BBC website bases two reports on second-hand information

On the afternoon of February 18th two items concerning the same story were published in the ‘updates’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

The first item to appear was this:

A couple of hours later a link to a report also headlined “Israeli diplomat escorted from AU summit” was published.  

Neither of those reports contains any original BBC reporting or anything to suggest that the BBC had independently fact-checked claims before publishing them. Both promote a Tweet from the Israeli website Walla! and quote reports from the Times of Israel and AFP. The second item also quotes a report from Reuters.

The result is that in both items, readers find a ‘he said-she said’ account which does not provide a clear, factual picture. For example in the second item readers are told that:

“”Israel views seriously the incident in which… Ambassador Sharon Bar-li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with access badges,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat is quoted by the Times of Israel as saying.”

However they are also told that:

“But an AU official has said Ms Bar-li was “asked to leave” as she had not been invited to be there and the only invitation, which was not transferable, was given to Israel’s AU ambassador Aleli Admasu, the AFP news agency reports.

“It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy,” AFP quotes the unnamed official as saying.”

In addition, readers are told that:

“AU commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat granted Israel observer status in 2021, but this decision was queried, with Palestinians urging a rethink, and a committee was formed last year to look at the issue.

While rejecting the accusation that it had anything to do with the diplomat’s removal, a South African spokesperson said that Israel’s status had not yet been settled., the Reuters news agency reports.

“Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy in South Africa’s department of international relations, is quoted as saying.”

Unlike the BBC apparently, CAMERA UK approached a representative of Israel’s MFA and was informed that Israel’s observer status at the African Union was not suspended with the formation of the committee in 2022 and that Ms Bar-li had all the badges needed to access the event.

Nevertheless, the BBC’s confusing and unhelpful second hand ‘he said-she said’ account is what will remain online as ‘permanent public record’.

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