The phrase “make up their own minds” is not infrequently found in BBC responses to complaints from the general public – for example:
“We believe we have reported […] in an accurate and impartial manner, allowing our audience to make up their own minds.”
“…our aim is simply to provide enough information for viewers to make up their own minds.”
One would assume, of course, that a media organisation which purports to enable its audiences to decide what they think about a particular story or issue would be keen for them to arrive at informed conclusions based on factual information provided by that organisation. An article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 9th under the title “Israel: Soldiers shoot dead two Palestinians attackers” calls that assumption into question with the following description of the story.
“Two Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers after attempting to stab them at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, the military says.
The incident was reported at the Bekaot checkpoint in the northern West Bank. The soldiers were not injured.
The two Palestinian men, aged 23 and 38, were reported to be from villages south of Jenin. […]
The Palestinian Wafa news agency named those killed as Ali Muhammad Aqqab Abu-Maryam and Said Judah Abu-al-Wafa and said they had been shot “in cold blood”.
The Israel Defense Forces said the soldiers had “thwarted the attack and shot the assailants”.” [emphasis added]
In other words, the BBC does not tell readers in its own words what actually happened in that incident but instead provides them with second-hand accounts of conflicting statements they could well have found for themselves elsewhere – and then leaves them to “make up their own minds” with regard to which one really reflects the facts.
The report also includes additional inaccurate and misleading information.
“Overnight, Israeli forces demolished a home in the West Bank belonging to relatives of a Palestinian – Muhannad Halabi – shot dead in October after killing a rabbi in Jerusalem’s Old City.”
The BBC knows that Halabi in fact murdered two people on October 3rd – Rabbi Nehemia Lavi and Rabbi Aharon Banita-Bennett – as well as wounding the latter’s wife and two-year-old son, because it reported the incident at the time (albeit very problematically). The corporation should also have been able to tell readers that the house concerned did not belong to mere “relatives” but was Halabi’s family home.
The article informs readers that:
“Tension between Palestinians and Israelis has risen in recent months with a series of violent incidents. […]
Relations between Israelis and Palestinians remain tense amid a wave of attacks on Israelis by Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs which have killed 22 Israelis since the beginning of October.
During that time 149 Palestinians – more than half said by Israel to be attackers – have been shot dead by security forces or their victims. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces.”
In fact, from the beginning of October until the time this article was published, twenty-seven people – three of whom were not Israeli nationals – were killed in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs. Although the information is readily available, the BBC does not tell readers in its own words that most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out terror attacks at the time but instead – once again – uses the qualifying “Israel says” formula.
Similar statements were seen in another report concerning incidents which took place on January 7th which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page the previous day – January 8th – under the headline “Four Palestinian attackers killed by Israeli troops“.
“Twenty-two Israelis have been killed in attacks including stabbings, car rammings and shootings since 1 October.
The Palestinian health ministry says 149 Palestinians have been killed in that time. More than half were said by Israel to be attackers. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces.”
That article closes with the following paragraphs which yet again ignore Hamas’ ongoing efforts to escalate attacks and downplay Palestinian Authority and Fatah incitement and glorification of terrorism whilst promoting PLO talking points:
“Most of the attacks have been carried out by individuals not known to have been acting on direct orders from militant groups.
Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”
For over three months the BBC has studiously avoided bringing its audiences any serious reporting on the subject of the Palestinian incitement underpinning the current wave of terror. As long as that remains the case and whilst BBC News continues to produce patchy coverage which fails to provide audiences with clear, verified information about events rather than recycled allegations and avoidable inaccuracies, it is very difficult to take seriously the claim that it “strives to provide enough information” for audiences to “make up their own minds”.