Jerusalem bureau’s Bateman compromises BBC impartiality

On the evening of October 18th the BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman retweeted a Tweet posted earlier by Ha’aretz journalist Nir Hasson, adding the hashtag ‘Damascus Gate’.

The Hebrew wording to Hasson’s Tweet reads: “Damascus Gate again. Hard to describe, look at this” and the video shows some sort of altercation between security forces and a female civilian.

Roughly an hour later Hasson posted another Tweet which reads: “I got to the computer and checked the full video, what preceded this is her argument with the police officer and then it looks like she spat at him and tried to get away and still we’re talking about an arrest that is too brutal. Here is the full video.”

Bateman retweeted that Tweet too but failed to translate or explain its content for his followers.

Hasson posted a third Tweet some four and a half hours after his first one: “The police’s response: ‘As can be seen in the documentation, the suspect was arrested after she spit at the policemen. During her arrest she tried to get away and thwart the carrying out of the arrest under the cover of the crowd at the location, hence force was used with the aim of completing the arrest.’”

Bateman did not bother to retweet that response from the police.

The BBC’s approach to coverage of incidents in the UK in which people spat at policemen is evident in several recent reports:

Covid-19: Man jailed for spitting at police officer in Exeter

Covid: Bournemouth man jailed for spitting at PC who caught virus

Coronavirus: Cardiff man jailed for spitting at police officer

Covid-19: Great Yarmouth teen sentenced after spitting at officers

Covid-19: Spat-at Cambridgeshire police officer tests positive for virus

Covid: Norfolk Police self-isolating after ‘being spat at by teen’

However Tom Bateman failed to provide his nine thousand mostly non-Hebrew speaking followers with the context necessary for understanding the video he retweeted, meaning that as far as they were concerned, this is simply a story about Israeli police violence.

BBC guidance on social media use includes the following:

“All BBC activity on social media, whether it is ‘official’ BBC use or the personal use by BBC staff is subject to the Editorial Guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way that our on platform content is.

We should take particular care about maintaining our impartiality on social media, both in our professional and personal activities

BBC staff should avoid bringing the BBC into disrepute through their actions on social media”


“Where individuals identify themselves as being linked with the BBC, or are programme makers, editorial staff, reporters or presenters primarily associated with the BBC, their activities on social media have the potential to compromise the BBC’s impartiality and to damage its reputation.” 

Bateman’s context-free promotion of those Tweets is precisely the kind of careless action which calls the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s impartiality into question.

More from Hadar Sela
Weekend long read
Our weekly round-up of Middle East related background reading.
Read More
Join the Conversation


  1. says: Grimey

    The BBC’s impartiality does not exist. Its reports on every incident in Israel is twisted by lies, omissions and fake news.

  2. says: Sid Levine

    The BBC is the major source of Anti-Semitism.
    Its staff should all be declared persona non grata by Israel, but no government has the guts to do it because of what?

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *