BBC Arabic amplifies Assad’s conspiracy theory in Golan attack report

Just after 5 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, October 21st residents of some of the northern communities in the Golan Heights were woken by the sound of the siren warning of incoming projectiles from Syria. Israel subsequently responded to the incident.

“The Israeli army on Saturday hit three Syrian artillery targets across the border in the northern Golan Heights, hours after five projectiles landed in open ground in Israel as a result of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria.

The IDF vowed it would intensify its responses to future such stray fire. “Even if this is just spillover, this is an exceptional incident and the continuance of such events will be met with a more fierce Israeli response,” a statement by the IDF said.” 

As the day progressed, however, assessment of the incident altered.

“Israel believes five rockets fired across the border from Syria early Saturday morning may have been deliberately launched at Israel, rather than constituting errant spillover from clashes in Syria, military sources said late Saturday. […]

The Israeli army said five projectiles were fired at around 5 am, and that four of them fell relatively deep inside Israeli territory. The rockets set off alarms in several locations. They landed in open ground, and caused no injury or damage. One of them landed close to an Israeli residential area.

Channel 2 news reported that although the IDF officially referred to “spillover” fire in its statements Saturday, there was “a growing sense” in the army that the Syrian fire was deliberate.

There was no fighting going on in Syria at the time of the fire, the TV report said. It added that the area from which the rockets were fired is under the control of the Syrian army. And it noted that the projectiles fell deep inside Israeli territory on the Golan Heights, one after the other, rather than close to the border.”

Meanwhile, as usually happens in such cases, the Syrian regime promoted baseless conspiracy theory.

“Syria…claimed that Israel had “coordinated” with terror groups, inviting them to fire into Israel as a pretext for the IDF response, and it sent letters of complaint to the United Nations.”

While the BBC’s English language services did not consider the story newsworthy, the corporation’s Arabic language website did publish a report headlined “Israel bombs Syrian artillery in the Golan” in which – once again – the Syrian regime’s propaganda was uncritically amplified.

“The Syrian Defense Ministry said the armed opposition had fired missiles at Israeli-controlled areas to provoke them to retaliate against the Syrian army. […]

The bombing of the terrorists, acting under the direction of Israel, is a free zone to provide an excuse for this attack,” the ministry said.”

Earlier this year, when the BBC World Service began expanding its foreign language services following a £289 million boost in funding provided by the British tax-payer, the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

BBC World Service Director Francesca Unsworth added:

“For more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe.”

As those two senior BBC executives acknowledge, it is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from the countless media outlets in the Middle East that operate according to a particular political or ideological agenda by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction.

Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of Syrian regime propaganda that audiences could just as easily find at the Syrian State news agency is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

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BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

Throughout the years of the Syrian civil war, the BBC has on multiple occasions given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

BBC unquestioningly promotes Assad’s “destabilisation” claims

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

BBC report on shootings in Golan parrots Assad propaganda

Vital information missing in BBC reports on alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

On November 30th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Syria conflict: ‘Israeli jets’ strike outside Damascus“. The initial version of that report read as follows:

alleged-airstrike-syria

Around an hour later the article was amended to include Syrian regime propaganda.

“The Syrian military source said Wednesday’s missile strikes were “an attempt to distract attention” from the Syrian army’s “successes” and a “bid to raise the morale of the collapsing terrorist gangs”, an apparent reference to recent rebel losses in Aleppo.”

That propaganda was already in the public domain when the BBC published the first version of its report but, remarkably, someone at the BBC News website thought it appropriate to amend the article to include that false information – which once again goes unquestioned and unchallenged – and amplify it to international audiences.

So much for “the standard-setter for international journalism“.  

 

BBC’s Bowen provides a stage for Syrian propaganda

When the Russian state funded media organisation RT promotes outlandish notions of the type below – seen in an article on its website on September 4th – no-one is of course overly surprised.

““Of course, we know that there are different approaches to Syria. By the way, people are running away not from the regime of Bashar Assad, but from Islamic State, which seized large areas in Syria and Iraq, and are committing atrocities there. That is what they are escaping from,” RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Putin as saying on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.” [emphasis added]

Eyebrows should though be raised when the BBC provides a stage for similar unchallenged propaganda from the mouth of the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister on its website, as was the case on September 3rd. The synopsis to that filmed report – titled “Syria: ‘Terrorist aggression to blame’ for refugee crisis” – reads:Bowen Mekdad report

“Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, has said that the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe is the direct result of terrorist aggression against Syria.

He blamed Islamist militants for forcing thousands from their homes and said the government had helped millions of displaced people.

