BBC News website twice reports convicted soldier’s rank inaccurately

Fact-check fails in two BBC reports.

On November 19th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli president rejects pardon for soldier Elor Azaria“.

“Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has rejected an appeal for a pardon for a soldier jailed for 18 months for killing a wounded Palestinian attacker.

Elor Azaria was found guilty in January of manslaughter over the March 2016 shooting of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.”

The report continues:

“In January, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Azaria, a sergeant, to be pardoned. Azaria submitted a formal request last month.” [emphasis added]

In the penultimate paragraph readers are provided with a link to an article from July 2017 – one of the BBC’s many previous reports on the same story – in which the following statement appears:

“Azaria – a sergeant and military medic – had appealed against the verdict, while the prosecution was demanding an increased sentence.” [emphasis added]

However, the claim that Azaria is “a sergeant” is inaccurate: as was widely reported at the time, the sentence handed down in February 2017 included demotion to the rank of private.

“Based on the majority opinion, the Court sentenced the defendant to imprisonment for a period of eighteen months (minus nine days in which he was placed in close confinement and not including the period in which he was under open imprisonment). In addition, the defendant was sentenced to a period of twelve months if he committed another manslaughter offense within three years of the sentencing and to an additional six months if he unlawfully used a weapon within two years of the sentencing.  The Court also ordered the demotion of the defendant from the rank of a sergeant to a private.”

Even the BBC’s own report on Azaria’s sentencing in February of this year states that:

“Azaria, who was also ordered demoted from his rank of sergeant, sat smiling broadly, embraced by his mother, as the judgment was read out, says our correspondent.” [emphasis added]

Clearly both this latest report and the previous one were not adequately fact checked before publication.

BBC Watch has contacted the BBC News website requesting corrections to both those reports.

Update:

Following communication from BBC Watch, the BBC News website amended both the above reports.

The article published on July 30th 2017 now reads:

The article published on November 19th 2017 now reads:

 

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