Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part 2

In part one of this post we saw that listeners to the two editions of the BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 12th were repeatedly led to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis the previous evening was a member of Hamas despite the fact that all belonged to terror factions.

By the time those two editions had ended, listeners had heard from two residents of the Gaza Strip – one at length – but nothing from any of the residents of southern Israel affected by the 17 rocket attacks launched by terrorists on November 11th or the hundreds of attacks launched from the afternoon of November 12th onward.

On the following day (November 13th) the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ was titled “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza” and once again the image used to illustrate the programme’s webpage depicted a scene in the Gaza Strip.

“The worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the 2014 war is threatening to descend into a full-blown conflict. More than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel, while Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.”

(Photo: Smoke blows up [sic] after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrike to positions in Gaza City. Credit: Getty Images)

As documented here previously, presenter Julian Marshall failed to tell listeners that by that time at least three of those killed in IDF strikes had been claimed as members by terror organisations. This edition did however include the first – and only – mention of the fact that a civilian had been killed when a rocket hit an apartment block in Ashkelon.

Marshall: “Well Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead.”

The item included a brief statement from an IDF Spokesperson as well as an interview with a resident of the Gaza Strip (Majd Masharawi) and a resident of Ashkelon (Sigal Arieli).

Listeners did not hear anything which would contribute to their appreciation of the fact that in this round of violence, Israeli civilians were being deliberately targeted by terrorist organisations while civilians in the Gaza Strip were actually receiving warnings of impending strikes against military targets in order to ensure their safety.

The evening edition of the programme was titled “Gaza Israel Violence” and for the first time visitors to the webpage saw an image depicting events in Israel.

“Hamas says it’s agreed to a ceasefire in its hostilities with Israel. Israel says it reserves the right to strike inside Gaza. But how to stop the violence for good? We’ll hear from a former senior member of the Obama White House.”

(Photo: Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza. Credit: AFP)

As noted here previously, the original caption to that photograph uses the word ‘house’ rather than “buildings”.

Presenter Tim Franks introduced the item (from 00:52 here), once again erasing the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were members of terror factions.

Franks: “It takes two sides to agree a ceasefire. The question tonight in the Middle East is is that what Israel and Hamas – the Palestinian group running Gaza – have both agreed? Hamas says it has; that it said yes to the terms of an Egyptian brokered deal. Israeli officials have been rather more circumspect, saying they reserve the right to continue air strikes into Gaza as necessary. All this comes against the most heated flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants for four years. Over the weekend Israeli Special Forces conducted an operation deep inside Gazan territory which appeared to spin out of control. Seven Palestinians were killed including a senior Hamas commander. One Israeli officer died. Out of Gaza there then came a barrage of hundreds of rockets fired into southern Israel. The Israeli military conducted scores of airstrikes inside Gaza. There was widespread fear that this could escalate into a full-blown war as it has three times in the last decade. “

Listeners then heard a report from Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell in which they were told that:

Knell: “The Israeli military says more than 460 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza in the past 24 hours and that it struck 160 militant targets including a building in Gaza City that it said was used by Hamas intelligence.”

Knell then immediately contradicted that accurate information with a claim from a Gaza resident who later on in the week cropped up in yet another BBC report.

Knell: “A doctor living there, Adnan al Waheidi, condemned the attack.”

Al Waheidi: “They destroy a civilian building which was fully occupied with families, where you find women are crying and the children are leaving and everybody’s just trying to escape for themself.”

Although by the time this programme was aired the extent of the damage to homes and businesses in southern Israeli communities was clear and the death of one civilian and injury of dozens of others had been amply reported by the local media, Knell confined her portrayal of the Israeli side of the story to sirens.

Knell: “On the Israeli side sirens sounded repeatedly. Einav Shimoni lives just two miles from the Gaza border.”

After listeners had heard Shimomi’s description of alarms and running to the shelter, Knell told ‘Newshour’ listeners for the first time in all four programmes that the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were “militants”.

The item continued with segments from the interviews with Majd Masharawi in Gaza and Sigal Arieli in Ashkelon which had been heard in that day’s earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ and closed with an interview about ceasefire prospects with Ilan Goldenberg – described by Franks as “a man who used to be one of President Obama’s point men on the Middle East”. 

