Revisiting BBC reporting on Palestinian social media incitement

In October 2015 the BBC News website published an article titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?”. The question posed in that headline was addressed in fewer than 200 words which did little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fuelling the wave of terror at the time, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. 

In October 2016, listeners to a radio programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

Earlier this month the BBC News website published a report in which Yolande Knell told readers that:

“The PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks.”

Several days after the appearance of Knell’s article, Palestinian Media Watch published a report titled “Fatah’s official Facebook page in 2018 A platform for glorifying murder and promoting terror”.

“This Palestinian Media Watch report demonstrates that the Fatah Movement used its official Facebook page throughout 2018 to glorify terror and terrorists, and to support continued Palestinian terror against Israelis. As its fundamental policy, Fatah glorified terrorists from all periods of its history including mass murderers and suicide bombers. Significantly, immediately following terror attacks, Fatah used Facebook to praise the contemporary terror and glorify new terrorists throughout the year. Although Fatah’s use of Facebook for these purposes is in direct violation of Facebook’s guidelines set out in its Community Standards, Facebook has not deleted these terror glorifying and terror promoting posts, and has not closed down Fatah’s Facebook account.”

While Yolande Knell was not wrong when she wrote that “[t]he PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks” (as does Fatah) neither she nor her colleagues have made any effort to inform BBC audiences of the type of material regularly posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page and thereby enable them to judge for themselves whether, despite those denials, the Fatah dominated PA does or does not incite terrorism against Israelis.  

Related Articles:

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Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

 

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Antisemitic smear in BBC employee’s HMD tweet

On Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27th – the results of a survey showing among other things that 5% of UK adults do not believe that the Holocaust happened were published by the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

In a Tweet relating to that survey BBC employee Masoud Behnoud wrote (as confirmed by a professional translator):

“This [lack of knowledge about the Holocaust] happens in a situation where the financial and political power of Jews has been publicising/promoting it [i.e. knowledge about the Holocaust] for half a century.” [emphasis added]

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media.

While those guidelines do not include any specific mention of the topic of the promotion of antisemitic themes on microblogs run by BBC employees – apparently because the BBC does not expect to be employing people who engage in that or any other form of racism – they do state that people “identified as a BBC staff member or BBC talent…should not post derogatory or offensive comments on the Internet”.

Despite promoting his own BBC programmes in his timeline, Masoud Behnoud however does not identify himself as a BBC employee in his Twitter profile.

 

 

BBC News’ ‘different side’ to Gaza is much of the same

A video titled “The Instagrammer who wants to show a different side of Gaza” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on December 30th with a synopsis that begins as follows:

“A Palestinian Instagrammer in the Gaza Strip wants to show us a different side of life there.”

However, far from bringing audiences “a different side” to that usually seen in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip, the synopsis went on to promote the corporation’s standard mantras, including the usual uninformative slogan concerning the context to Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

“Gaza has seen three major wars between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the strip. Gaza’s economy has also been badly hit by a blockade by Israel and Egypt – needed, they say – for security reasons.” [emphasis added]

In among Kholoud Nassar’s photos of cheesecake and coffee, historic buildings, well-stocked markets, a garden centre and a strawberry field, the same slogans were promoted in the film itself.

“Gaza has been through three major wars in the last decade between Israel and the Hamas group that controls the strip. […] Israel and Egypt restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, citing security reasons.”

Remarkably the film’s producer Cara Swift chose to use that particular image despite the fact that it is not representative of the Gaza Strip at the end of the last conflict in 2014 and with no room for an explanation of the context that lies behind the damage seen.

Another day, another example of the way in which the BBC’s strict chosen framing does not allow any Gaza Strip related story to be “different”.

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BBC News employee breaches social media editorial guidelines

Meet Majd Yousef. Hailing from Jordan and now living in London, she is currently employed as a YouTube editor at BBC News and two years ago, described her job at the time as follows:

“Majd Yousef is an Online Editor at BBC World Services and a YouTube Editor at BBC Arabic. Majd specializes in online videos in general, and news in particular. At BBC, Majd is responsible for creating publishing strategies for news and programs, pulling analytics and feedback, and keeping an eye on what is trending in the Arab region. Having worked previously in the same position at Al Jazeera English in Doha, her passion for digital media and online publishing goes back to her days at Kharabeesh, an online entertainment network where she worked as a Publishing Manager for over 2 years. […]

I am responsible for everything BBC Arabic publishes on its YouTube channel; I set the online strategy for our different programs and make editorial decisions of what to publish, based on our ongoing analysis of the audience’s behavior.”

