BBC’s ‘Today’ misleads on Texas synagogue hostages escape

A report by Ed Thomas concerning the Texas synagogue hostage incident that was aired on the January 17th edition of BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ has been criticised for its failure to mention antisemitism in relation to the attacker’s motivations. That was however not the only BBC report from Blackburn to do so. 

Earlier that day, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard an item from the same location on the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb (from 1:09:15 here) as follows:

Webb: “It was an act of terror according to the US president Joe Biden and it was committed by a man from the UK. Malik Faisal Akram was from Blackburn in Lancashire. He was shot dead by FBI officers before he could harm anyone. His family say they tried to get him to surrender and let the hostages at that synagogue in Texas out. But now two people here have been arrested. Dave Guest is from the BBC’s North West ‘Tonight’ programme. He’s at the police station in Blackburn. Tell us about the arrests first of all, Dave.”

Guest actually had nothing to tell listeners about the two people arrested (and later released) in connection to what he described as a transatlantic investigation “to try and understand why this man travelled from Lancashire to America a couple of weeks ago and then went to the synagogue to do what he did.”

He went on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Guest: “The family here in Blackburn devastated they say by what happened. They spent several tense hours here at Blackburn police station over the weekend as they liaised with FBI negotiators and British authorities to try and bring a peaceful resolution to all of this. In the event, after the hostages were released there was a firefight in which Akram was shot dead. Now in a statement his brother, Gulbar, has said ‘we as a family do not condone any of his actions. I would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident. We would also like to add that any attack on any human being, be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, is wrong and should always be condemned’.”

Webb: “Dave, is it being suggested that this was a one-off or that it was linked to a wider, a more complex, a more sophisticated potential attack?”

Guest: “Well this of course is what this joint investigation is trying to establish. Now Akram’s family insist that he was suffering from mental health issues. They say that they were always convinced he wouldn’t harm any of the hostages and they disputed some of the initial reports from America which suggested the FBI had released the hostages. They say that Akram allowed them to go and they had hoped that he might have been persuaded to give up without any bloodshed. Of course that didn’t happen in the event.”

Guest then returned to the topic of the arrests in Manchester, describing the aim of the investigation as being to determine “was it just a person with mental health issues who acted alone, went to this synagogue and did what he did…?”

Guest’s uncritical amplification of the Akram family’s claim that the hostage-taker “allowed them to go” does not meet the BBC’s commitment to accurate reporting. The claim was repeated by Guest without question and without any effort made to clarify to listeners that it is unsupported.

While much of the initial reporting did suggest that the FBI had freed the hostages, by the time this item was aired it had become clear that while one hostage had been released earlier, in fact three of the four later escaped on their own initiative.

A report published by the Times of Israel over five hours before Guest’s report went on air includes the following:

“Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, among four people held hostage at his Congregation Beth Israel, said Sunday that the attacker grew “increasingly belligerent and threatening” toward the end of the 11-hour standoff, and revealed that the captives had escaped, crediting security courses he had taken for helping them flee. […]

Asked to clarify whether the suspects [hostages] escaped or were freed by the gunman, as indicated by other officials and the attacker’s family, a spokeswoman for Cytron-Walker told The Times of Israel, “They escaped.””

On the afternoon of January 17th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Texas synagogue siege: Rabbi describes escape from gunman” which states:

“One hostage was released after six hours, while the other three escaped several hours later.

“When I saw an opportunity, when he wasn’t in a good position, I made sure the gentlemen were still with me, they were ready to go,” Rabbi Cytron-Walker recalled. “The exit wasn’t too far away, I told them to go.”

He then threw a chair at the gunman and headed for the door.”

Parts of the CBS interview upon which that article is based were also included in the ‘News at Ten’ report by Ed Thomas.

Nevertheless, Dave Guest’s uncritical amplification of the Akram family’s unevidenced claim will remain available online for weeks to come, thereby continuing to mislead yet more listeners.  


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1 Comment

  1. says: Neil C

    The Quran allows a Muslim to lie for the furtherment of Islam. The BBC will never broadcast anything that shows a Muslim being racist. The fact that the complete telephone call (not the doctored version) with his brother proves beyond doubt that he was an antisemite and Jew-hater and that was his main purpose of taking hostages in a synagogue. Of course, the suppression of this information by the BBC proves also that the BBC is just as antisemitic, no doubt the suppressed Balen report of two decades ago would have confirmed also confirmed that. Continue to allow unregulated madrassas to flourish and brainwash the young into Jew-hatred and the problem will continue to escalate. #defundthebbc

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