In the four editions of ‘Newshour’ aired on November 12th and 13th BBC World Service listeners around the world heard one short statement from an IDF spokesperson and one lengthy interview with a Hamas spokesman – parts of which were later repeated. Listeners heard comment relating to the broader background to the story from one Israeli journalist and one American commentator as well as one Israeli MK. Interviews with four different residents of the Gaza Strip – two of them lengthy and one partly repeated – were aired in contrast to interviews with two Israeli civilians affected by the rocket attacks – one lengthy and partly repeated.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state that their principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure that ‘controversial subjects’ are treated with due impartiality in all our output.

News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.

We are committed to reflecting a wide range of opinion across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.”

And:

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.  The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

“Due impartiality” and “due weight” can hardly be said to have been achieved when listeners heard twice as many voices from the Gaza Strip than they did Israeli civilians.

Listeners heard inaccurate descriptions of the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis on five occasions (and on one webpage) and only one accurate portrayal. They heard one accurate and one inaccurate portrayal of people in the Gaza Strip killed in the Israeli airstrikes that came in response to Gaza terror factions’ missile fire on civilians. A civilian killed in Ashkelon in one of those rocket attacks was mentioned just once.

Half of the programmes failed to clarify to listeners that while the rocket fire by Gaza based terror groups deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions and false equivalence between those differently focused attacks was promoted in all editions.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy state that its principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output.

The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.  We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.”

Repeatedly describing six of the seven people killed in the incident near Khan Younis as “Palestinians” even though – as locally based BBC journalists knew – they had been claimed by two armed terror factions is obviously a prime example of misleading audiences and distorting known facts.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part one

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

 

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Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

As readers are no doubt aware on the evening of November 11th an Israeli Special Forces unit engaged in a covert operation east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip was exposed. In the ensuing firefight one Israeli officer was killed and another injured. Six members of Hamas and one member of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) were also killed. Later the same night terror factions in the Gaza Strip fired 17 projectiles at Israeli civilian communities in the Western Negev.

At around 16:30 the next day (November 12th) an Israeli soldier was injured when Hamas attacked an Israeli bus using a Kornet anti-tank missile. That was followed by an intense barrage of rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli communities with direct hits on homes and businesses in Ashkelon, Netivot, Sderot and at least three kibbutzim. One man was killed in Ashkelon and dozens were wounded. The attacks continued into the next day. Israel responded with some 150 strikes on targets belonging to terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip. Six fatalities were reported – at least four of whom were claimed by the PFLP and PIJ terror factions.

So how did BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ report those events and did that reporting adhere to the BBC’s editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality?

Listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on November 11th heard a brief mention of the incident near Khan Younis in a news bulletin (from 25:25 here): [all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

“The Israeli army says it’s been involved in an exchange of fire with Hamas militants in Gaza. Media reports quoting Palestinian sources say at least 2 people, including a Hamas commander, were killed in the clashes.”

That incident was the lead story in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on November 12th which was titled “Gaza: Eight Killed in Covert Israeli Operation” with the synopsis telling BBC audiences that:

“A covert Israeli operation in the Gaza strip has killed seven Palestinians – including one Hamas military commander – and one Israeli soldier. The unrest threatens to upend a fragile and unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas since March.”

(Image: Relatives of one of the seven Palestinians killed during an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip, mourn during his funeral. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 00:11 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “We begin today with Gaza and Israel. There has been a fragile and unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the wake of the bloodshed since March this year during protests by Palestinians at the border with Israel, dubbed by them as the Great Return March. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. On Sunday a covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians including one Hamas commander and one Israeli soldier – a Lieutenant Colonel. The subsequent firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza threatens to upend an uneasy peace. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned from Armistice commemorations in Europe to meet with his security cabinet.”

In the rest of that item listeners heard from a man identified as Abu Amana – supposedly an eye-witness to the firefight near Khan Younis – before Iqbal conducted a long interview with Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad. As noted here previously, Iqbal once again failed to inform BBC audiences that all of the Palestinians killed in that incident were members of terror factions.

Iqbal: “But there was also a big significant loss on your side. Apart from the six other people who were killed, a senior Hamas commander, Nur Baraka.”

She likewise subsequently failed to challenge her Hamas interviewee’s claim that “they [Israel] killed seven civilians yesterday” or his claim that the Gaza Strip is ‘occupied’.

Iqbal’s final interviewee was Israeli MK Michael Oren to whom she put the claim that Israel had jeopardised the ‘ceasefire’ with a “botched” covert operation in the Gaza Strip.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – November 12th – was titled “Violence Between Israel and Gaza Escalates” and yet again the webpage was illustrated using a photograph taken in Gaza.

“Tensions have increased after a failed Israeli undercover operation. A mother of two young children tells us what it’s like living through the violence in the Gaza strip.”

