In part one of this post we listed recurrent issues arising from BBC Radio 4 reporting on the shooting of an Al Jazeera journalist in Jenin on May 11th. Additional coverage of the topic later in the day displayed the same issues: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
‘PM’, BBC Radio 4, 11/5/22, 17:00. Presenter: Evan Davis.
35:13 here – news bulletin:
Newsreader: “Israel has denied a claim by the broadcaster Al Jazeera that a journalist who was shot dead in the occupied West Bank was deliberately targeted. One of its correspondents, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed while covering an Israeli army raid on a refugee camp. Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett said it was likely she was killed by Palestinian gunfire.”
35:46 here – report from Tim Franks:
Davis: “Shireen Abu Alkeh was a veteran correspondent for the Al Jazeera Arabic television news channel. She was shot in the head this morning while covering an Israeli army operation in the West Bank. She was declared dead at 7:15 local time. Her producer, Ali Samoudi, currently in hospital, spoke to the BBC’s ‘Newshour’. Now he told them how they heard gunfire, he was injured and how the team tried to flee to safety.”
Recording Samoudi: “She tried to escape to the area and I am running. I am go to the car and the car take me to the hospital but the Israeli soldiers still shooting and she injured. Shireen injured and she killed.”
Davis: “Well speaking to the BBC earlier, Mohamed Moawad, the managing editor of Al Jazeera, said she had been targeted by Israeli forces.”
Recording Moawad: “She wasn’t [unintelligible] covering from the side of the Palestinians. She was there accompanying the Israeli forces while they were intervening in Jenin so what we think is that this is the responsibility for the occupation forces because under the international law they are responsible for the civilians, for the journalists covering on the ground.”
Davis: “Well Al Jazeera not mincing their words in pointing a finger at Israel. Our Middle East correspondent is Tim Franks and Tim, the Israelis are disputing that version of events.”
Franks: “They are, Evan, though not quite as unequivocally as the prime minister did initially today – the prime minister Naftali Bennett – when he said it was overwhelmingly likely that she was killed by Palestinian gunmen.”
Bennett did not use the word “overwhelmingly” as falsely claimed by Franks:
“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday morning that “according to the information we have gathered, it appears likely that armed Palestinians — who were firing indiscriminately at the time — were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist.””
Franks: “Now Israeli military spokesmen are softening that a bit and saying that what happened was that there was – in their words – indiscriminate firing from dozens of Palestinian militants when the Pal…when the Israeli military launched this raid into the refugee camp in Jenin in the north of the West Bank. They were looking to arrest somebody from the Palestinian militant group Hamas. What is also clear though is that the Palestinians and well, you heard it from Al Jazeera, you heard it from her colleague, you’ve heard it up and down the occupied territories and indeed from Qatar – the owner of Al Jazeera – there is total disbelief at the idea that there was any crossfire at this juncture. They said that Shireen was killed by the Israelis. No question about it.”
Franks went on to claim that Abu Akleh “was not the sort of person who would just wander into a firefight” based on testimonies from “colleagues and friends”.
Davis then brought in Lyse Doucet to give tribute to Abu Akleh and during that conversation he again promoted the claim that the Al Jazeera reporter was accompanying the Israeli forces.
Davis: “Fascinating what Tim was saying that she wasn’t someone who was running into battle, trying to be there for the most dangerous shot or anything like that. She was cautious, careful, sticking to the places she knew and was with the Israelis on this…on this…ehm…raid into Jenin.”
As noted previously, CAMERA UK has found no evidence to support that claim.
‘Six O’Clock News’, BBC Radio 4, 11/5/22, 18:00:
Newsreader: “The broadcaster Al Jazeera has accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting journalists after one of its best-known reporters was shot dead in the occupied West Bank. Shireen Abu Akleh, who was Palestinian American, was shot in the head while covering an Israeli army raid on a refugee camp. Israel has said that it was likely that she was killed by Palestinian gunfire; a charge that has been rejected. There are now growing international calls for an independent investigation. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has sent this report.”
Bateman: “I’m outside the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Ramallah and this is a newsroom turned shrine. There are dozens of posters of Shireen Abu Akleh and people are chanting for her. To them she was a symbol of fearless journalism. Her body arrived draped in a Palestinian flag, surrounded by grief-stricken colleagues. Ms Abu Akleh was a veteran Palestinian journalist; one of the best-known women to become a regular face on TV screens covering the conflict over the years. Outside her parents’ home they chanted ‘Shireen is beloved’. Yasmin Ayad was a close family friend.”
