BBC Thai omits and erases vital information in report from Israel

A filmed report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 23rd was presented with the headline “Thai labourers in Israel tell of harrowing conditions“.

“A year-long BBC investigation has discovered widespread abuse of Thai nationals living and working in Israel – under a scheme organised by the two governments.

Many are subjected to unsafe working practices and squalid, unsanitary living conditions. Some are overworked, others underpaid and there are dozens of unexplained deaths.”

In the middle of that three-minute and ten second long product of “a year-long BBC investigation” viewers are rightly told that:

“Under Israeli law, Thai workers’ rights are well protected.”

However the film goes on:

“But they depend on the farmers for food, shelter and a work visa. Many are too scared to complain as they fear losing their income.”

Viewers are not told that under Israeli law (p.17):

“The law prohibits an employer from dismissing an employee or reducing his salary or terms of employment due to any complaint or claim filed by the employee, or due to the fact that he assisted another employee, in good faith, to file such a complaint or claim. An employer who behaves in this manner towards his foreign worker has performed a criminal offense for which a complaint can be filed as above.”

The film next goes on to clarify that – presumably on the basis of complaints made by workers to the Ministry of Labour’s Foreign Workers’ Rights Ombudsman – in the past five years the ministry has carried out “more than 1,500 investigations…into pay and working hours” and that the ministry has issued 3,000 warnings and 200 fines.

While – as the ministry’s statement bears out – there are undoubtedly cases in which Thai workers are abused despite the existence of laws protecting them, the makers of this film did not bother to clarify that “unsanitary living conditions” such as the cooker shown in parts of the film also depend on the workers themselves.

Despite that factual interlude, the overall messaging of this film by BBC Thai’s Issariya Praithongyaem is to imply a link between the workers’ conditions and what are described as “unexplained deaths”. Viewers are told that:

“Workers also told us that they were afraid of spraying chemicals. Israel’s use of pesticides is among the highest in the world. Long term exposure has been linked to several illnesses. Many workers told us they regularly spray chemicals without proper protection.”

No source is given for the BBC’s claim that the use of pesticides in Israel “is among the highest in the world” and viewers get no information whatsoever on the subject of the types of pesticides in use in Israel. With the Ministry of Agriculture having initiated a process banning pesticides an insecticides containing organic phosphates, triazines and hydrocarbon chlorides five years ago, the question of which pesticides the Thai workers are spraying and whether or not protective clothing is mandated for the specific chemical is obviously relevant.

While indeed long-term exposure to some pesticides has been linked to “several illnesses”, the BBC’s film does not bother to clarify which pesticides or which illnesses and viewers are not informed that the appearance of most of those illnesses would take considerably longer than the maximum 63 month stay of foreign workers in Israel.

In the later part of the film viewers are told that:

“Wicha Duangdeegaew is one of 172 workers who’ve died since 2012. In Wicha’s case and many other cases, the cause of death is “undetermined”. Doctors don’t have answers and autopsies are rarely carried out.”

As was clarified in an article that appeared in Ha’aretz last year, autopsies are conducted at the request of the police when there is a suspicion that the cause of death is not natural. Additionally, the Thai embassy can request an autopsy either on its own behalf or on the family’s behalf. Ha’aretz reported that it was told by the Thai embassy that in every case of the death of a Thai worker in Israel, the embassy contacts the family, asks what their wishes are and acts accordingly.

Viewers of this film are not told whether or not Wicha Duangdeegaew’s family actually requested an autopsy.

Perhaps most significantly, this film makes no effort to inform BBC audiences that some 40% of the deaths of Thai workers in Israel are attributed to Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS) – a condition predominantly affecting young men from Southeast Asia.

As the BBC itself reported three years ago, additional causes of death in the years 2008 to 2013 “ranged from accidents, alcohol poisoning, heart failure and suffocation, to fire, suicide, beating and stabbing, Israel’s Ministry of Health says”. In that period of time autopsies were not performed in 18% of the cases – a figure which hardly bears out the BBC’s current claim that “autopsies are rarely carried out”.

Clearly – despite being a year in the making – this film fails to provide the full range of information necessary for audiences to understand its subject matter. Instead viewers (and at least one fellow BBC journalist) have been steered towards an overall impression of “abuse” and the speculation that there is a connection between the “undetermined” deaths of Thai workers and the use of pesticides, with no evidence whatsoever provided to support that claim and the most frequent cause of death among those workers – SUNDS – completely erased from audience view.

