BBC News website profile of Hizballah gets airbrushed

On December 20th yet another article promoting and amplifying Hizballah propaganda appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

Nasrallah Lakkis speech

Titled “Hezbollah’s Nasrallah warns Israel over commander death“, the report focuses on the repetition of unsubstantiated claims made by Hassan Nasrallah in a speech made on December 20th at a memorial for Hassan Lakkis who was killed in Beirut at the beginning of December. Revealingly, the BBC’s version of Nasrallah’s speech makes no mention of its extensive additional subject matter

“The head of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has warned that his movement will “punish” Israel for the killing of a senior commander.”

” “All evidence indicates that Israel is behind the assassination,” Mr Nasrallah said in a televised tribute.”

” “The killers will be punished sooner or later,” Mr Nasrallah said.

“Those who killed our brothers will not know safety anywhere in the world.” “

Efforts to tick the impartiality box consist of the standard “Israel says” formula much employed by the BBC, including a statement from the MFA spokesman recycled from an earlier BBC report.

“Israel, which fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah in 2006, denied the accusation.”

“Hezbollah said Israel had tried to kill Lakkis several times previously – a claim Israel has repeatedly rejected.

“These automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said at the time.

“They don’t need evidence, they don’t need facts. They just blame anything on Israel.” “

However, the BBC makes no effort to inform audiences of the lack of any factual basis for Nasrallah’s claims and also fails to make it clear that knee-jerk accusations against Israel are part and parcel of the Hizballah repertoire in any and every situation. Thus, by placing Nasrallah’s statements on a level of equivalence to those made by Israeli representatives, the BBC is actively misleading audiences.

The report closes with a shockingly tame description of Hizballah.

“Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organisation in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims.

It emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon.”

No mention is made of the fact that Israeli forces have not been present in Lebanon for over thirteen years and no information regarding Hizballah’s extensive designation as a terrorist organization appears. 

Readers are offered a link under the heading “related stories” both at the side and the bottom of the article under the title “Who are Lebanon’s Hezbollah?” That link leads to an article titled “Profile: Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement” dating from December 4th 2013. 

4 12 profile Hizb

That December 4th profile appears at the same URL as a previous one produced by the BBC on July 22nd 2013 titled “Who are Hezbollah?” which is hence now unavailable on the website.  Interestingly, the new replacement article presents Hizballah in a much softer light than the previous one.

The July 22nd article stated:

“Hezbollah has been blacklisted by the United States, the UK and several other Western states and, in July 2013, the EU also designated the organisation’s military wing as a terrorist organisation.

Bulgaria, an EU member state, says there is compelling evidence that Hezbollah was responsible for a bomb attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in 2012 in which six people died. The group denies any involvement.

In March 2013, a court in Cyprus jailed a Hezbollah member for three years for plotting to attack Israeli targets on the island.”

Whilst it does correct the previous mistake of ignoring Hizballah’s terror designation in Gulf States, the new version merely says:

“Hezbollah has been accused of carrying out a string of bombings and plots against Jewish and Israeli targets and is designated a terrorist organisation by Western states, Israel and Gulf Arab countries.”

The July 22nd article stated:

“It has several seats in parliament and had ministers in a national unity government formed in late 2009. However, in January 2011, Hezbollah and its allies brought about that government’s collapse by resigning.

This was in protest against the UN tribunal investigating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s murder. The tribunal was about to issue indictments against members of Hezbollah.”

The new version vanishes away the UN tribunal’s findings, vaguely stating:

“In 2011, the group and its allies forced the collapse of the unity government led by Saad Hariri, a Saudi-backed Sunni, with Hezbollah warning that it would not stand by as four of its members were accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri’s father Rafik.”

With regard to Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war the July 22nd article stated:

“Its intervention in the conflict in neighbouring Syria on the side of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has also been highly controversial, condemned within Lebanon and also internationally.”

“Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Hezbollah has consistently pledged its backing for President Bashar al-Assad and members of its military wing have crossed the border to fight against rebels. It has also provided training and logistical support to Syrian forces.

Fighters from the militant group were instrumental in a strategic victory by Syrian government forces in Qusair, close to the border with Lebanon, in early June 2013.”

The new article severely downplays the terror organisation’s role in that conflict:

“Hezbollah has sent fighters across the border to support President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Shia-led Iran, while the group’s Sunni rivals have supported the Sunni-led rebellion.”

Whilst that July 22nd 2013 profile has been erased from the BBC News website, the older – and highly inaccurate – version which preceded it (dating from 2010) is still available and can be found in the “Lebanon profile” link also promoted to readers of this latest BBC report.  

link to old Hizb profile in Leb profile

“Last December we pointed out here that the BBC’s profile of Hizballah has not been updated since July 2010 and therefore includes no information about that terror organisation’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the murder of Rafik Hariri, its terror attacks and activities in Europe or its involvement in drug trafficking, among other things.”

No doubt BBC licence fee payers (probably along with quite a few Lebanese and Syrian citizens) would be very interested to learn what lies behind the editorial decision to carry out this latest make-over of the BBC News website’s profile of Hizballah and what editorial justification the BBC considers supports the incessant amplification of that terrorist organisation’s propaganda.  

Related articles:

BBC amplifies Hizballah propaganda yet again

New BBC Hizballah profile reveals SEO fail


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