BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

As we saw yesterday, a BBC News website report concerning the Argentinian Football Association’s cancellation of a friendly match with Israel framed the background to the decision as being about “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza” and/or the fact that “Palestinians […] were angered by a decision to relocate the game” to Jerusalem.

Although the article was later amended to include the full quote from Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain rather than the truncated version used in earlier editions, the BBC News website still avoided telling its audiences about the threats received by Argentinian players and their families which were – according to the head of the Argentinian Football Association and the Argentinian foreign minister – the real reason for the game’s cancellation.

In contrast, listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on June 6th heard a more accurate version of the story (from 45:05 here) than the one presented by the BBC News website.

Presenter Tim Franks asked his interviewee – an Israeli journalist “with the Argentinian team at their training camp in Barcelona” – why the match was cancelled.

Franks: “The Argentinian team itself; ehm…why did they decide in the end – or why did their football association decide in the end – that they couldn’t go ahead with this friendly game?”

Emmanuel Elbaz-Phelps replied that “the official explanation was that the association – the football association of Argentina – doesn’t want to take any risk for the players” and also noted that:

Elbaz-Phelps: “But we also heard that the decision came yesterday afternoon [Tuesday, June 5th]  after the players were having a training session in the morning and there were some protesters and they heard them, they saw them and then they read everything going on in the news about the demonstrations also happening in Argentina and the players had this meeting; they had this talk and they decided they won’t go ahead with the game. Some actually told us that Messi was the person who first made the decision and – as the captain – so everybody was behind him. Another version says that he’s the captain but it was a group decision.”

Franks: “Because Lionel Messi himself was singled out by the head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub, saying if Lionel Messi plays in Jerusalem, we will make sure that he is boycotted, he is targeted around the world.”

Elbaz-Phelps: “Yeah and even more there are reports that threats were made to Messi’s family and to the families of the players.”

Elbaz-Phelps reported having been told that “there were threats on the social media, they got letters and that the players were actually scared about the situation”.

Obviously there are BBC journalists who know that the reason for the cancellation of the match has nothing to do with “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza”. The question that therefore arises is why the BBC News website’s report – which, unlike the Newshour report will remain permanently available to the public – has not been amended accordingly.  

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How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

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How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

h/t Akiva S

In the early hours of June 6th the BBC News website published an article concerning the cancellation of a friendly football match between Israel and Argentina that was due to have been played on June 9th.

The BBC’s chosen framing of the background to the cancellation was apparent in the article’s headline – “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” – and in its tagging – “Gaza border clashes” – as well as its opening lines.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Readers of the article’s first three versions were told that: [emphasis added]

“News of the cancellation was met with cheers in Gaza, where at least 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during recent protests.”

And:

“The campaign group Avaaz, which had called for the game to be cancelled, praised what it called a “brave ethical decision”.

“This proves Argentina understands there is nothing friendly about playing in Jerusalem, when just miles away Israeli snipers are shooting unarmed protesters,” said Alice Jay, campaign director at Avaaz.”

Only in the fourth version of the report, which appeared some six hours after its initial publication – was an ‘Israel said’ nod to supposed BBC editorial standards on impartiality added:

“Israel said its snipers had only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under cover of the protests orchestrated by the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza.”

No effort was made to inform readers in the BBC’s own words that more than 80% of the people portrayed by the BBC simply as “Palestinians” and inaccurately described as all being “unarmed protesters” by the representative of the political NGO that the BBC chose to quote and promote have in fact been shown to be linked to terror organisations.

The BBC refrained from reminding readers that both Avaaz and another party it chose to quote in this report were among those behind a campaign (unsuccessful, but amplified by the BBC at the time) against Israeli membership of the international governing body of football – FIFA.  

“In Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian football association issued a statement thanking Argentina striker Lionel Messi and his colleagues for the cancellation.

“Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game,” said chairman Jibril Rajoub, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Mr Rajoub, who had before the reported cancellation called for Palestinians to burn replica shirts and pictures of Messi, announced that he would hold a press conference on Wednesday.”

Rajoub’s widely publicised provocations (which also included the use of a Nazi analogy and denial of Jewish history) were not the only aggression experienced by the Argentinian footballers

“Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie did not confirm the game had been axed, but told reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting that he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game. […]

Faurie said players had received threats over playing the game and were uncomfortable with it going ahead.

He also cited jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood which had been displayed at a protest outside the team’s practice facility in Barcelona Tuesday as a cause for concern.” [emphasis added]

Argentine Football Association vice president Hugo Moyano was reported as saying that:

“…threats to the team as they trained in Barcelona were affecting the players’ families. On Tuesday, a group of Catalan pro-Palestinian protesters called out the names of the players and asked them not to participate in the “cover-up” of a social conflict. Photos on social media showed an Argentina shirt stained in “blood.”” [emphasis added]

Numerous media outlets quoted one player’s reaction to the cancellation:

“Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain expressed relief at the decision, telling ESPN: “In the end, they’ve done right thing, and this is behind us. Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.””

In the BBC’s report, however, a truncated version of that quote was presented as supporting the BBC’s framing of the reason for the cancellation rather than relating to the threats against players that the BBC did not fully report.

The BBC’s report tells readers that the venue for the game is located in “West Jerusalem”.

“The match, which was to be Argentina’s final game before the start of their World Cup campaign in Russia later this month, was set to be played at a stadium in West Jerusalem.”

The fact that the Argentinian national team played (and lost) a friendly match against Israel in the same Teddy stadium twenty years ago was not mentioned. The article went on:

“The status of Jerusalem is highly sensitive. Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital. Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and were angered by a decision to relocate the game there from Haifa.”

As was the case in BBC reporting on the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, readers were not provided with any explanation as to why a ninety-minute football match at a location in Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim should ‘anger’ Palestinians.

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