As was reported here recently, the BBC News website published an article on May 16th in which it was claimed that the Pope had described the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas as “an angel of peace”. The same claim also appeared in an additional article published on the website the following day, together with a link to the first report.
In fact – as was noted in our report and communicated to the BBC – several Italian language media outlets reported the story somewhat differently and the apparently inaccurate translation seemed to have originated with news agencies.
“So it would appear that there is a distinct possibility that rather than describing Mahmoud Abbas as an ‘angel of peace’, the Pope in fact urged or wished him to become one by taking steps to bring about a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. That, of course, would leave readers with a markedly different impression than the version of the story promoted by the BBC.”
Two days after the publication of the original report – May 18th – the BBC News website produced an additional article titled “Vatican clarifies Abbas ‘angel of peace’ comments“. Despite the fact that the BBC had been one of many media outlets to promote the dubious claim, in a distinctly detached tone the report informs readers that:
“Journalists from leading news agencies reported that the Pope called Mr Abbas “an angel of peace” when giving him a bronze medallion representing one.
But an Italian newspaper says he merely expressed hope that the president might one day become an angel of peace.
The Vatican’s spokesman said he did not hear the exact words, but that they had been meant as an “encouragement”.”
The section of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on accuracy which deals with the subject of ‘managing online content’ states that:
“Unless content is specifically made available only for a limited time period, there is a presumption that material published online will become part of a permanently accessible archive and will not normally be removed.
For news stories, the archive is intended to act as a permanent public record.”
Given that and the appearance of this latest article, one would of course expect to see clarifications appended to the two previous reports in which the inaccurate claim was promoted. At the time of writing, no such clarification appears in either article.