Back in March, when the UN HRC produced a report in which it established that the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad Masharawi had been killed as a result of a misfired terrorist rocket in November 2012, BBC Watch wrote:
“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.
It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”
Last week the Zionist Federation in the UK held a concert to celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary. Outside the venue, a demonstration organized by one of the Iranian regime’s mouthpieces in the West – the Islamic Human Rights Commission – was documented by British blogger Richard Millett. Below is one of Richard’s photographs of the demonstration.
Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.
Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes.
Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.
The reputation for trustworthy reporting which the BBC cultivates carries with it great responsibilities. But with regard to its Middle East reporting, the BBC often appears to be disturbingly cavalier about the potentially very serious consequences of its negligence of editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality.
And by the way – five months on, Jon Donnison’s flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death is still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website.