BBC’s capitulation to political pressure on Gaza casualty figures: tip of a bigger iceberg?

The saga of the BBC’s squeezy stance on the reporting of casualty figures in the Gaza Strip continues.

To recap the story so far; on August 8th the BBC News website published an article titled “Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures” written by the Head of Statistics for BBC News. Three days later, unannounced changes were made to that article – apparently as a result of pressure from campaigning actors including UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness who reportedly told ‘Private Eye’ (print version only) that the article was “an appalling piece of journalism”. Only on August 15th – four days after amendments had been made to the article – was a footnote added informing audiences that changes had been made to its content. The BBC’s damage control continued in the form of a nine-minute item in the August 22nd edition of ‘More or Less’ on Radio 4. Since then, the BBC has continued to produce highly problematic content on the topic of casualty figures in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.  

Not content with the censoring of BBC audiences’ access to statistical insight into the issue of casualty figures in the Gaza Strip, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign now seeks to restrict audiences’ opportunities to benefit from such analysis in the future.PSC

Following a PR campaign, on September 29th the PSC presented a letter (signed by a minuscule proportion of the UK population) to the BBC Director General demanding that:

“…Reuben will no longer be assigned to reporting on Palestine and Israel, as his impartiality and journalistic integrity on this subject cannot be guaranteed.”

As is well known, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s faux ‘concerns’ about BBC impartiality and integrity are highly selective; only making an appearance when they are deemed a useful tool in that organisation’s anti-Israel public relations campaigns. Nevertheless, especially in light of the manner in which the BBC speedily capitulated to political pressure over the content of Anthony Reuben’s original article, it might not be in the least surprising to see it allow an opaquely funded fringe group, which provides support for a terrorist organization proscribed by the British government, dictate what BBC audiences can read see or hear.

This latest in a long line of PSC actions is of course particularly interesting in light of the fact that only a couple of weeks ago Jeremy Bowen and John Lloyd were telling listeners to BBC Radio 4 that, with regard to complaints to the BBC, “Palestinians weren’t organized in the same sort of way” [as supporters of Israel] and “Palestinians weren’t geared to complain as Israelis and the Jewish diaspora were”. 

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