BBC returns to ‘last-first’ reporting on Gaza Strip incident

On October 1st 2013 a short report titled “Palestinian shot dead on Gaza-Israel border” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

Gaza border

As is only too often the case, the headline reflects the last event in the sequence leading to the eventual outcome, as does the opening paragraph.

“A Palestinian was killed when Israeli troops opened fire on two Palestinians at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian sources say.”

In the second paragraph readers are informed that:

“Israel said its soldiers had shot two men who had tried to damage a metal barrier, posing an “imminent danger”.” [emphasis added]

The ambiguous phrase “tried to damage a metal barrier” is unclear and misleading and does not adequately reflect the fact that the two were actually tampering with the border fence which separates the Gaza Strip from Israel and had already made a hole in it – hence an infiltration attempt was suspected. The fact that the two men were warned to move away from the fence but failed to do so is not reflected in this report and neither is the fact that local residents were instructed to remain in their homes whilst the incident was ongoing. 

The report continues:

“The incident happened in the Beit Hanoun area, in the north-east.

It is unclear if the men were militants or civilians. Israel maintains a no-go area on the Gaza side of the border which it says is to prevent attacks.” [emphasis added]

The use of the phrase “which it says” misleads BBC audiences by suggesting that the purpose of the security zone (which was reduced in size after Operation Pillar of Cloud last November) adjoining the border fence might not be to facilitate an unhindered view of potential infiltrators approaching a border fence adjacent to civilian communities.

The report concludes:

“The fate of the second Palestinian who was hit is not known.

There has been intermittent violence along the border since a ceasefire ended a conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza in November 2012.”

Some other reports indicate that the second man was taken into custody.

The ambiguous reference to “intermittent violence” downplays repeated attempts by Palestinian terror organisations to plant IEDs along the border fence, dig tunnels under the border and damage or infiltrate the border fenceNo mention is made of the ongoing missile attacks on civilian communities in southern Israel, even though five attempted attacks originating in the same area of Beit Hanoun took place in the days prior to this incident. 

Some hours later, the article was amended to include the reaction of the Gaza-based political NGO ‘Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ and the version currently available to visitors to the BBC News website now reads as follows.  

Gaza border updated

Why the BBC finds it appropriate to amend an article in order to amplify a statement made by a campaigning political NGO renowned for itsunreliability is unclear.

Related articles:

A tale of two BBC maps

BBC appoints Jon Donnison as ‘Shin Gimmel’ of Masharawi story

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

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