Why the new BBC editorial guidelines may not mean less terror showcasing

In January 2018 an edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ was devoted to an interview with one of the founders of the Hamas terror group, Mahmoud Zahar.

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part two

That was by no means the first time that the BBC’s “hard-hitting flagship” interview show had hosted members of Hamas. For example the terror group’s spokesman Osama Hamdan  and its then political bureau leader Khaled Masha’al both appeared on the programme in 2014 and Masha’al had also been interviewed the year before. Ghazi Hamad appeared on the programme in both 2011 and 2012 and Mahmoud Zahar had previously been a guest on the show in 2010.

BBC interviews with members of Hamas are of course by no means limited to that particular programme and audiences have also seen interviews with members of Hizballah.

Those who took part in the BBC’s consultation on revised editorial guidelines last autumn may have noticed some interesting draft clauses under the sub-heading ‘Mandatory Referrals’ in the section titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’ (p. 122).

“11.2.1 Any proposal to attend an event staged by proscribed organisations or groups known for mounting acts of terror, in order to be recorded, must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independent production companies, to the commissioning editor. Referral must also be made to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.

11.2.5 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.

11.2.6 Any proposal to broadcast material recorded at legitimate events when paramilitary or other groups with a known record of violence or intimidation stage an appearance must be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independent production companies to the commissioning editor, who may consult Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

While the UK government currently proscribes only the so-called ‘military wings’ of Hamas and Hizballah it does proscribe in full the PFLP-GC and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – which has been featured in BBC content in the past.

If those clauses do find their way into the new BBC editorial guidelines scheduled to be published this year, it will be interesting to see whether or not they will have any effect on the appearance of interviews with representatives of Hamas and Hizballah and whether BBC journalists will continue to report from events such as the ‘Great Return March’ which is organised and facilitated by an organisation “responsible for acts of terror”.

It is after all worth remembering that in April 2017 the BBC had this to say:

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.”

Related Articles:

BBC’s Sommerville showcases PIJ rearmament but refrains from asking who supplied the weapons

 

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Weekend long read

1) The Times of Israel reports on a story ignored by the BBC.

“Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad selected a new leader for the first time in more than 20 years Thursday, a senior official said, but is likely to remain close to Iran.

Syria-based Ziad al-Nakhala will take over as the movement’s secretary general from Ramadan Shalah, who has been suffering from serious health issues for months, the official said on condition of anonymity. […]

Nakhala, who was born in Gaza in 1953, is close to both Iran and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. He had been the deputy leader to Shalah since the 1990s.”

2) The ITIC has published a report about Palestinian calls to boycott the upcoming municipal elections in Jerusalem.

“On October 30, 2018, the municipal elections in Jerusalem are to take place. There are about 200,000 residents in the city having the right to vote for the municipality, who since 1967 have boycotted the local elections. Senior Palestinian figures, including clerics, are trying to prevent the residents’ participation in the elections: Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority, has issued a fatwa (religious ruling) banning the participation in the municipal elections or running for mayor. Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher, announced that it is forbidden to take part in the elections because Jerusalem is an “occupied city” and the participation of East Jerusalem residents in the elections would mean “recognizing the legitimacy of the occupation.” Saeb Erekat, chief of the PLO’s Executive Committee, announced that the Executive Committee is opposed to giving legitimacy to the Israeli government’s policy towards the Arab residents and therefore the elections must be boycotted.”

3) At Tablet magazine, Emily Benedek discusses ties between international aid organisations and terrorist groups.

“At the beginning of August, a Palestinian man opened fire on IDF soldiers at the Gaza boundary, threw an incendiary device, and attempted to breach the fence. He was killed by return fire. What made his act stand out was that the man, Hani al-Majdalawi, was employed as a nurse with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), one of the world’s best-known international aid organizations. Al-Majdalawi had previously been employed by both Oxfam Great Britain and the American Friends Service Committee, two of the West’s oldest NGOs. Although he was not dressed as a medical provider at the time of his attack, his act added to mounting concern that NGOs operating in the Middle East are increasingly vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists, and susceptible to being co-opted by extremist ideologies.”

4) PMW reports on the continuing Palestinian Authority and Fatah failure to recognise Israel.

“For more than two decades, Palestinian Media Watch has documented that neither the PA nor Fatah recognize Israel when addressing their own people. In fact, the opposite is true. Both do their utmost to convince Palestinians that all of Israel was, is, and will remain “Palestine.” 

It is not surprising that Palestinians deny Israel’s existence, since the message that all of Israel is “Palestine” comes from the top. The Palestinian Authority Minister of Education Sabri Saidam recently posed holding a sketch of the PA’s map of “Palestine” that likewise presents all of Israel as “Palestine” at an event with NGOs working with the education sector.”

Nothing to see: BBC reports on missile attacks focus on grading damage

In the early hours of the morning of Friday, August 23rd 2013 the Israeli Air Force struck a target at a location south of Beirut in response to the missile fire on communities in northern Israel the previous afternoon. 

The BBC news website’s Middle East page carried an article originally titled “Israeli jets bomb Lebanon target” and later amended to “Israeli jets bomb Lebanon target after rocket strike” on Friday morning, with its prior report on the missile fire itself having been taken down from the page. 

hp leb strike

Lebanon strike

The article opens:

“Israeli jets have bombed a target south of Beirut a day after rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel.

They targeted a “terror site” near the coastal town of Naameh, between Beirut and Sidon, the Israeli military said.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) said one of its bases had been hit.”

Despite the fact that it reports that a terrorist organization designated by the United States, the European Union, Canada and Israel “said one of its bases had been hit”, the BBC apparently cannot appreciate the cognitive dissonance of the use of scare quotes around the phrase “terror site”. 

In fact, the PFLP-GC apparently does not even merit the standard BBC “militants” euphemism for terrorists and the casual reference to its “support” for Assad whitewashes its involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The PFLP-GC, a Palestinian group known to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denied it fired any rockets into Israel.” [emphasis added]

The organization which claimed responsibility for the deliberate firing of missiles at civilians is afforded that misnomer:

“Al-Qaeda linked militant group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, said it carried out the attack.” [emphasis added] 

Interestingly, the BBC seems to be overly focused on playing down the deliberate firing of military grade hardware at civilians – including elderly Holocaust survivors – in a neighbouring country. Readers of this article are told that:

“Neither incident caused casualties or much damage.”

And:

“They [the missiles] caused some minor damage at a kibbutz near the Israeli coastal town of Nahariya.”

In the BBC’s prior report on the missile attacks themselves, the same point was emphasized:

“Sirens sounded across the area, but no casualties were reported. Footage showed some minor damage at a kibbutz near the coastal town of Nahariya.”

One of course doubts that the BBC would be busying itself quite so much with the grading of “damage” had four missiles been fired at British civilians in an unprovoked attack on, say, Gibraltar or Belfast.

The misleading statement which also appeared in the previous article is unfortunately repeated verbatim in this one too:

“Rockets have been fired into Israel intermittently by militant groups since the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006.”

Yet again the BBC fails to make it sufficiently clear to audiences that terrorists have been firing missiles at Israeli civilians from Lebanon for over thirty years – not just since August 2006. Neither does it bother – again – to make any attempt to inform readers that such missile fire and the very presence of armed terrorist militias in southern Lebanon (including Hizballah) are breaches of UN SC resolution 1701 which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War and the ensuing significance of incidents such as this latest one. 

The ‘nothing to see: move along’ approach adopted by the BBC in both these articles about Thursday’s missile attacks is certainly not contributing to fulfilling its stated mission to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.