Ms Yousef has also contributed to written BBC content.

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions in the past, BBC editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media state that:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

And:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests. […] Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”

And:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.”

When, on October 21st, the king of Jordan announced that he will not renew two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan concerning territory leased to Israel, Majd Yousef nevertheless made her opinion on the issue very clear in a Tweet sent from a Twitter account identifying her as a BBC employee.

Ms Yousef also sent several additional problematic Tweets concerning the same topic, including one using the terms “we” and “our” – i.e. Jordanians.

“It’s important to recall the appendix to the agreement, this is a one year notice prior to the execution, i.e. we must make sure it’s being carried out next year, then according to the agreement the two sides enter a stage of consultations after the notice – let’s see who is “consulting” on our behalf before we celebrate…”

Apparently someone at the BBC recognised that Majd Yousef’s Tweets breach BBC editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media because two days after they were sent, her Twitter account was deleted.

But at least we now have some insight into the opinions behind the “editorial decisions” that go into making videos for BBC News.

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PA TV executives reveal goals of station partnered by BBC charity

Readers may recall that back in 2016 we noted the existence of a project run by the BBC’s international development charity ‘BBC Media Action’ and BBC Arabic in partnership with the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) between 2012 and 2016.

The BBC charity’s partnership with terror glorifying PA media

“The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and its television (PA TV) and radio (Voice of Palestine) stations are the PA’s official media channels.

…both those stations have a long record of broadcasting material which negates Israel’s existence (including on children’s programmes), glorifies terrorism, spreads incitement, promotes antisemitic tropes and hate speechpropagates falsehoods about Israel and denies and distorts the Holocaust.”

A blog post written in 2013 (which includes a shout-out to Manal Tamimi – known for her Tweets lauding and encouraging Palestinian violence) by a person who was at the time employed at the BBC Media Action Ramallah office as a social media specialist states that in addition to producing content together with the PBC, the BBC charity also helped the corporation expand its presence on social media.

“Our social media team is working hand in hand with the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation to develop the station’s Facebook page, and we are creating social media guidelines for the station, as well as using social media for production. Over the past six months Palestine TV’s Facebook page has seen rising numbers of fans and increasingly professional content.”

Recently two senior PBC officials provided some background (translated by Palestinian Media Watch) concerning the goals of the TV station with which BBC Media Action found it appropriate to collaborate over a period of several years.

In other words, a TV station that is described by its director as “a media outlet with a national cause” and portrayed by one of its senior executives as “a central part of the…struggle” was nevertheless chosen to partner a BBC charity funded to no small extent by the UK tax-payer.

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The BBC charity’s partnership with terror glorifying PA media

BBC double standards in reporting social media incitement evident again

As we have seen in the past BBC reporting on social media incitement to violence and/or glorification of terrorism differs depending on location.

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In April of this year the BBC News website’s domestic pages reported the sentencing of a Salford man previously found guilty of “encouragement of terrorism”.

“Muslim convert Adam Wyatt, 48, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication that said “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” and posting on social media that jihad was an obligation for all Muslims.”

The following month the website reported the sentencing of a man from Sunderland who had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

“A shopkeeper who tweeted support for Islamic State (IS) and called for “death to Shias” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, of Nora Street, Sunderland, had admitted encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not send a reporter to interview either of those men before they were sentenced. Neither did it promote the notion that they were put on trial because of their identity to millions of audience members or portray either of their cases as being about “free speech”.

However, when an Israeli-Arab woman was sentenced to five months in prison after having been convicted of incitement to violence in her poems and social media posts, the BBC News website amplified her claims of political persecution in a July 31st report titled “Dareen Tatour: Israeli Arab poet sentenced for incitement“.

“An Israeli Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. […]

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online. […]

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.”

The BBC’s report also provides readers with two links to Tatour’s ‘poem’ – one a written version and the other a video.

On the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a pre-recorded translated interview with Tatour by Tim Franks (from 30:04 here). The story was similarly portrayed by presenter James Menendez as being about ‘free speech’. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “To a case now that’s become a cause celebre for free speech advocates in Israel and beyond. Dareen Tatour is an Arab-Israeli poet living near Nazareth. In October 2015 she was arrested and subsequently charged with inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. That’s because of her social media posts including one in which she read a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist’ accompanied by footage of Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli police. At that time tension was running high in Israel after a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Well today, more than two and a half years on, Dareen Tatour has been sentenced for her crimes. The sentence was five months in prison. She’s already spent 3 months in prison and was then placed under house arrest. Well that prompted writers from around the world, including Alice Walker and Naomi Klein, to call for her release. Well on Monday Dareen spoke to Newshour’s Tim Franks who asked her first how she was feeling ahead of sentencing.”

