Superficial BBC News reporting from Qatar hinders understanding

Plucky: Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.”

The article promoted by the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief in that Tweet appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th under the headline “Qatar cash and cows help buck Gulf boycott“. Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell after a visit to Doha, the report includes a video about a dairy farm in Qatar in which BBC audiences are told that: [emphasis added]

“The cows were shipped, and even flown into Qatar when it was cut off by its Arab neighbours. They accused it of supporting terrorism – which it denies.”

In the article itself readers find the following:

“On 5 June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off all diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar.

They accused it of supporting terrorism, stirring up regional instability and seeking close ties with their arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar denied that and refused to comply with a long list of demands, including closing its Al Jazeera news network. […]

“The main thing that the blockading states are aiming for [is] a power consolidation in the region,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, tells me.

They started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The exact same messaging is seen in the synopsis to a filmed report that also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th.

“Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani says “they started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The same statement opens the filmed report itself.

So what information were BBC audiences given that would help them judge whether there is any truth in that repeatedly promoted claim, according to which accusations of support for terrorism are merely a smear because Qatar is “different”?”

Knell’s portrayal of the issue begins with a year-old story.

“Qatar blames the start of last year’s crisis on what it says was a cyber-attack on its state-run news agency, which published comments purportedly from the ruling emir.

He was quoted as expressing sympathy for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and claiming that Donald Trump might not last long as US president.

However, analysts say the roots of the disagreement go back much further.

“This was an issue that was kept bottled for 20 years but it just came out in the open a year ago,” says Ali Shihabi, the Saudi founder of the Washington-based, Arabia Foundation.

He refers to tapes that emerged after the fall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which appeared to show the Qatari emir’s father plotting against Saudi royals when he was ruler.

Mr Shihabi says that Qatar reneged on agreements to stop payments to dissidents in other Arab countries and gave them a platform on Al Jazeera.”

Who those “dissidents” are and what they ‘dissented’ remains unclear in Knell’s report.

Significantly, Knell made no effort whatsoever to inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s record of negligence on terror financing. Neither did she bother to tell audiences about Qatar’s selective definitions of terrorism, its hosting of senior Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood figures or Qatari leaders’ ties to a terror financier.

As one Middle East analyst put it earlier this year:

“Qatar is on a charm offensive designed to portray itself as a victim of rivalries in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies have isolated the emirate. […]

The problem with Qatar’s attempt to rebrand itself as the moderate state being victimized by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar has never come clean about its support for Hamas and terror financing. “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability,” U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said at the Center for a New American Security in March 2014. He said that fundraisers for Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, then known as Nusra Front, had operated in Kuwait and Qatar.”

Yolande Knell’s superficial reporting clearly does nowhere near enough to enhance the ability of the BBC’s funding public to look beyond that charm offensive. Quite the opposite in fact: it provides back wind for Qatar’s rebranding campaign.

Related Articles:

Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short









Facile BBC News report on PA’s Interpol membership

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 27th were informed that “Interpol approves Palestinian membership” and:

“Palestinians hail a ‘victory’ made possible by the ‘principled position’ of the agency’s members”

The link led to an article titled “Interpol approves Palestinian membership despite Israeli opposition” in which the source of that BBC sub-heading was revealed.

“Interpol has admitted the Palestinian territories as a new member, despite opposition from Israel.

The international policing body backed membership for “the State of Palestine” at its annual general assembly.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki declared the news a “victory”, made possible by the “principled position” of most Interpol members.

Israel tried to delay the vote, arguing that Palestine was not a state and therefore ineligible for membership.”

Later on readers found another quote from al-Maliki:

“”On this joyous occasion, the State of Palestine reiterates its commitment to upholding its obligations and contributing to fighting crime and furthering the rule of law,” Mr Maliki said in a statement.”

That was followed by a quote from a Tweet sent by an Israeli politician:

“Israel’s Deputy Minister for Diplomacy, Michael Oren, criticised the vote, writing on Twitter: “By admitting ‘Palestine’, which praises terrorists of the past and refuses to condemn those of today, Interpol makes the world less safe.””