(photo: Smoke rises after Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 12 November 2018 Credit: EPA/Mohammed Saber)

Presenter Tim Franks opened that lead story (from 01:17 here) as follows:

Franks: “The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip bristles with tension. It has done for years now and particularly in the decade or more that the Islamist Hamas movement has had control of the Palestinian territory. Frequently that tension erupts into violence – even outright war. As night has fallen in this part of the Middle East, there is a fear that events of the last 24 hours could presage another bloody upsurge. On Sunday an Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians – including a commander of Hamas’ paramilitary wing – were killed during an undercover Israeli operation deep inside the Gaza Strip. Since then scores of rockets – the Israeli army has just said 300 – have been fired from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel. The Israeli military for its part has carried out airstrikes – dozens of them – against targets inside the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, a full day after the incident near Khan Younis, listeners to ‘Newshour’ had still not been informed that all the Palestinians killed were members of terror groups.

Having failed to clarify to listeners that while that unattributed rocket fire targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions, Franks went on to introduce his first interviewee, failing to challenge her description of the Gaza Strip as ‘occupied’, her inversion of rockets fired by terrorists as the result of Israeli counter-terrorism measures rather than their cause or even her claim that “Palestinians have tried peace”.

Franks: “First, a sense of life tonight in the Gaza Strip. Najla Shawa is an aid worker and mother of two young children who lives to the west of Gaza City.”

As noted here previously, part of that interview with Shawa was also aired on BBC Radio 4 on the same evening.

After that long and very sympathetic interview, listeners heard excerpts from the interviews with Ghazi Hamad and Michael Oren aired in the previous edition of the programme. Franks then quoted casualty figures provided by UNOCHA before introducing the Israeli journalist Anshell Pfeffer on the topic of ceasefire ‘negotiations’.

Towards the end of the programme (49:47) Franks spoke with the BBC’s Tom Bateman and listeners heard for the first time about the anti-tank missile attack on the Israeli bus, the fact that there had been direct hits on homes in some Israeli towns, the fact that Israel’s strikes were directed at “militant sites” and that two “militants” as they were dubbed by Bateman had been killed in the northern Gaza Strip.

In short, over 24 hours following the incident near Khan Younis and hours after the unprecedented barrage of missile attacks against Israeli civilians had commenced, ‘Newshour’ listeners had heard from two Gaza Strip residents, one Hamas spokesman (twice), one Israeli MK (twice) and one Israeli journalist. They had not however heard from any Israelis affected by the attacks. The programmes had repeatedly led listeners to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis was a member of Hamas, while failing to clarify that in fact all were members of terrorist factions.

In part two of this post we will review the following day’s editions of ‘Newshour’.

 

 

Revisiting two BBC News website reports from February

As Gaza Strip based terror factions launched rocket and mortar attacks against civilians in southern Israel last week, the Lebanese TV station al Mayadeen aired a video of an attack which had taken place along the Gaza-Israel border nine months earlier.

“A Hezbollah-connected Lebanese television channel on Tuesday broadcast never-before-seen footage of an attack on a group of Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border in February, in which an explosive device was set off along the security fence. […]

The footage, from February 17, shows one soldier wearing protective gear walking up to the Gaza security fence and taking down a Palestinian flag that had been affixed to the fence east of the city of Khan Younis.

As he walks over to the other three servicemen in his patrol, a tripwire connected to the flagstaff sets off a bomb that had been buried nearby.

Two of the soldiers were seriously injured in the attack. The other two sustained moderate wounds, the Israel Defense Forces said at the time.”

In fact another video of the same attack had been released some ten days after the Popular Resistance Committees had claimed responsibility for the attack on February 17th.

Following that February attack the BBC News website produced two reports:

Israel Gaza: Four Israeli soldiers injured in border blast

Israel Gaza: Air strikes follow bomb blast on Gaza border

As noted here at the time, in the first report BBC audiences were told that:

“No group has so far said it was behind Saturday’s explosion, which happened at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) east of the town of Khan Younis.”

Not only was that statement incorrect when it was first published on February 18th – the PRC had claimed responsibility the previous day – but when, two months later, the BBC corrected an additional error in the first report (the same inaccuracy however remains uncorrected in the second article) that inaccurate claim was left standing.

Photo credit: ITIC

Relatedly, the BBC’s profile of the Popular Resistance Committees has not been updated since 2005.

Related Articles:

Popular Resistance Committee Backgrounder: 2018  (CAMERA)

Serial BBC failure to report rocket attacks comes home to roost