BBC’s ME editor promotes inaccurate story on Twitter

On February 28th members of the Israeli security forces on duty in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya were attacked by rioters.

“According to Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, shortly after 5 p.m. police units patrolling the flashpoint area were besieged by firebombs and large Jerusalem stones thrown by a mob of young Arab men.

“Police units were carrying out operations in Issawiya and local Palestinians started rioting, throwing petrol bombs and Jerusalem stones weighing up to 20 kilos from rooftops at them,” said Rosenfeld shortly after the attack.

An officer was struck in the head by one of the stones, treated at the scene, and transferred to an area hospital in light condition, he added.”

The BBC did not report those incidents at the time but two days later the corporation’s Middle East editor came up with this story for his 137,000 Twitter followers.

Bowen tweet Issawiya riots

The promoted link leads to a report from Ha’aretz which is based entirely on the account of a family from Issawiya that was detained following the rioting. That article, however, casts some revealing light on the wording chosen by Bowen to describe the story.

The Oxford dictionary defines “jail” as “a place for the confinement of people accused or convicted of a crime” and the equivalent term more often used in British English is of course prison – “a building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they have committed or while awaiting trial”.  A police station is obviously a building with a different function: “the office or headquarters of a local police force”.

The Ha’aretz report opens with the following words:

“A Palestinian toddler spent four hours outside a Jerusalem police station on Sunday, after his parents had been taken into custody during a security operation to arrest his 16-year-old brother, according to family members.” [emphasis added]

So – despite Bowen’s inaccurate and misleading claim – there was in fact no “jail” in this story at all.

The article also states:

“The Israel Police said in response that “a force of police and other security operatives on a mission to arrest suspects in Issawiya was attacked by members of the family. The force managed to pacify the attackers and took them into custody for questioning. The mother of the family was also detained. The police agreed to her request that she bring her child to the police facility until the grandfather could pick him up.” [emphasis added]

Apparently Mr Bowen needs to brush up on his employer’s guidance for the use of social media – especially this part:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.” 

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