Euphemism and inaccuracy in BBC News website Entebbe report

Forty-three years on the BBC still cannot get the Entebbe hijacking right.

On March 27th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies” on its ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“Michel Bacos, the Air France captain hailed as a hero for refusing to abandon his passengers when Palestinian and German hijackers seized the plane in 1976, has died in France aged 95.”

Readers of the report were told that:

“After leaving Athens on 27 June 1976, the plane was seized by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two Germans from guerrilla group Revolutionary Cells. They forced Bacos and his crew to fly to Benghazi in Libya.

After refuelling it flew on to Entebbe where the hijackers were joined by at least three more Palestinian militants and Ugandan troops. Uganda’s leader, Idi Amin, was on the tarmac to welcome the hijackers. The hijackers demanded the release of 54 militants and a $5m ransom.” [emphasis added]

That euphemistic terminology has been seen in previous BBC reporting on Entebbe and as has been noted here in the past, among those so-called “militants” were of course convicted terrorists and criminals.

“Those whose release was demanded included 40 prisoners said to be held by Israel, among them Archbishop Hilarion Capuecci, serving a prison sentence imposed in December 1974 for arms smuggling [to Fatah], Mr Kozo Okamoto, the Japanese sentenced to life imprisonment after the 1972 Lod airport massacre, and Mrs Fatima Barnawi, serving a life sentence for placing a bomb [in a cinema] in 1967…”

The report went on:

“The passengers were eventually split up. The non-Israelis were flown to Paris while the 94 Israeli passengers were held hostage.

Alongside the hostages were the Air France crew of 12.”

However that portrayal of the “split up” of passengers is not accurate. As the BBC’s own Raffi Berg accurately reported in June 2016:

“On the third day, the hijackers began calling people’s names and ordering them into a second, smaller, squalid room.

It became clear they were separating the Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish passengers from the rest, immediately evoking the horrors of the Nazi selections in World War Two when Jews were picked out to be sent to their deaths.”

Forty-three years after the hijacking and Operation Yonatan, not only can the BBC still not get the details right but its 2007 conspiracy theory promoting article on that subject is still available online.

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