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Man described by BBC as ‘a businessman’ gets terror designation

A man described twice by the BBC as “a businessman” in an article from September 2013 has been named as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US State Department.Thailand Hizb

“Hussein Atris is a member of Hizballah’s overseas terrorism unit. In 2012, Atris was arrested in Thailand in connection with a terror warning about a possible attack in Bangkok. Atris was found to be hiding nearly three tons of ammonium nitrate, a component in the manufacture of explosives. In 2013, a Thai court sentenced Atris to two years and eight months in prison for illegally possessing the materials. He was released in September 2014, and traveled to Sweden and later Lebanon, where he is believed to be located currently.”

In its reporting at the time of Atris’ arrest and trial (here, here, here and here), the BBC consistently misrepresented Hizballah’s terror designation, suggesting to audiences that the United States alone considers it a terrorist organization.

In fact, Hizballah is also proscribed in its entirety by the governments of Canada, Israel, France and the Netherlands, as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council and Bahrain. Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union proscribe what they define as Hizballah’s “military wing”, although such a distinction is of course at odds with the facts. 

The BBC also promoted the myth of a separate Hizballah “armed wing” in its September 2013 report about two additional individuals designated in the same US State Department announcement.Burgas trial 1

“On July 18, 2012, a bombing at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria killed six people, including five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen. In July 2013, Meliad Farah and Hassan el-Hajj Hassan were publicly identified as key suspects in the bombing, which has been attributed to Hizballah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Both are believed to be located in Lebanon.”

Notable in the BBC’s coverage of the Burgas terror attack is the fact that it provided a generous platform for Hizballah’s denial of involvement – see for example here.

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Another Hizballah plot against Israeli tourists gets the BBC silent treatment

Earlier this month the authorities in Thailand arrested two suspected Hizballah terrorists.Thailand

“Investigations into two suspected foreign terrorists are progressing swiftly as one of the men admitted to a planned attack on Israeli tourists in Khao San Road during Songkran, according to an investigator. […]

They were arrested on suspicion of links to militant Islamist group, Hezbollah.”

Via Ha’aretz we learn that:

“The men arrived in Bangkok on April 13, and police suspect they were planning to direct an attack on Israeli travelers during Passover.

The two suspects are Daoud Farhat, a Lebanese national who also holds French citizenship, and Youssef Ayad, a Lebanese man who is a citizen of the Philipines. […]

The two are suspected of belonging to a larger terror cell, thought to be comprised of at least nine Hezbollah members. […]

A senior officer in the Thailand police told the Bangkok Post that Ayad admitted he was planning attacks against Israelis while under investigation. Various materials that could be used to fabricate bombs were found in his Bangkok residence, the officer said, adding that further searches would be carried out in other residences thought to be used by members of the cell.”

As readers will of course be aware, this is far from the first time that Hizballah has carried out or planned attacks against Israeli tourists abroad.

The BBC’s reporting on a previous incident in Cyprus began as non-existent and proceeded to tardy. Its reporting of the 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, in which six people were killed and dozens injured has been hallmarked by the use of the euphemistic term “militants” to describe an internationally active, Iranian backed terror group. BBC coverage has promoted the myth of a separate “armed wing” to the organization.  Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization has frequently been inaccurately represented and downplayed by the BBC, including in a report concerning a previous incident in Thailand

In this case, the BBC has chosen to ignore the story altogether. 

BBC blurs Iranian regime role in 2012 attacks

On August 22nd 2013 a short report titled “Thailand court jails Iranians over bomb plot” appeared on the Middle East and Asia pages of the BBC News website. 

Thailand court

In the report’s sixth paragraph readers learn that:

“The two defendants were part of what Thai officials believe was a team sent to Thailand to target Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.

The blasts came a day after two bomb attacks targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.”

The BBC then adds:

“Israel has accused Iran of orchestrating the attacks, a charge which Iran denies.”

The BBC neglects to inform its readers that the police investigation into the attack in New Delhi – in which the wife of an Israeli diplomat, her driver and two bystanders were injured – resulted in India’s police concluding that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were behind the attack or that US counter-terrorism officials have reached the same conclusion as their Israeli counterparts.  

The BBC also omits any information regarding the related Red Notice put out by Interpol in March 2012.

Interpol

Hence, BBC audiences are herded towards forming the mistaken impression that the two claims – accusation and denial – are of equal weight, whilst the fact that evidence gathered by other bodies supports the Israeli assessment is concealed from them.

That is not impartial reporting: it is misleading reporting.