BBC News website’s groundless speculations still online

Readers of an article published on the BBC News website on September 19th under the title “Mustafa Badreddine Street sparks outrage in Lebanon” found an economical description of the death of the person described as “a late military commander of the Hezbollah movement”:

“Badreddine – who was designated a terrorist by the United States – was killed in 2016 in Syria, where he was believed to have led Hezbollah units fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad.”

The article included a link to the obituary for Badreddine published by the BBC News website in May 2016 and readers who bothered to follow it would have read that:

“Mustafa Amine Badreddine, who has been killed in Syria, was a top Hezbollah military commander.

He was killed by jihadist artillery fire on a Hezbollah base near Damascus airport, the group said. […]

His death was initially blamed on Israel, Hezbollah’s chief enemy.

But Hezbollah later said its commander had been killed in a bombardment carried out by Sunni extremists. It has not named any of the groups.”

Any member of the BBC’s audience searching online for more information on the circumstances of Badreddine’s death in 2016 would, however, be likely to have come across BBC reports presenting conflicting information.

An article published on the BBC News website in March 2017 reported that:

“The Israeli military’s chief of staff has added weight to Arab media reports that Hezbollah was behind the killing of its own commander in Syria in 2016.

Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said Israeli intelligence had similarly concluded that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was assassinated by his own men.

He was killed by a blast near Damascus, which the militant Lebanese Shia group blamed on Sunni extremist rebels.”

Ten months earlier the BBC had initially blamed Badreddine’s death on Israel.

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in an Israeli operation in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

It says Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an Israeli air strike near Damascus airport.

Israel has so far made no public comment on the claim.”

While the BBC subsequently backtracked its claim that Hizballah had made such a statement, its original report on Badreddine’s death remains online – including a section headed “Who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?” which still points BBC audiences towards one very clear conclusion.

“Any of the armed groups seeking to overthrow Mr Assad might have sought to kill the man co-ordinating Hezbollah military activities. However, suspicion is likely to fall on Israel, which fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006.

Israel has been accused of killing several of the group’s leaders over the years, although it has never officially confirmed its involvement.

Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008 that US intelligence officials said last year was a joint operation by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

In January 2015, a suspected Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters, including Mughniyeh’s son Jihad, and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general.

And in December, Hezbollah said one of its senior figures, Samir Qantar, was killed when missiles fired by Israeli jets struck a block of flats in Damascus.

Israel has also reportedly conducted air strikes aimed at preventing advanced weapons shipments from Iran from reaching Hezbollah via Syria.”

As we see, over two years on the BBC has now chosen to adopt and promote the official Hizballah account of Badreddine’s killing. Nevertheless the corporation – which relates to its online content as “historical record” – has let its previous unsubstantiated speculations remain online with no footnote added to inform BBC audiences that they are groundless.

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BBC coverage of STL amplifies Hizballah propaganda

There are currently two articles on the subject of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which opened proceedings last week, on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.

In the ‘Features & Analysis’ section appears an article by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Jim Muir titled “Lebanon polarised as Hariri tribunal opens” which also includes a filmed report by Muir broadcast on BBC television news programmes. That filmed report is also included in an article titled “Rafik Hariri murder trial begins at The Hague” which appears in the news section of the website’s Middle East page.

STL arts both

In all three of those items, Hizballah propaganda is uncritically promoted in among the rest of the information provided.

In the filmed report Muir states:

“But, the militant Shiite movement [Hizballah] has dismissed the trial as part of a conspiracy by Israel to discredit its enemies.”

In the article appearing in the news section it is stated:

“Hariri and 21 others were killed by a massive car bomb in Beirut in 2005.

The killings polarised Lebanon and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Hezbollah denies any involvement.

It instead says the assassination was part of an Israeli and US conspiracy.”

And:

“But Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah says it was Israel that tracked Hariri’s movements by satellite, penetrating the phone system to falsify records and masterminding the assassination to discredit and undermine its enemies.”

In the ‘Features & Analysis’ article it is stated:

“But, with five men linked to the militant Shia movement Hezbollah indicted by the tribunal, many in the other half of the spectrum see the trial as a highly politicised affair aimed at undermining Israel’s opponents.”

And:

“The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, set out his movement’s narrative on the affair in August 2010.

Introducing video footage he said was intercepted from Israeli spy drones, he argued that Israel was behind the killing, tracking Rafik Hariri’s movements, and penetrating and manipulating Lebanese phone network records on which the bulk of the prosecution case is apparently based.

“The aim was to denigrate and demoralise the leaders and militants of the Resistance, and worse, to stir sectarian strife and even civil war between Sunnis and Shia in Lebanon,” he insisted.”

Both the above articles include links to an item titled “Q&A: Hariri Tribunal” in which it is stated:

“Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack and said the assassination was part of an Israeli and US conspiracy.”

And:

“Hezbollah, for its part, has dismissed the tribunal as an “Israeli instrument”, and produced what it regards as evidence that Israel was involved in the bombing.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was of course established by the UN Security Council.

This of course is by no means the first time that the baseless propaganda of the Iranian funded and controlled international terrorist and criminal organization Hizballah has been unquestioningly repeated and promoted by the BBC. As we have noted here in the past:

“The BBC clearly has a problem knowing how to relate to the streams of all too predictable propaganda regularly produced by regimes and terrorist organisations in the Middle East. Its current practice of uncritical repetition and amplification of baseless rumour, conspiracy theories and propaganda is clearly incompatible with its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” and its self-declared aspiration to “remain the standard-setter for international journalism”.

The BBC’s remit is to help audiences look beyond the propaganda and rhetoric they can just as easily view on websites and television stations run by Hizballah or the Iranian and Syrian regimes rather than giving it inappropriate credence through uncritical repetition and amplification on its own website and television news.”

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