The BBC did not however provide readers with any information in its own words on obviously relevant issues such as the PA’s payment of financial rewards to terrorists and their families or the fact that alongside the new item of membership dues to Interpol, the PA’s annual budget includes salaries for convicted terrorists. Neither did the BBC consider it necessary to raise the question of Interpol membership for an entity currently negotiating power-sharing with a designated terror organisation.

Given the PA’s record on human rights, the question of the abuse of Interpol membership for factional score-settling is also relevant – particularly in light of a statement reported by the Times of Israel:

“A senior Palestinian official said there were no plans to sue any Israelis through Interpol. He said the purpose is “to pursue criminals who commit crimes here and escape.”

He said one target would be Mohammed Dahlan, a rival of Abbas.”

The tone of this report would have come as no surprise to anyone following regional BBC staff on social media.

The last five paragraphs of this report include promotion of a link to the BBC News website’s recent report on the terror attack in Har Adar (which did not describe the incident as terrorism or the attacker as a terrorist) and standard recycled ‘background’ inserts that amplify PLO messaging on the topic of Palestinian terrorism.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

While that paragraph has been seen in countless BBC News website reports over the last two years, audiences continue to be deprived of serious reporting on incitement to violence from official Palestinian sources or on the Palestinian Authority’s funding of terrorists – topics relevant to this particular story as well as numerous others.

Related Articles:

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

BBC coverage of Sarona Market terror attack – part one

As information concerning the terror attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market on the evening of June 8th came to light, the BBC News website updated its report on the incident numerous times over a period of some ten hours.

The initial article was titled “‘Several wounded’ in Tel Aviv shooting”.  None of the later amendments to the headline – made after circumstances became clearer – informed readers that the incident was a terror attack, with editors opting instead to use the ambiguous phrasing “shopping centre attack”.

Pigua Sarona mkt headlines

The first three versions of the report made no mention of the word terror. Later versions included statements from the Tel Aviv chief of police, the Israeli prime minister and from eye witnesses which did include the word terror inside quotation marks but in all versions the BBC refrained from telling audiences in its own words that Palestinian terrorists had murdered and wounded civilians enjoying a night out in a café.

The latest version of the BBC’s report has not to date been updated to inform BBC audiences of the statement released by Hamas claiming that the terrorists are members of its organization or of the praise for the attack from Ismail Haniyeh.

The attack was the sixth in the Tel Aviv-Yaffo area since October of last year.

October 8th 2015: Tel Aviv: Female soldier and three others stabbed. Terrorist was shot and killed.

November 19th 2015: Tel Aviv: Two people were killed and one wounded in a stabbing attack during afternoon prayers in a Judaica store located in the Panorama building – a commercial center in southern Tel Aviv. The terrorist, from Dura in the West Bank, was apprehended. Hamas “welcomed” the attack. The victims: Rabbi Aharon Yesayev, 32, of Holon and Reuven Aviram, 51, of Ramle.

January 1st 2016: Tel Aviv: In a shooting attack at a pub, two killed – Alon Bakal (26), the pub’s manager, and Shimon Ruimi (30) – and 8 injured, two seriously. The assailant (29, Arab-Israeli citizen from Arara village in northern Israel) was killed a week later during an attempt to apprehend him. Taxi driver Amin Shaaban, 42, of Lod, was later shot and killed by the terrorist who carried out the shooting attack on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.

March 8th 2016: Tel Aviv-Jaffa: 29-year-old American student Taylor Force was killed and 10 others wounded in a stabbing attack which began near the Jaffa port. The assailant fled on foot along the Tel Aviv beach promenade, stabbing passersby and motorists before he was shot and killed by police.

May 30th 2016: Tel Aviv: An Arab from Salfit (17) stabbed a soldier with a screwdriver. The assailant was arrested.

Nevertheless, the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau thought it necessary to inform his Twitter followers that such attacks are “rare”.

Pigua Sarona mkt Colebourn tweet

That theme was also seen in some of the radio coverage of the attack which will be discussed in an upcoming post.

Related Articles:

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

BBC claims attacks on Israelis in Judea & Samaria are “rare”

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


When cultural relativism takes over your BBC news

On January 26th the BBC News (World) twitter account sent the following Tweet.

