Differences in BBC News coverage of terrorist executions

Like the rest of the Western media the BBC has understandably devoted quite a lot of airtime and column space to the horrific and barbaric beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Satloff in the last couple of weeks.  However, identical acts perpetrated by both the same and other actors, both in the region and wider afield, against people who are not journalists have received distinctly less coverage.Egypt art

An article titled “Egyptian police killed in Sinai bomb attack” appeared on the BBC News website on September 2nd. As the item correctly reports, eleven members of the Egyptian security forces were killed by the terrorist organization Ansar Bayt al Maqdis in the northern Sinai on that day. The BBC describes that organization as one of the “jihadist militant groups” operating in the area. Unfortunately the BBC’s profile of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis has still not been updated to inform BBC audiences that the organization’s terror designations.

“Since the beginning of April 2014 Ansar Bayt al Maqdis has been declared a proscribed terrorist organization by the UK government (see page 5) and designated as a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist entity by the US State Department. In addition, an Egyptian court ruled on April 14th that the group is a terrorist organization.”

From its eighth paragraph onwards, the BBC report informs readers:

“Three days earlier, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had announced that it had beheaded four Egyptian civilians whose bodies were found in August.

The group accused them of providing Israel with intelligence for an air strike that killed three of its fighters in late July.

A video published online showed armed, masked men standing over four captives as a statement was read out. They were then decapitated.

The footage was reminiscent of videos of killings posted by Islamic State (IS), which has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is not believed to be linked to IS, but its spiritual leader Abu Osama al-Masri recently called on God to ensure his “brothers” in IS were victorious.”

Indeed, several days before the appearance of this BBC report, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis did claim responsibility for the beheadings of four Egyptian citizens who were forced to make dubious ‘confessions’ on camera. Since then, however, the organization has also claimed responsibility for beheading five additional Egyptian citizens but that has yet to be reported by the BBC.

Over the past two months the BBC has devoted considerable energies to presenting its audiences with a very one-sided and partial picture of border restrictions implemented by Israel and Egypt on the Gaza Strip. Notably absent from the BBC’s extensive and mostly inaccurate portrayal of the hardships endured by the people of Gaza has been any honest attempt to explain to audiences that the steps taken by both Israel and Egypt came in response to terrorism. Israeli restrictions have not been accurately presented as a response to terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Gaza Strip-based groups on Israeli citizens and the reasons for Egyptian actions on its border with the Gaza Strip have not been accurately or comprehensively presented either.

“The Egyptian army now views the Hamas regime in Gaza as an enemy, publicly blaming it for assisting Sinai terrorists. The military claims to have obtained reliable information that terrorists in the peninsula and even mainland Egypt have been smuggled into Gaza at one point or another, undergoing training in explosives and other military activities at Hamas military bases. Cairo has also accused two key figures from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military arm, of overseeing this training: Raed al-Attar, commander of the group’s southern brigade in Rafah, and Ayman Nofal, ex-commander of the central brigade who was jailed in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s presidency but escaped back to Gaza during the 2011 revolution. “

Raed al-Attar – killed in an Israeli airstrike on August 21st – was, as mentioned here previously, wanted by Egypt.

“…Raed al Attar and Mohamed Abu Shamala were named by Egypt as suspects in the 2012 killing of sixteen Egyptian soldiers and […] their extradition had been demanded.”

Like much of the rest of the Western media the BBC is currently very focused on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But in order to enable audiences to be aware of the entire Middle East picture and to understand the steps taken by countries combating terrorism for some time now, the actions of similar terrorist groups in the region – and the links between them – obviously requires no less prominent coverage.   

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