrete evidence being provided to back up that statement. Given that the information comes from an academic – Tim Jacoby – with a record of supporting anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimisation, the BBC’s amplification of that entirely unsupported claim obviously requires explanation.


BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ and Radio 1’s ‘Newsbeat’ were commended in the recent BBC Trust review of the impartiality of the corporation’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. Those two programmes recently came together with BBC Monitoring to produce a multi-platform feature on the subject of deaths resulting from terrorism in Western Europe.Newsbeat terror

Terror deaths in Western Europe at highest level since 2004” Newsbeat

“The start of 2016 saw the highest number of terrorism deaths in Western Europe since 2004, BBC research has revealed.

The first seven months of the year saw 143 deaths, which is also the second worst start to the year since 1980.”

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC Radio 4

“Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism?

In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we’ve analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually [sic] deadly year for terrorism. It certainly feels like it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe – making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths have been in Turkey. The number for Western Europe is 143, which is lower than many years in the 1970s.”More or Less R4 terror

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC World Service Radio

“With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the world?”

The research underlying all those reports used a “working definition” of terrorism described as follows in the radio programmes:

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Since the surge in terror attacks against Israelis began last September, the BBC has provided its audiences with a variety of explanations for the violence. The preferred explanation proffered by the corporation’s Middle East editor has been ‘the occupation’.

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal.”

Another ‘explanation’ repeatedly offered to audiences goes along the following lines:More or Less WS terror

“The recent rise in violence is blamed by Palestinians on the continued occupation by Israel of the West Bank and the failure of the Middle East peace process.”

In addition to those political factors, the BBC has frequently cited a religious factor as context to the surge in violence.

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.”

“In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site.”

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course.”

“Tensions have been particularly high in recent weeks over the long-running issue of access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

But despite having cited political, social and religious factors as explanations for the Palestinian violence against Israelis in recent months, as has been documented here on countless occasions the BBC nevertheless universally refrained from describing those attacks as terrorism or their perpetrators as terrorists. 

With the corporation now having finally found a working definition of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology when covering Palestinian attacks on Israelis clearly becomes even more egregious.  

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ discovers terrorists in Israel

h/t JS

BBC Radio 1’s ‘Newsbeat’ recently produced an article about the change to British Summer Time titled “The time when the clocks changed by more than an hour“. At the end of that report we find unusual use of the term ‘terrorists’ in connection with Israel – albeit well over a decade and a half ago – as well as mention of a country the BBC style guide correctly says does not exist.

“So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Newsbeat clocks art

BBC report on Jerusalem gay pride attack second guesses an unsolved crime

BBC coverage of the violent attack on six participators in the gay pride event held in Jerusalem on July 30th included:Jlem attack 30 7

A filmed report for BBC television news which was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Man held over Jerusalem Gay Pride stabbings“.

A written report on the BBC platform aimed at younger audiences – ‘Newsbeat’ – titled “‘We marched through blood at Jerusalem Gay Pride’“.

A written report on the BBC Arabic website.

A written report titled “Jerusalem Gay Pride: Six stabbed ‘by ultra-Orthodox Jew’” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Towards the end of that latter report, in a section describing ultra-Orthodox opposition to the event and to the LGBT community in general, readers are told that:

“Israel’s homosexual community was the target of a 2009 attack in Tel Aviv, where a gunman opened fire at a centre for young gays, killing two people and wounding 15 others.

The assailant behind that attack was apprehended.”

The case referred to in those lines is the Bar Noar youth centre shootings. Once again, however, the BBC has obviously failed to keep up to date on the details of that case and hence misleads its audiences.

The suspect arrested and charged with the murders was later released when the case collapsed after the arrest of the state witness on charges of fabricating evidence and obstruction of justice. No further developments in the investigation have been publicized since then and no motive for that attack has been established in a court of law, meaning that the BBC’s implication of motivational linkage between that attack and the one which took place in Jerusalem on July 30th is at this stage no more than speculation.

Related Articles:

BBC documentary on Tel Aviv gay pride fails to keep up with the news

BBC repeats misrepresentation of Bar Noar shooting

Themes in BBC reporting on the Paris terror attacks

As we noted here the other day, BBC reporting on the Paris terror attacks has been notable for its tendency to avoid of any meaningful discussion of the actual issue of Islamist extremism and instead, audience attentions have been deflected towards a variety of other themes.

Some BBC content amplified the erroneous notion that Charlie Hebdo is a racist magazine. For example, this clip – broadcast on Radio 5 live’s Breakfast programme on January 11th – was also promoted separately on social media.

Themes CH 1

In the January 9th edition of the BBC World Service’s ‘The World This Week’ (available as a podcast here) presenter Emily Buchanan was joined by French journalists Agnes Poirier and Nabila Ramdani. Buchanan’s introduction to the item indicates that she was well aware of the fact that just hours before her broadcast, four people had been killed in a terror attack on a Jewish target.

