There is still no evidence of the BBC having carried out any independent verification of the casualty figures from the Gaza Strip which it continues to cite in its various reports. Examples of the type of phrasing currently being used in BBC content include:
“Close on two thousand died – nearly all civilians – and thousands more were injured, many seriously.” [‘Hardtalk‘, 18/8/14]
“Since then [July 8th], at least 2,029 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry.” [“Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’“, 20/8/14]
“Officials say 2,016 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have died since Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July.” [“Gaza conflict: Israel hits Gaza after rockets fired“, 19/8/14]
“The Palestinian health ministry says that 2,016 Palestinians have been killed since the offensive began, including 541 children and 250 women.” [“Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting“, 20/8/14]
As we see, the BBC continues to cite figures and civilian/combatant ratios provided the “Palestinian health ministry” but without adequate clarification to audiences that the body concerned is under the direct control of Hamas which has issued directives, via its Ministry of Information, to refrain from disclosing combatant casualties.
“The ministry of the interior and national security [in Gaza] calls on all our [Palestinian] people and the resistance factions [i.e. the terrorist organizations] to be wary of disseminating information and pictures of fatalities of the resistance, and [about] mentioning details about [the circumstances of] their deaths as martyrs and where they died. That is because the occupation is collecting all the information and reports [about the martyrs] and uses them as evidence to justify its crimes against [Palestinian] civilians and [to justify] the destruction of buildings and to take advantage [of the information] for security purposes. [We appeal] especially to social network activists and in the media belonging to the resistance factions. During the past few hours we have located many postings with sensitive information detrimental to our people and its resistance. Mention of the acts of heroism of our martyrs and of the men of our resistance should not be a reason for causing greater damage, because our people’s battle against the occupation continues.”
At no point during the last six weeks have BBC audiences been informed that the casualty figures and civilian/combatant ratios it cites are subject to such Hamas manipulation.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre has to date issued three reports examining the names provided on Hamas casualty lists – see here, here and here. In the most recent report we see an example of the type of practice which makes independent verification of casualties essential for any reputable news organization – and in particular one supposedly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.
“The Palestinian Health Ministry’s list included the names of two young boys aged 13 and 15, who were operatives in a Fatah terrorist network by the name of the Ahmed Abu al-Rish Battalions. The two were killed in the same incident. Our investigation revealed that the first 13-year-old “boy” was a 26-year-old operative. On the other hand, the other boy was indeed a 15-year-old terrorist operative. This shows that when boys appear in the Palestinian Health Ministry’s list, the immediate tendency is to classify them as non-involved civilians, but they may actually be operatives involved in terror.”
In addition, the BBC News website continues to promote and amplify statistics provided by UN OCHA. The inaccurate article titled “Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives” which was discussed here has now appeared prominently on the website’s Middle East page for twelve consecutive days.
As we reported here over a month ago, UN OCHA figures come from three primary sources.
“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselem, the PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”
As we have also previously noted, two of UN OCHA’s primary sources – the PCHR and Al Mezan – are actors in the current lawfare campaign against Israel with the former having been heavily promoted by the BBC in recent weeks. B’Tselem’s director was also featured in a BBC report on July 16th.
“We rely on lists provided by other organizations and by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. We try to do a basic check of those lists, which is just cross-referencing them one to another, trying to get the basic data.”
“With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors.”
It is of course not inconceivable that families of members of terrorist organisations would be motivated to comply with Hamas’ directives to describe all casualties as ‘innocent civilians’ and conceal their terror connections.
BBC audiences have not been told about that or any other aspects of the all-important background to casualty figures provided by UN OCHA and cited in BBC reports.
One might well have expected that an organization which purports to adhere to standards of accuracy and impartiality would take care to inform audiences that the statistics it quotes are obtained from partisan sources with a distinct political agenda enabled by presentation of those figures in a certain manner. One would certainly also expect such an organization to make audiences aware of the fact that it has not independently verified the information it provides.
Six weeks on, that is still not happening in BBC reporting.