BBC’s Sarona Market attack speculations come unraveled

Readers may recall that in much of its reporting on the terror attack at Sarona Market on June 8th in which four Israelis were murdered and 15 wounded, the BBC found it necessary to stress the proximity of the site of the attack to the Ministry of Defence and the IDF’s headquarters, thus inferring some kind of significance which audiences were left to interpret for themselves.

Sarona complex, Tel Aviv
Sarona complex, Tel Aviv

The two terrorists and an accomplice have now been indicted and during that process it emerged that the location of the attack was chosen randomly.

“The Shin Bet also discovered that alleged terrorists originally conspired to attack passengers traveling on an Israeli train, according to the indictment. The investigation noted that the Sorona market attack was a “random,” last-minute target.”

Ynet reported on the original plan.

“In the indictment handed down, it was written that the two turned to their friend, Yunas Zayn, also a resident of Yatta, with the intent of carrying out the attack. They planned to carry it out on a train and therefore went about gathering information about timetables, journey routes, entrances and exits, gateways and numbers of passengers passing through different stations. They came to the decision to carry out the attack against passengers travelling from Tel Aviv to Haifa.

As part of the attack, the two purchased 30cm knives. They also purchased suits, watches, leather bags, shoes and glasses at the cost of 2,600 shekels. Additionally, they bought rat poison to spread on the knives which would then be used to stab Israelis and maximize the damage caused. In total, the two spent 4,000 shekels on their grizzly plan.”

The BBC’s repeated focusing of audience attention on the proximity of the site of the attack to the Ministry of Defence building and the IDF HQ was obviously rooted entirely in its own journalists’ speculations.

As was noted here back in January when the Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly likewise engaged in redundant speculations concerning a terror attack (which, by the way, still remain in situ), the BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy state:

“The BBC’s commitment to accuracy is a core editorial value and fundamental to our reputation. Our output must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear, precise language. We should be honest and open about what we don’t know and avoid unfounded speculation.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “War, Terror and Emergencies” clearly demand a responsible approach from the corporation’s journalists which does not accommodate wild speculation.

“The BBC has a special responsibility to its UK and international audiences when reporting conflict including wars, acts and planned acts of terror, sieges and emergencies. Large numbers of people across the world access our services for accurate news and information.  They also expect us to help them make sense of events by providing context and impartial analysis and by offering a wide range of views and opinions.

At such times, when there may be conflicting information and opinions, and with reliable information hard to come by, we need to be scrupulous in applying our principles of accuracy and impartiality.”

Perhaps if BBC correspondents devoted less of their energies to the promotion of their own speculations concerning terror attacks in Israel, they might find the time to actually describe them in accurate terminology. 

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