“The funeral bells of Notre Dame Cathedral tolled in the rain for the twelve people shot dead in and near the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo; gunned down on Wednesday by men shouting Islamist slogans. The attack was, they shouted, revenge for the magazine’s insults to the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. The killings sent shock waves around France and beyond. [….] France went on maximum alert. The security forces identified the suspects as two brothers of Algerian descent who had a long history of links to extremist groups. After a two-day man hunt police eventually ran them to ground at a print works outside Paris. The brothers died in a hail of bullets. A hostage they’d taken survived. Meanwhile, in an apparently linked attack, another gunman who had already killed a policewoman took more hostages inside a kosher supermarket. In a dramatic simultaneous assault, he too died but so did at least four of his hostages, though a number survived.”

Nevertheless, Buchanan’s first question/statement to Ramdani was:

“And Nabila Ramdani; the impact on the Muslim community must be profound.”

There was no discussion in the programme of the impact on the Jewish community which had lost four of its members just hours earlier. Buchanan went on to provide Ramdani with an opening for promotion of the notion of Charlie Hebdo as a ‘racist’ publication.

Buchanan: “But Nabila, I mean, amongst many in the Muslim community those cartoons were seen as very offensive weren’t they? And I mean some people may even have said that they were racist.”

Ramdani used the cue to tell listeners that:

“It had faced criticisms in the past for dressing up racism as satire. There was a fair amount of racism lurking behind the magazine.”

In response to Agnes Poirier’s attempt to refute that labelling, Ramdani went on to make the baseless claim that:

“Islam was particularly what Charlie Hebdo had it in for…”

Obviously the focus on this misleading theme contributed nothing to informed audience understanding of the magazine itself or the real motives behind the terror attack.

Another theme heavily promoted in BBC content was that of the terror attacks being attributable to radicalization prompted by socio-economic factors and alienation. One example of that came in a programme which perhaps flies under the radar of many readers – BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Sunday Morning’. The January 11th edition of that show – presented by Ricky Ross – included discussion of the Paris terror attacks (from 01:01:10 here) with Nabila Ramdani once again and also with Alison Phipps – Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow and a member of the Kairos Document supporting Iona Community.Themes CH 2

That item is too long to transcribe here in full but notably its focus was on the attack against Charlie Hebdo, with no specific mention of the targeting of the Jewish supermarket two days before this broadcast and hence Nabila Ramdani was able to tell listeners that “the element of surprise came because Paris has been remarkably free of terrorist incidents over the past, you know, so many decades…”.

The context of antisemitic attacks and incitement in Paris and elsewhere in France was hence concealed from listeners. Audiences did however get a hefty dose of misguided PC messaging from Alison Phipps, who equated the Paris attacks with the 1996 Dunblane attack in Scotland and the Breivik attacks in Norway.

“I think the problem here is the problem of violence and the problem of violence produced out of despair and anger and fear. I think it’s easy to move into debates about a clash of civilisations or religions but actually to me that feels intellectually a bit lazy really….”

“We see violence occurring in the context of Europe and this being not something that’s coming particularly out of any religious motivation or civilization motivation but people who are despairing and resorting to violence and they’re committing crimes as a result.”

“I think …that when people feel threatened and they’re despairing, when people feel as though they’re assaulted and attacked, they tend to resort to more violent means…”

Another theme promoted in this programme and in other BBC content was spurious linkage between the Paris attacks and events elsewhere in the world with Ricky Ross talking about “people who maybe have been angered by the events of the war in Iraq, perhaps the invasion of Afghanistan and also perhaps of drone strikes and so on….”

In an article titled “France divided despite uplifting rallies” which appeared on the BBC News website on January 11th, Hugh Schofield chose to highlight the following sentiments attributed to anonymous members of the French Muslim community, but failed to provide readers with any factual answers to the questions posed.

“Over and again they express their anger at what they see as double standards:

Why so much fuss over 17 dead when thousands have died in Gaza and Syria?

Why is it all right for Charlie Hebdo to mock Islam when the controversial comic Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is prosecuted for mocking Jews? Why is one defined as “inciting hatred” and not the other?”

In a report from January 10th titled “Young French Muslims fear attack after Paris shootings” produced for Newsbeat – which caters for younger audiences – Duncan Crawford quoted one of his interviewees as saying:

“The problem is 12 people are dead. All the media talk about it. But in Iraq, in Syria, and in Palestine, every day thousands of people are dead, and no one talks about it. That’s the real problem.”

No attempt was made to provide the BBC’s younger audiences with information which would enable them to put that statement into its correct context.

