Since the commencement on April 17th of a hunger strike by some of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons led by Marwan Barghouti, the BBC News website’s Middle East page has published no fewer than three reports on the subject.
April 17th: “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike”
April 18th: “Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates“
April 19th: “Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates“
However, in that remarkable display of conscription to the cause of publicising that story, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with background information crucial to their understanding of the topic.
In all three of those articles readers are told that the strike:
“…is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.”
They are not, however, informed of the full background of Barghouti’s role in instigating the second Intifada or his involvement in additional acts of terror. Predictably, his victims do not even get a mention from the BBC.
BBC audiences are also told in all three reports that:
“Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”
They have not, however, been informed of the political background to the strike which is rooted in internal Fatah power struggles.
Readers of those three reports are told that the hunger strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails”. They are not told what those conditions are or what the strikers are demanding.
“Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.”
Significantly, in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]
Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”
Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)
“Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”
Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”
The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.
There is of course nothing novel about BBC compliance with the PLO’s ‘advice’ to the media. However, the repeated promotion of the narrative according to which convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’ in this over-generously covered story obviously calls BBC impartiality into question.
BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike
Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”
BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’