Jui Chakravorty is a former Reuters journalist who founded a company called ‘b-yond tv’ which, according to its mission statement, is “a digital video startup that brings you short, socio-cultural stories from around the world by training and working with aspiring journalists on the ground”.
On April 16th the business feature section called BBC Capital – which appears on the international version of the BBC’s website – published a report apparently purchased from ‘b-yond tv’ titled “Young, female and forging ahead in Gaza“.
As readers are no doubt aware:
“All BBC programmes and content must comply with the BBC’s policies and guidelines. […]
During production it is an independent production companies [sic] responsibility to work in accordance with the BBC Editorial Guidelines.” [source]
Those Editorial Guidelines include a section on accuracy and hence viewers of Jui Chakravorty’s video may have been surprised to hear her speak of “the democratically elected ruling party Hamas” and to see the same phrase used in the video’s synopsis.
That statement is obviously misleading to any member of the BBC’s audience not already aware of the fact that not only did Hamas gain control of the Gaza Strip by violent and decidedly undemocratic means but its mandate to govern expired long ago and elections are already more than five years overdue.
Viewers also hear a variety of context-free statements such as this one from interviewee Mona Shawa of the political NGO PCHR:
“Gaza faced more than three wars in less than six years. All these circumstances affected the lives of women.” [emphasis added]
And this one from Chakravorty herself:
“Each time, during the conflict and for months after, women – especially mothers to young children – had to fend for [sic] water, food, basic survival necessities. Even today, homes lie in rubble and power outages are frequent.”
Chakravorty tells viewers:
“Said Hassan, communications consultant at Gaza Sky Geeks, said one aspect of life in Gaza that makes entrepreneurship a little bit easier for women is the ease of travel.
SH: “Well, being a woman entrepreneur in Gaza it’s much easier for you to get visas and to get outside of Gaza.”
“Gaza has two crossings for people: the Erez crossing controlled by Israel in the north and the Rafah crossing into Egypt in the south. Permits for Erez are extremely hard to get and for Rafah, men need visas but women don’t.”
The Rafah crossing has of course been kept largely closed by Egypt since mid-2013 and most recently for 100 consecutive days. However, residents of the Gaza Strip do use the Erez crossing and in January 2015 alone, 5,670 business people exited the territory by that route. In other words, Chakravorty’s suggestion that travel is easier via Egypt because permits to cross into Israel are “extremely hard to get” is obviously not an accurate portrayal of reality.
One would imagine that in addition to stipulating that independent production companies must comply with BBC Editorial Guidelines, the BBC must have some sort of system in place for checking the accuracy and impartiality of commissioned content before it is published. If it does, the system obviously did not work in this case.