A report headlined “Jordanians detained by Israel for months freed after diplomatic crisis” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 6th.
“Two Jordanians whose detention by Israel for months sparked a diplomatic crisis between the two countries have been freed and transferred to Jordan.
Hiba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri were held after entering the occupied West Bank in August and September.”
The report later paraphrases a statement made by Israel’s deputy Defence Minister (who did not use the word ‘militant’) in the Knesset:
“Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, Avi Dichter, said on Wednesday that the arrest of Ms Labadi had “thwarted” a planned attack on Israel by the Lebanon-based Shia militant group Hezbollah, and that Mr Miri’s arrest had stopped an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
A lawyer for Ms Labadi said his client denied allegations of any links to Hezbollah.”
While the BBC refrains from naming that lawyer, coverage elsewhere indicates that it is the same person who told the Israeli press last month that his client’s arrest “was tied to meetings in Lebanon with people affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group”.
The BBC report presents a typically partial portrayal of the subject of administrative detention.
“Ms Labadi, 24, and Mr Miri, 29, were stopped by Israeli border police after passing through the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge crossing, the only land route connecting Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.
They were held under a controversial system known as administrative detention, which allows suspects to be detained without charge or trial for six-month intervals and can be renewed indefinitely.
Israel says administrative detention is necessary for security, but civil liberty groups say the practice is a violation of human rights.”
That very superficial description does not clarify to readers that administrative detention is also used in other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Australia – and Jordan. Neither does it adequately inform BBC audiences of the very specific circumstances in which the procedure is used or the safeguards in place.
Not for the first time we see that the BBC’s portrayal of administrative detention hinders rather than enhances audience understanding of the topic.