Patchy coverage of Iran ‘side deals’ in BBC News reporting

An article which originally appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and US & Canada pages on July 23rd under the headline “Iran nuclear deal: Kerry to face Senate committee” is now titled “Iran nuclear deal: Better accord ‘a fantasy’ says Kerry” and readers can view the changes made to its various versions here.Kerry art main

One interesting point to note is the disappearance and reappearance of passages of the article relating to a topic which the BBC News website’s generally on-US-administration-messaging coverage has not addressed separately.

Readers of versions one and two of the article learned that:

“[Senator] Mr Cotton, along with Mike Pompeo, a Republican Congressman from Kansas, wrote to Mr Obama on Wednesday to express their concern over what they called “side deals” nuclear inspectors were discussing with Iran.

A State Department spokesman said there were no secret deals and that there were only “technical arrangements”.”

By version three of the report, those paragraphs had been removed and the topic only reappeared in version eight, where audiences were told:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, responded by saying the details of those deals “are not public but… we know their contents, we’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress”.”

Version nine of the article was amended to read as follows:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected the suggestion they were “some sort of side deal”, saying the agreements were critical to the overall deal.

But he did admit that the details of the agreements could not be made public because it involves sensitive nuclear information.”

The article links to the Cotton/Pompeo press release on the topic but no further explanation is given in the body of the report and clearly members of the BBC’s audience who happened to access any one of the five versions of this article in which the issue did not appear would remain unaware of its existence.

The bulk of the report’s word-count is devoted to representation of John Kerry’s statements made during the committee hearing, with statements made by critics of the JCPOA deal receiving 102 words less coverage. In the body of the report readers are presented with two photographs, the first of which is captioned:

“The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets”

The caption to the second photograph reads:

“But Mr Kerry also had his supporters at the hearing”

Kerry art photos

The first picture shows a demonstration held in New York on July 22nd. Although readers are not informed of the fact, the second image shows Medea Benjamin of the radical BDS-promoting organisation ‘Code Pink’.

Code Pink photo

Readers would no doubt have found it helpful to know that one of the two images chosen to supposedly present a ‘balanced’ view of American public reaction to the JCPOA deal in fact shows a professional political activist who visited Tehran just last autumn.

“Medea Benjamin participated in the New Horizon 2nd Annual International Conference of Independent Thinkers & Film Makers, held in Tehran, Iran (September 27 – October 1, 2014), speaking on the topics of “The Gaza War & BDS Movement Strategies against the Zionist Regime” and “Different Facets of the Resistance.” The conference included past and present Iranian government officials, as well as conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers.”

Somehow, that pertinent information did not reach BBC audiences. 

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