During that interview BBC audiences around the world heard Tatour state that she does not think “there is any fairness in the Israeli justice system” and claim that she was being sentenced “only because I’m Palestinian. This is a political sentence”.

Listeners also heard her claim that she writes “about 70 years of occupation” with no effort made by Franks to explain to listeners what that phrase actually means. Similarly unchallenged was Tatour’s claim that she speaks about “the Israeli Zionist crimes against innocent people”.

When Franks raised the issue of one of her posts praising the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, she claimed that the “accusation is only based on a news story that I shared which mentions the Islamic Jihad” and “all I did was share the article”.

Haaretz however reported that her post said:

“Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line” 

Franks then provided Tatour with the cue for her claim that she is “against all forms of violence” before asking her about her use of the word ‘shahid’ – martyr – while giving listeners the cumbersome explanation that:

“It is the word that is used to describe people who – Palestinian militants – who have lost their lives involved in militant activity”

Listeners then heard Tatour claim that “the word shahid that I use means victim” and twice state that “every martyr in Palestine is a victim”. She also made the false claim – unchallenged by Franks – that:

“More than a thousand people died in the last Gaza war – most of them children.”

Following that interview, James Menedez interviewed former Israeli MK Danny Ayalon, asking him first:

Menedez: “What is Israel doing locking up poets?”

As we see, while the BBC produces factual, judgement free reporting on people convicted of “encouragement of terrorism” in the UK, a similar story in Israel gets entirely different treatment. And so, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism persist.

 

 

 

A BBC journalist asks ‘what’s wrong with Hamas?’

On March 28th the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn posted a link on his Facebook account to an interview he had given earlier to the Jewish News.

Among the hundreds of comments below that post was one from a ‘broadcast journalist’ at the BBC called Becky Branford.

As regular readers know, BBC editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” state:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests. […]

Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”

Branford’s comment has since been removed. Nevertheless, the fact that a journalist creating content for the BBC News website apparently thinks there is nothing “wrong” with a terror organisation responsible for the murders of hundreds of civilians gives plenty of food for thought.

BBC’s Newsbeat adds redundant ambiguity to report on blogger’s tweets

An article produced by the BBC’s Newsbeat division appeared on the Newsbeat website and the BBC News website on January 22nd under the headline “L’Oreal hijab model pulls out of campaign after backlash“.

The story was introduced as follows:

“UK beauty blogger Amena Khan says she’s pulling out of a L’Oreal campaign.

In a post on Instagram she says she’s stepping down from the campaign “because of the current conversations surrounding it”.

Her decision follows the discovery of tweets she wrote in 2014, which some have branded as “anti-Israel”.” [emphasis added]

Later on readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“It follows accusations that she expressed “anti-Israel” views in a number of tweets from 2014.

Newsbeat has not seen the tweets as they have now been deleted but in her post, Amena apologises for them, saying she’s sorry for the “upset and hurt” they’ve caused.

“Championing diversity is one of my passions, I don’t discriminate against anyone,” she adds.”

Newsbeat could have taken a look at the Daily Mail’s report on the story (published over an hour before the final version of the BBC’s article appeared) which includes screenshots of some of Khan’s 2014 tweets.

Daily Mail

A simple internet search – which Newsbeat apparently failed to do – turns up screenshots of other examples of Khan’s now deleted anti-Israel rhetoric.

Obviously the qualifying language and equivocal punctuation that was used in this report to suggest to BBC audiences that the anti-Israel nature of Khan’s Tweets is open to interpretation is misleading and it would be appropriate for Newsbeat to correct the article accordingly.

 

BBC Monitoring steers clear of key parts of the Jerusalem story

On December 7th the BBC News website published an article by BBC Monitoring under the less than objective title “Middle East media reacts to ‘slap of the century’” which opened by telling readers that:

“Headlines in Arab and Turkish newspapers are crowded with strident criticism and expressions of dismay in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Those in the Israeli press welcome the move, saying it should never have taken decades to happen.”

Since then, however, audiences have seen no further coverage of the Middle East media from the licence fee funded BBC department that pledges to help them “understand the world through its media”.

BBC audiences are therefore not aware of the fact that the last couple of weeks have seen a rise in the appearance of antisemitic cartoons in some Middle East media outlets – as the ADL reports.

