A recurring theme in BBC Middle East coverage is the avoidance or downplaying of the connections of the Lebanese terrorist organisation Hizballah to news stories such as the 2020 Beirut Port blast or drug trafficking.
Another example emerged in early June when international and regional media organisations reported that a Lebanese military court had charged five Hizballah operatives with the killing of an Irish UNIFIL soldier last December. The Irish Times reported that story as follows:
“A Lebanese military court indicted five members of the Shia militant and political organisation Hizbullah on Thursday in relation to the attack on Irish peacekeepers in South Lebanon, which killed Private Seán Rooney and seriously injured Trooper Shane Kearney last December.
Mohammad Ayyad, who is currently in the custody of the Lebanese military, and four other defendants whose locations are currently unknown, were indicted on voluntary homicide and criminal conspiracy and will face a trial at the military court in Beirut, according to a military spokesperson. […]
In an indictment report prepared by the military court, which was seen by news agency AFP, surveillance camera footage captured images of the UN vehicle carrying the Irish troops “under attack from all sides, by armed men” who were heard saying “we are from Hizbollah” and calling each other on walkie-talkies.”
The BBC News website published no small amount of coverage of that fatal incident at the time:
In the first of those nine reports readers were told that:
“A senior Hezbollah official, Wafiq Safa, said an “unintentional incident” had led to the peacekeeper’s death and that the armed group was not involved.”
In the BBC report published on December 26th 2022, readers find the following:
“According to AFP news agency, quoting an unnamed security source, the prime suspect was handed over by the powerful Hezbollah militant group.
“The main shooter has been arrested by security forces after Hezbollah handed him over hours ago,” the source said.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the shooting. It is not clear whether the suspect is a member of the militant group.
The village where Pte Rooney was killed is a stronghold of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement.
Three separate investigations are being conducted into the incident by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Lebanese authorities led by a military prosecutor and the Irish Defence Forces.”
Although it is now clear that the man arrested in December is a member of Hizballah, along with the four others indicted by the Lebanese authorities conducting one of those three investigations, no news of those indictments has appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page or ‘Republic of Ireland’ page.
With the BBC previously having published no fewer than nine items on the story, once again the question arises as to whether the fact that the BBC maintains a bureau in Beirut (located a fifteen-minute drive away from Hizballah’s Dahieh stronghold) enhances or actually negatively affects the coverage audiences receive of stories from Lebanon and the region.