Speaking to the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, Mr Mekdad called for Syrians who had left the country to return.”

In the report itself visitors to the BBC News website see Mekdad make the following spurious claim:

The Syrian army has never, ever attacked or initiated any attack against a city or against a village and if you see at least the most recent attacks you will see them initiated by the terrorist factions and when these terrorist groups attack villages and cities you see a very big flood of people leaving those areas.” [emphasis added]

Mekdad later adds:

“When we see some leaders in Western Europe attacking the government of Syria day and night, I would like to assure you that those leaders have played a very big role in supporting terrorism in Syria because they are responsible for dispatching of these terrorist elements from their own countries under whatever pretext into Syria and into Iraq.”

The report as it stands on the BBC News website includes no qualification whatsoever to relieve audiences of the grossly inaccurate notion that the Assad regime has “never, ever” attacked Syrian civilians or of the idea that Western governments are “dispatching” people to join ISIS.

If this report was intended to contribute to meeting the BBC’s remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” by means of accurate and impartial reporting, then obviously the crude propaganda of an official of the regime which has killed tens of thousands of its own people should have been clearly signposted as such. After all, Jeremy Bowen’s position was created with the ostensible aim of providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.

In the absence of any such clarification or even the faintest of challenges to Mekdad’s bogus claims from Jeremy Bowen, the BBC News website gives audiences very little reason to prefer it over Russian or Syrian regime sponsored media sites such as RT or SANA.

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Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Readers may recall that some two and a half years ago the BBC got itself into hot water by promoting Assad regime propaganda on its English language website. Two days after the appearance of an article claiming that “Israeli strikes on Syria ‘co-ordinated with terrorists'” the corporation responded to considerable public outcry by amending the headline.

Apparently though, lessons have not been fully learned from that incident.

As has previously been noted here, on August 21st a report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page amplified a claim promoted by Syrian state TV according to which five men killed in an Israeli strike following a missile attack on northern Israel were “civilians”.BBC Arabic Sana propaganda

BBC Arabic however went even further. In a report dating from August 20th relating to Israeli airstrikes on regime targets in Syria which took place in response the same day’s missile attack on Israel, readers were provided with unadulterated Syrian state news agency propaganda.

“A statement by the agency SANA that the Israeli attacks aimed at “supporting armed terrorist organizations and raise the morale collapsed,” a reference to armed groups in Syria, which is fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime.”

There is of course nothing new about this particular genre of Syrian regime propaganda and Assad himself recently promoted it in an interview with Hizballah TV.

“In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television on Monday, Assad said that Syria would not directly strike back at Israel for the attacks, but would hit Israel by fighting with rebels opposing his rule, whom he claimed were the “servants of Israel.”

“The real tools that Israel is using, which are more important than the recent attacks, they are the terrorists in Syria,” Assad said.

“If we want to deal with Israel, we must first deal with its proxies inside Syria,” he added.”

In the Middle East there are already countless media outlets reporting according to a particular political or ideological agenda. It is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from regime-run media by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction. Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of obviously delusional Syrian regime propaganda is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

Another notable point concerning this BBC Arabic report is that the caption to the main photograph illustrating it states that “The Syrian side of the ceasefire line with Israel is currently witness to frequent clashes”. Readers would naturally therefore assume that the image shows the aftermath of one of those clashes on “the Syrian side of the ceasefire line”.

BBC Arabic Sana art photo

However, the exact same image was used in another BBC article produced on the same day and there it was described as showing northern Israel: “Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [sic].

BBC Arabic Sana cf photo

One of those captions is obviously inaccurate and misleading.

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BBC amplifies Iranian propaganda over Beirut embassy bombing

On November 19th the BBC News website’s Middle East page ran a report on the bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut earlier that day.

Beirut Iranian embassy

The report includes amplification of Iranian propaganda on the subject of the perpetrators of the attack.

“The Iranian ambassador to Beirut confirmed Mr Ansari’s death to Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, but said it was not clear if he had been in the embassy itself or one of the residential buildings nearby.

Mr Ansari had only taken up his post a month ago, he said.

The ambassador blamed Israel for the attack – an accusation Israel swiftly rejected.”

Beirut Iranian embassy 2

As readers will no doubt be aware, this is not the first occasion on which the BBC has uncritically promoted swiftly produced propaganda statements.

propaganda 1

Despite the fact that the attack was later claimed by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades – as reported by the BBC itself on its dedicated live page and as noted in a later version of the report – the Iranian propaganda was left standing.

later version Beirut bombing

Update: 

The Iranian ambassador’s propaganda was removed from later versions of the report.