A BBC audience member who happened to be looking on that organisation’s website for information about the escape of hundreds of convicted Al Qaeda terrorists from two prisons in Iraq on July 21st would have come across a number of items on the subject.
In the main article audiences could read that:
“Al-Qaeda has said it carried out two mass jailbreaks in Iraq, which freed hundreds of prisoners including senior leaders of the Islamist militant group.” [emphasis added]
Alternatively, they could listen to the BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Rami Ruhayem being interviewed by Mishal Husain in a television news programme and hear him refer to the perpetrators of attacks which apparently involved suicide bombings, car bombings, mortar fire and the killing of some twenty Iraqi security guards as “militants”.
“It’s really strange that given how well-known it [Abu Ghraib] is, that the militants want to attack these prisons and try to free the prisoners inside, especially those serving life sentences or who have been handed death sentences.”
In addition, audiences were given the option of listening to Rami Ruhayem in an item originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 23rd and also featured on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.
In that broadcast listeners could also hear analysis from Sharmine Narwani, who is described as “a middle east expert at St Anthony’s College, Oxford”. As we know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:
“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”
In this case (as in others), the BBC most definitely did not make it clear to listeners that despite the neutral-sounding academic description, there is rather more to Ms Narwani than the BBC is letting on.
In addition to some aggressive anti-Americanism, Narwani peddles anti-Israel, pro Assad, pro-Iranian regime and pro-Hizballah rhetoric. As well as having blogged at the Huffington Post – until her pro-Assad stance apparently became too much – Narwani has written for the Guardian and the pro-Hizballah/pro-Assad Lebanese outlet Al Akhbar English.
She also appears to have something of an affinity with antisemitic conspiracy theorists, writing for the ‘Veterans Today‘ website – which has links, via its editor, to Iran’s Press TV – and its sister site ‘Veterans News Now’ (I won’t link to those sites: do a search), as well as – according to her Twitter account – recently appearing on Rense Radio.
Narwani’s ‘analysis’ for the ‘Today’ programme naturally takes on a whole new light when one is aware of her ideological and political leanings. Audiences, however, would not be able to appreciate that because she is misrepresented – in contravention of BBC editorial guidelines – as a neutral academic ‘Middle East expert’.
And then of course there is the important question of whether ‘analysis’ from a mouthpiece of the Iranian and Syrian regimes who hobnobs with racist, Holocaust denying conspiracy theorists is really the best the BBC can offer the public which pays it £145.50 a year in order to be better informed on international issues.