BBC World tweet Djiin

Obviously, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

Nevertheless, the BBC News website found it appropriate to promote a film titled “Egyptian village blaming fires on ‘evil spirits’” on its Middle East page which – true to the dictates of cultural relativism – ‘impartially’ presents two supposedly equally ‘legitimate’ sides of the story – but with the accent heavily on the one which is a bunch of superstitious baloney.

Djiin 3

Djiin 4

So, when the head of the BBC’s Middle East bureau promoted that film on Twitter with the question “Why does the idea of evil spirits – or ‘Djinns’ – still hold power for many in Egypt?”, it apparently did not occur to him that one of numerous possible answers might be because a Western media organization – which is supposed provide audiences worldwide with factual, evidence-based reporting of news – treats bizarre superstition as though it were a serious news story. 

Head of BBC’s ME bureau slams Israeli government criticism of Gaza reporting

On June 14th Israel’s Foreign Ministry released the following video which, whilst not the most sophisticated piece of video work ever produced, will certainly ring a bell with all those who followed the BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas last summer.

Some people were apparently rather upset by that 49 second cartoon – including the head of the BBC’s Middle East bureau…

Coleborn MFA tweet 1

Colebourn MFA tweet 2

….and the local Foreign Press Association (where Colebourn is a board member), which released a distinctly patronising statement instructing the MFA how it should be spending its time.

FPA statement MFA vidInterestingly, the FPA appears to have forgotten about another statement it put out August 2014.

FPA statement Hamas Aug 14

And no less remarkable is the fact that the video’s critics do not seem to be overly keen to address the actual issues behind the satire.

Related Articles:

AFP on 17 Slain ‘Journalists,’ ‘No Terrorists Here’ (CAMERA) 


Recommended viewing from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau chief

Following publication of the news that veteran CBS ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Bob Simon had died in a car accident in New York, the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau sent this tweet:

Colebourn tweet Simon

The report recommended by Richard Colebourn to his Twitter followers is titled Christians of the Holy Land and it dates from 2012. Rather than being “unusually nuanced and robust”, it in fact includes basic inaccuracies such as this:

“Israel built the wall over the last 10 years, which completely separates Israel from the occupied West Bank. The wall was built to stop Palestinian terrorists from getting into Israel. And it’s worked. Terrorism has gone down 90 percent.

At the same time, the wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the “little town” where Christ was born into what its residents call “an open air prison.” ” [emphasis added]

A critique of Simon’s report by CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile can be seen here.

If it seems odd that Richard Colebourn’s tribute should highlight that particular piece of reporting out of all Bob Simon’s work, it is worth remembering that the BBC has produced its own similarly distorted reporting on the same topic. Perhaps that is why the corporation’s Jerusalem Bureau chief seems to have difficulty differentiating between “robust” and inaccurate, “nuanced” and partial. 

More BBC News website portrayal of run-over terror as traffic accident

Hours after the terror attack in Jerusalem on November 5th in which Border Police Officer Jidan Assad was killed and thirteen others injured, another attack took place at around 10 p.m. on Route 60.

“A Palestinian driving a large commercial vehicle rammed into three IDF soldiers standing near a pillbox by al-Arroub in the West Bank on Wednesday night.

The three soldiers were wounded in the attack near a Palestinian refugee camp close to the Gush Etzion Junction, one suffering moderate-to-severe injuries and the other two moderately wounded. […]

The vehicle escaped towards Hebron, and security forces were conducting searches of the area and placing barricades to catch the suspect. The vehicle was later found abandoned in al-Arroub with damage to its hood. 

The wounded soldiers were from a battalion deployed to Gush Etzion. The troops were securing Highway 60 that is adjacent to the al-Arroub refugee camp, where stones and Molotov cocktails are thrown at Israeli vehicles every day.”

The search for the perpetrator of the attack continues.

There was no stand-alone reporting of that incident on the BBC News website. A paragraph was inserted into the rolling BBC report currently going under the headline “Policeman killed in fresh Jerusalem car attack” which covered both the rioting by Palestinians on Temple Mount on the morning of November 5th and the later terror attack in Jerusalem. Once again, the incident was portrayed in a manner which gives visitors to the BBC News website the mistaken impression that they are reading about a road traffic accident.

“In a separate development later on Wednesday, a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers in the southern West Bank, injuring three of them. The incident happened near a Palestinian refugee camp, Israeli police said.”

The BBC’s Middle East bureau chief was however clearly aware that this was not an accident and was also capable of seeing the link between the two incidents.

Pigua 2 5 11 tweet colebourn

So why are visitors to the BBC News website not being told what the BBC obviously knows? 

BBC amplifies Hizballah propaganda yet again

Late on the night of Tuesday December 3rd a senior Hizballah operative named Hassan Lakkis (also Laqis) was allegedly shot outside his home in Beirut and later died of his wounds. By Wednesday lunchtime local time, a Lebanese Sunni group had taken responsibility for the incident. 

“The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Battalion officially claims the heroic jihadist operation of assassinating the leading member in the party of the devil [Hezbollah] Hassan Houlo al-Laqis in [Hezbollah’s] home ground,” the group wrote on twitter.

“The jihadist operation was implemented by free Sunni lions from Lebanon,” another tweet wrote.

Now Lebanon tweet

The BBC News website’s coverage of the story began on Wednesday morning and has since undergone extensive changes. From the first version of the article, however, one of its dominant themes was the repetition of unfounded Hizballah accusations concerning Israel’s involvement in the attack, despite the BBC clearly being aware of the absence of any evidence to support them. 

Colebourn Lakis tweet

Lakis art 1

The article as it currently stands at the time of writing, together with the side box of analysis by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Jim Muir, totals 666 words – with the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Israeli’ being used nine times. Muir sidebox Lakis

In the body of the article readers are told that:

“Hezbollah blamed Israel for his death but Israel has denied the accusation. […]

“The group [Hizballah] said Israel had tried to kill him several times previously.” […]

“Israel denied any involvement in the death.”

“These automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. “They don’t need evidence, they don’t need facts. They just blame anything on Israel.” […]

“Hezbollah fought a destructive 34-day war with Israel in 2006. The group said that one of Lakkis’s sons had been killed in that conflict.”

In his sidebox of analysis Muir writes:

“One of his colleagues, Ghaleb Awali, was killed by a car bomb in southern Beirut in 2004, an incident which Hezbollah also blamed on Israel.” […]

“Israel usually does not comment on assassinations in which it is believed to have had a hand, such as the killing of another senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in a bomb explosion in Damascus in 2008. But on this occasion it adamantly denied killing Hassan Lakkis, in what appears to have been a fairly clumsy operation by whoever did it.”

In a filmed report broadcast on BBC television news and also placed on the BBC News website, Muir repeated the Hizballah line.

“But of course Hizballah itself has been very quick to blame Israel for this killing – something the Israelis have denied. Now normally, if they have had a hand in something, or it’s believed they have, they keep quiet – they say absolutely nothing.”

Muir filmed Lakkis

So busy is the BBC repeating and promoting the baseless propaganda of a terrorist organization, that exploration of the possibility that the assassination might have been carried out by any actor which is not Israel is reduced to one vague sentence in Muir’s analysis, which was repeated in the body of the main article’s earlier versions – including the decidedly curious use of the term “unlikely target”.

“But Lakkis might be an unlikely target for Sunni militants angered by Hezbollah’s role in Syria.”

Likewise, the terrorist organisation’s role in the Syrian civil war is also downplayed, both in the article itself and in Muir’s sidebox.

“Iran is a major backer of Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to back the government of Bashar al-Assad.”

“Lakkis’s death comes in the context of repeated attacks on Hezbollah’s heartland in Beirut’s southern suburbs which are seen as connected to the movement’s involvement alongside Syrian government forces in their struggle with mainly Sunni rebels.”

Notably, the article fails to make clear to readers Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization which is operational worldwide, describing it thus:

“Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organisation in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims.

It emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon.”

As Michael Totten has noted:

“And yet Hezbollah is still often described, by itself and by its Western apologists, as an indigenous Lebanese “resistance” movement in a twilight struggle against the Jewish state. It is, in fact, a multinational terror operation with Iran as its funder and controller.”

The BBC article also states that:

“Little is known publicly about Lakkis, but he was reputedly close to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and an expert in weapons manufacturing.”