“These cartoons describe President Trump as a circus elephant balancing the globe on its trunk to the command of its Israeli trainer; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulling the arm of a blindfolded US in order to raise a Star-of-David-shaped wand; and President Trump driving off a cliff in a car marked with a Star of David. They also depict the Israeli flag on top of an Uncle-Sam-style top hat; Uncle Sam throwing away his original hat only to reveal he is in fact wearing a Jewish skullcap; as well as the US saying that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” while the Jewish figure is giving it a thumbs-up, as though it was said on Israel’s cue.

These cartoons resonate with an age-old anti-Semitic theme of malevolent Jewish power found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document purporting to show Jews scheming to achieve world domination.”

Although BBC Monitoring states that it provides “analysis of media and social media behaviour based on expert understanding of the local media and cultural context”, BBC audiences have heard nothing of a music video promoting suicide bombings and an antisemitic poem that have been broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV. Neither have they been told of calls to the public from PA politicians in official PA media outlets to “stand against any attempt” to “Judaize” Jerusalem or of the repeated calls from Fatah (the dominant political party in the PA and PLO) for violence and rioting on its social media platforms. BBC Monitoring staff have apparently also not noticed the incitement against the US president on Fatah social media accounts.

As we saw earlier this week, BBC correspondents in the region are not making an effort to apprise audiences of the backdrop to the rioting on the streets that they are reporting. The fact that the BBC  is the only world media organisation to have such a large publicly funded department dedicated to translation and analysis of foreign language media means that it is ideally – and indeed uniquely – placed to fill that vacuum. BBC Monitoring is not, however, providing the corporation’s audiences with information which would help them put the story of the regional reaction to the US announcement on Jerusalem into perspective. 

A BBC journalist’s chosen Twitter header compromises impartiality

Readers may recall that in January 2016 the BBC refrained from reporting a story concerning an activist with the non-transparently funded political NGO ‘Ta’ayush‘ – Ezra Nawi – that appeared in the Israeli media.

“Key activists in two of Israel’s best-known left wing NGOs were caught on camera admitting that they entrapped Palestinians interested in selling land to Israelis and then reported them to the Palestinian Authority, despite knowing that these Palestinians faced near-certain torture or murder at the hands of the PA’s secret police.

The story was first reported yesterday by Uvda, a prestigious Israeli television news magazine that is the local equivalent of 60 Minutes. The two activists are Nasser Nawaja, a Palestinian and a prominent field researcher for the human rights group B’Tselem, and Ezra Nawi, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem and a key figure in the pro-Palestinian, pro-BDS group Ta’ayush. They were secretly recorded by members of another NGO, called Ad Kan, who then delivered the tape to Uvda’s reporter Omri Assenheim.

“He’s not the first to call me, he’s maybe the fourth,” Nawi bragged on tape, while speaking of a Palestinian real estate agent who contacted him with offers of land for sale to Israelis. “And right away I send their pictures and their phone numbers to the Palestinian security services.”

Speaking off camera, an unnamed Ad Kan activist asks Nawi what the PA does then.

“They catch these guys and they kill them,” Nawi says.

“Physically kills them?” asks the Ad Kan activist, sounding surprised.

“Yes,” Nawi replies, grinning widely.”

Several days after that programme was aired, Nawi tried to leave the country.

In 2009 Ezra Nawi was convicted of assaulting police officers and rioting. Shortly before Nawi was sentenced, the BBC’s Tim Franks – at the time based at the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau – produced a report for BBC Radio 4 titled “Non-Jews ‘treated worse than fifth class'”.

“A peace activist [sic] in Israel is due to be sentenced today after being found guilty of assaulting Israeli paramilitary policemen in the West Bank. Ezra Nawi was protesting about the Israeli demolition of a Bedouin shack deep inside the occupied West Bank in 2007, and his arrest was filmed and posted on youtube. Middle East correspondent Tim Franks, returned with Ezra Nawi back to the same West Bank Bedouin encampment.”

In 2011 an Irish politician abandoned a presidential bid after it emerged that in 1997 he wrote a letter on official Irish parliamentary stationary appealing for clemency for his partner at the time – Ezra Nawi – who had been convicted of statutory rape of a 15 year-old Palestinian boy. The BBC reported that story too – albeit with incorrect representation of Nawi’s name.  

Given Ezra Nawi’s record and the blatantly partisan agenda of the political NGO with which he is linked, one might perhaps have thought that one of the last places one would find a photograph of him (apparently from 2009) would be on the header of the official Twitter account (active since 2010) of a BBC journalist committed to editorial standards of impartiality – including in relation to social media – particularly as that journalist still produces content relating to Israel and the Palestinians.

However, one would be mistaken.

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