When major events such as last week’s terror attacks in Paris take place, it is obviously the task of the media to help the general public determine the facts of the event and its context as soon as possible so that they can reach informed opinions. The BBC is of course obligated to precisely such priorities by its public purposes and yet its commitment to building “a global understanding of international issues” did not prevent avoidance of any serious reporting on the real issues behind these attacks.

The concurrent smoke and mirrors promotion of themes such as ‘racist’ cartoons, poverty, despair, alienation and disaffection do not contribute to audience understanding of the underlying issues faced by European society in general – and members of the Muslim communities battling radicalisation in particular – any more than the promotion of the theme of ‘Gaza’ helps them understand why a Jewish supermarket was the target of one of these terror attacks. 



Why was a photo-shopped image ‘top story’ on the BBC News website ME page?

It is, to put it mildly, extremely rare for the BBC News website to cross-post reports from ‘Newsbeat’ – the division of BBC News catering for audiences between the ages of 15 and 24 – on its Middle East page.

Newsbeat HaMevaser story

click to enlarge

It is no less unusual for the BBC to cover the topic of the eccentricities of the niche Haredi press in Israel which, odd and objectionable as they may be even to the vast majority of Israelis, can hardly be said to constitute a major news story – especially as that sector makes no claim to provide objective journalism.

Nevertheless, on January 13th a second-hand Newsbeat report titled “Jewish newspaper removes women from photo of leaders” was billed as a ‘top story’ on the website’s Middle East page and at the time of writing has remained there for four consecutive days.

To be honest, there is not really much of a story at all in that ‘top story’, other than the fact that a small Haredi newspaper called HaMevaser clumsily photo-shopped Angela Merkel and other female dignitaries out of a photograph taken at the rally in Paris on January 11th.

So what was the editorial reasoning behind the promotion of this article on the BBC News website’s main Middle East page as a ‘top story’? It couldn’t possibly have been ‘we’ve run a lot of reports in the past few days about Muslims demanding censorship of images’ – could it?

One cannot but note the irony of a BBC report highlighting the censorship of a photograph by a fringe Israeli publication in a week in which much of the enlightened Western media has been censoring images and the BBC News website’s own reporting on the post-attack edition of Charlie Hebdo included warnings such as those below. 

CH warning 1

CH warning 2



BBC’s WHYS promotes Gaza interviewee with a penchant for antisemitic imagery

The BBC – its funding public is told – “aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism” and to ensure that its audiences “remain informed about world events”.WHYS main

Recently it has become apparent that BBC editors are of the opinion that those aspirations are served by providing audiences with commentary on current affairs from a teenager qualified with nothing more than a Twitter account.

Whilst it may be difficult to imagine that the BBC would deem commentary from such a source likely make any serious contribution to meeting its public purpose remit of informing audiences about British defence policy, in a certain part of the Middle East anything goes.

The August 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ purported to discuss what it described as the “Gaza Truce” as though nothing at all has happened in neighbouring Israel during the past 50 days and more. Presenter Ben James hosted a number of interviewees during the programme (available here) including the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly, the Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, Shoshanna JaskollDr Bassel Abu Warda of Shifa hospital and Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department.WHYS stand alone item

But James’ star guest – and the one to which the programmes editors elected to devote a stand-alone item on their website – was Farah Baker; a sixteen year-old girl from Gaza City who has during the last seven weeks been extensively courted and promoted by the international media (including BBC Radio One’s ‘Newsbeat’ programme aimed at younger audiences) due to her activity on Twitter.

One might assume that before a potential interviewee whose only qualification for talking about international affairs is that she Tweets personal views was put on air, producers would take a look at the relevant Twitter account in order to check out what they were actually amplifying and promoting. Farah Baker Tweets under the handle @Farah_Gazan and in her profile uses an offensive comparison of herself to Anne Frank.

Farah Baker profile

 That is not a one-off theme.

Farah Baker AF comp

But Farah Baker’s Holocaust analogies do not end there. Perusal of her timeline shows that she uses the hashtag #shujaia_holocaust and her Tweets and Retweets indicate that the teenager feted and promoted by the Western media is rather fond of antisemitic imagery.

Farah Baker 2

Farah Baker 3

Farah Baker rt 1

Farah Baker rt 2

That obviously was not the cause of any concern to Ben James or his producers and unfortunately, past experience shows that should not come as much of a surprise to the rest of us. We have previously documented here the appearance of Nazi analogies and defamation on the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook wall despite the supposed existence of a moderation policy set out in ‘House Rules’.

The August 26th programme also invited listeners to comment on the WHYS Facebook account and below are some of the comments which still appear there at the time of writing.






This, licence fee payers may be dismayed to learn, is apparently what the BBC believes is ‘standard-setting’ journalism.