As is documented in Matthew Levitt’s recently published book, Lakkis was previously also responsible for Hizballah’s procurement of arms and military equipment.

“In 2001, Mohammad Dbouk was indicted in U.S. federal court under Operation Smokescreen. According to U.S. investigators, Dbouk is an Iranian-trained Hezbollah operative and “an intelligence specialist and propagandist [who] was dispatched to Canada by Hezbollah for the express purpose of obtaining surveillance equipment.” According to information collected by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) during its investigation into Mohammad Dbouk’s activities in Canada, first in Montreal and then in Vancouver, Dbouk was acting under the direction of Hezbollah’s then chief of procurement, the aforementioned Haj Hassan Hilu Laqis, who was based in Lebanon.” [emphasis added]

Just a couple of weeks ago the BBC was amplifying Iranian propaganda on the subject of the terror attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut – see here and here.  In this article (as well as in a separate one) it now adds Hizballah propaganda to its cocktail of unfounded accusations surrounding that incident.

“The news comes a day after Hassan Nasrallah said Saudi Arabia was behind last month’s bombings outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut.”

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.

Related articles:

BBC tweaks Hizballah statement, promotes its conspiracy theories

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Arabic’s Edgard Jallad promotes Iranian propaganda on BBC World News

BBC amplifies Iranian propaganda over Beirut embassy bombing

Gaza Strip news – BBC style

On Thursday November 14th  staff from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau visited the Gaza Strip, where several Hamas-organised military parades marking the anniversary of last November’s fighting against Israel were taking place.

Knell tweet gaza parade

Colebourn tweet Gaza parade

Colebourn tweet Gaza parade 2

The parades included displays of weaponry and masked gunmen and were attended by Hamas leaders

pic Hamas parade 2

pic Hamas parade

Despite the BBC presence on the ground at the time, no report on these parades has appeared on the BBC News website. 

On the same day, two mortars were fired into Israel, for which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (which also held its own parades) claimed responsibility.  The IDF targeted rocket launching sites in the Gaza Strip in response. Although its journalists were clearly aware of the incident, no report on the subject was produced by the BBC.

Colebourn tweets mortars thurs

To date, no report on the ongoing fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip has appeared on the BBC News website. Hence, BBC audiences remain unaware of the dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas which, among other things, has resulted in streets being flooded with sewage – although apparently it does not impact Hamas’ ability to hold parades of motor vehicles.  

“Though it may be hard to believe, 1.5 million Palestinians have lived without electricity throughout most of the day in 2013. For the past two weeks, residents of the Gaza Strip have endured a cycle of six hours of electricity followed by a 12-hour power outage. Last Wednesday, the power went out at 6:00 am and was finally restored only late that evening.

This current crisis is not the result of a tighter “Israeli siege” or anything of the sort; it is caused by disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over the price of fuel since the tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt were shut down or destroyed.

Recent Egyptian military activity rendered out of commission hundreds of tunnels that once connected Sinai and Gaza and were used to import one million liters of fuel into Gaza each day. As a result, Hamas has no choice but to purchase fuel from Israel via the Palestinian Authority at prices similar to those found in the Israeli market, namely over seven shekels ($2) per liter of gasoline. That is a major problem for private car owners.

The more acute problem is that fuel is needed to operate the Gaza power plant that generates the majority of the local electricity. The Palestinian Authority purchases a liter of fuel for the power plant for approximately 4 shekels from Israeli gas companies and has tried to sell it to Hamas for almost double, including excise tax.

Hamas has rejected those prices outright and stopped purchasing fuel for its power plant. The dramatic consequence was that the power plant has shut down and the electricity supply has been completely disrupted. The PA refuses to waive the excise tax, a critical part of its own budget. And the residents of Gaza are the ones who suffer.”

sewage Gaza pic


New BBC Jerusalem Bureau Chief

As readers may have already noticed, Paul Danahar moved on from his position as head of the BBC’s Middle East Bureau in Jerusalem last month and is now in Washington.

His replacement is Richard Colebourn who was formerly based in Beirut.

Colebourn twitter

Related posts:

BBC Jerusalem Bureau Editor

BBC Jerusalem Bureau personnel changes