BBC Arabic makes four corrections to coverage of PIJ leader’s death

A post by CAMERA Arabic

More than a month after its May 6th submission, the BBC finally resolved a CAMERA Arabic complaint regarding BBC Arabic coverage of the death of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Khader Adnan, including acknowledgment that it should not have been described as an “ascension”.

Adnan’s death in hospital on May 2nd following a hunger strike while in Israeli custody was the topic of four BBC Arabic reports on that day and a fifth item related to the rocket attacks launched by Gaza Strip-based PIJ terrorists following his death.

One of those items was a filmed report by BBC Arabic’s Ramallah correspondent Eman Eriqat. Entitled “Khader Adnan: the Palestinian prisoner’s family accuses Israel of ‘deliberate killing’”, that report included several falsehoods and omissions.

In addition to inaccurately claiming that Adnan had died “inside the Israeli Ramla prison” (he was actually pronounced dead while in the “Assaf HaRofeh” hospital), Eriqat’s video also misled viewers on two additional points:

  1. The topic of Adnan’s PIJ membership was portrayed in terms of “Israel accuses”. Adnan was indeed a PIJ member, firstly according to the PIJ itself (which also refers to him repeatedly as a “leadership figure [Arabic: قيادي]”), and secondly according to biographical details published elsewhere. The 2020 “Encyclopedia of Palestinian Elite” traced his PIJ membership back more than two decades.
  2. The PIJ was presented as a “movement, which is included in its [Israel’s] list of banned groups.” However, the PIJ is also proscribed by the United Kingdom (since 2001) as well as the United States, members of the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
     Notably, this is not the first time that BBC Arabic has concealed the fact that the PIJ has long been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK and many other democracies. For example, its 2019 PIJ backgrounder only mentions Israel and the US in that context.

Following CAMERA Arabic’s submission of a complaint concerning those issues, the text accompanying Eriqat’s video was then inexplicably altered to include a fourth error (without correcting the existing three). Thus, instead of reporting the “passing [Arabic: وفاة]” of Adnan, for several days the version available online cited the PIJ leader’s “ascension [i.e., to heaven, Arabic: ارتقاء]”.

 CAMERA Arabic sent another letter to the BBC’s complaints department, noting that the use of the word “ascension” to refer to the death of a member of a UK-recognised terrorist organisation is inflammatory since it describes his death as a holy act.

Following that further communication, the BBC eventually issued four corrections to the item by Eriqat. The official reply reads:

“The editors of the Service […] concede that errors were made, apologise, and have amended them accordingly.”

The amended version of Eriqat’s filmed report is now 22 seconds longer: (additions in bold):

“Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan passed away in the hospital to which he was transferred from the Israeli Ramla prison after Israeli authorities had found him unconscious in his cell […] Adnan, a member of the Islamic Jihad movement which is banned in Israel and several other countries, engaged in an open hunger strike six times.”

Furthermore, the accompanying text now reads:

“Palestinian Adnan was not [yet] sentenced before his ascension passing on Tuesday at dawn in the hospital to which he was transferred from the Israeli Ramla prison”

In addition, BBC Arabic added that the PIJ is banned in “other countries” to another uncredited article from that day (before/after). However in both reports editors stopped short of clarifying that the PIJ is banned in the BBC’s own home country.

The BBC Arabic service rejected a separate CAMERA complaint challenging Adnan’s mischaracterisation as a “political activist” in a third item from May 2nd; a “BBC Trending” piece narrated by presenter Serena Ghockeh.

Other media outlets err on Adnan:

In addition to those recent BBC corrections, last month CAMERA also prompted the Arabic edition of the Times of Israel to correct another point concerning Adnan: that his latest arrest was not “administrative” as initially claimed since he had already been indicted shortly after his arrest (before/after). Nevertheless, an error concerning the place his death still stands. Both errors remain uncorrected in the Arabic editions of Euronews, AFP and France24 (here, here and here).

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