Sunday, 14 March 2010

BBC Impartiality

This BBC news article describes the arrest of a senior Hamas leader thought to be responsible for suicide attacks inside Israel claiming the lives of 70 people.

The BBC's official primary concerns are accuracy and impartiality. But when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, BBC correspondents seem to have particular difficulty with impartiality.

The BBC's Middle Eastern correspondent Barbara Plett said, about the death of Yasser Arafat, who was responsible for many terror attacks on Israeli civilians, from the Telegraph
"When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning." Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an "ambivalence towards violence" was one of his failings.
The BBC have also spent several hundred thousands of pounds suppressing a report critical of it's Middle Eastern coverage - the Balen report. If an organisation spends hundreds of thousands suppressing a report then you can be pretty certain the contents of the report are incendiary. Boom.

Today's article ends with describing Hamas as
Designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, it is seen by its supporters as a legitimate fighting force defending Palestinians from military occupation.
In reality of course, Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organisation, and Hamas and their supporters do not even pretend to hide it - their Jew hatred is out in the open, and fighting the "occupation" refers to the whole of Israel.

You could, if you were a BBC journalist, say a lot of things desribing Hamas that would be factually corrrect. You could talk about
  • Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant provides the following quotation, attributed to Mohammed:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."[51]

The BBC statement begins with stating that Israel and the US designate it as a terrorist organisation, which for many will mean nothing. It's not an objective statement about Hamas, it's methods or it's objectives. Then it goes on to say, almost with a But, it's seen as a legitimate fighting force fighting occupation. And that's how you conclude an article on Hamas? The last words on people's lips?

The BBC have in this case not said anything factually incorrect. It will have no doubt passed numerous compliance procedures on impartiality and accuracy. But as somebody from the BBC once said to me "you can say quite a lot without actually saying very much".

You could criticise me as seeing bias where none exists, of nit picking on wording and the order of statements. There maybe some validity to this point. But, if I may conclude with the impartial statement some people see BBC journalists as mostly biased against Israel and for Palestinian causes, and that they struggle to remain impartial, and sometimes we see this spectacularly boil to the surface, as with the tearful Barbara Plett.

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