Ayad: “I grew up listening to her and to her voice every day in my life. She always told the truth about my country. She never lied.”
Bateman: “The 51-year-old was covering an Israeli raid into Jenin refugee camp when she was shot in the head. She was wearing a press flak jacket, visibly marked. Another reporter, who was wounded, said the fire came from soldiers but Israel claims she may have been hit by Palestinian gunmen who – it says – unleashed indiscriminate fire at its troops. The Israeli army frequently launches arrest raids into the camp in the occupied West Bank. They have stepped up recently. It follows the region’s most serious wave of violence in years. Armed attacks on the streets of Israel have killed at least 18 people while at least 25 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank. Ms Abu Akleh had dual American citizenship. The US government called her death an affront to media freedom and called for an immediate and thorough investigation.”
‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 11/5/22, 22:00. Presenter: James Coomarasamy.
Coomarasamy: “Now she was a familiar face to a generation of Palestinians and her death has led to an outpouring of grief in the diplomatic and the journalistic community in the Middle East. Shireen Abu Akleh – a long-time Palestinian American correspondent for Al Jazeera’s TV network – was shot and killed early this morning while covering a raid by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. Large crowds carrying Palestinian flags gathered outside the offices of the broadcaster in Ramallah where her body was taken.”
Coomarasamy offered no explanation as to why the body was paraded in Ramallah and refrained from mentioning that it had earlier similarly been paraded in Jenin, accompanied by armed gunmen.
Coomarasamy: “Producer Ali Samoudi who was with her at the time was shot in the back. He spoke to the BBC from his hospital bed.”
Recording Samoudi: “They shoot us. I am running. When I am running they shoot another bullet and I am injured in this moment. Shireen saw me. She tried to escape to the area and I am running. I am go to the car and the car take me to the hospital but the Israeli soldiers still shooting and she injured. Shireen injured and she killed.”
Coomarasamy: “Mohamed Moawad is Al Jazeera’s managing editor. He has blamed Israel for Shireen’s death and called on those responsible to be held to account.”
Listeners again heard the unverified claim that Abu Akleh was “accompanying the Israeli forces”.
Recording Moawad: “She wasn’t [unintelligible] covering from the side of the Palestinians. She was there accompanying the Israeli forces while they were intervening in Jenin so what we think is that this is the responsibility for the occupation forces because under the international law they are responsible for the civilians, for the journalists covering on the ground. So what we like to see is the same wide condemnation from the journalistic community, from the international community around the world to stand [unintelligible] for Shireen and help bring these criminals to justice.”
Coomarasamy then presented a recording of the Israeli embassy in London’s spokesman Ohad Zemet who noted the existence of video footage of Palestinians firing weapons during the incident and clarified that it is absurd to claim that Israel is targeting journalists. Notably, in 13 hours of BBC Radio 4 coverage of the story, that was the first time that listeners had heard an Israeli point of view.
Coomarasamy: “In a divided society two versions, two videos of what happened have been circulating online. Shaina Oppenheimer from BBC Monitoring in Jerusalem explained what we know about these two videos and what different stories they tell.”
Oppenheimer described the videos, concluding that as to the source of fire, “we can’t really say right now”.
In the final part of the item listeners heard from Dalia Hatuqa – a Palestinian-American journalist based in Jordan who was Abu Akleh’s friend.
As we see, all BBC Radio 4’s coverage on May 11th gave considerable amplification to claims from Al Jazeera, Qatar and Palestinian sources which included repeated promotion of notions such as “execution”, “state-sponsored terrorism”, “blatant murder” and “assassination”. In three of the five programmes listeners heard from Al Jazeera’s managing editor and in two from another Al Jazeera journalist. Only in one of the five programmes did listeners briefly hear an Israeli point of view.
Supposed BBC editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality were sadly lacking in all BBC Radio 4’s very generous coverage of the incident on the day the news broke, with reporters and presenters alike clearly entirely unconcerned by the fact that the claims, statements and assignments of blame they repeatedly and uncritically promoted were – and still are – entirely unproven.