Crucial omissions in BBC WS radio news reports on hunger strike

h/t AB

Listeners to BBC World Service radio news bulletins in the early hours of Friday, August 18th heard the following item in the 01:30 GMT BBC News Summary presented by Neil Nunes: [from 0:44 here]

Nunes: “Around a thousand Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails have initiated an open-ended hunger strike after allegations of mistreatment by prison authorities. Tensions broke out after officials in southern Israel raided a prison and forcibly removed detainees from their cells before relocating them.” [emphasis in bold added]

Half an hour later in another news bulletin, listeners were told that: [from 01:56 here]

Nunes: “Around a thousand Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails have initiated an open-ended hunger strike after allegations of mistreatment by prison authorities. Tensions broke out after officials in southern Israel raided a prison and forcibly removed detainees from their cells before relocating them. Palestinian officials say a number of tough measures have come into force since the far-Right national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir took office in December. With more details in this report from Lipika Pelham.”

Pelham: “There are around five thousand Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails including at least a thousand held in administrative detention without charge or trial. The announcement by prisoners to start a hunger strike came after tensions broke out on Thursday when officials in southern Israel raided a jail and forcibly removed detainees from their cells before relocating them. In a statement the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Information Office, Ahmed al Qudra, called on Palestinians to hold mass rallies on Friday to protest at what he called the brutal attack on prisoners.” [emphasis in bold added]

Let’s take a look at what those two news items did not tell the BBC’s worldwide audiences.

Firstly, listeners were not informed that the “Palestinian inmates” concerned are members of the widely designated (including by the UK) terrorist organisation Hamas, including individuals convicted of terrorism. As reported by the Times of Israel:

“Some 1,000 Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails threatened Thursday to launch a mass hunger strike, amid rising tensions between prisoners and the Israel Prison Service.

Prisoner representatives have raged against the transfers of various prisoners and other limitations on their living conditions.”

BBC audiences were also not told that the curiously termed “officials” who reportedly “raided a prison” were prison service forces acting in the Hamas wing of the Ktziot prison, as reported by Ha’aretz:

“…special forces from the prison service raided the wing, and according to the Palestinians, the forces found several cellphones, which the law bars the prisoners from possessing. Possession of the cellphones also violated the prisoners’ commitment to the prison service not to have cellphones in prison wings where public telephones have been installed.

Prison service officials said they had been alerted in advance to plans to harm staff and took disciplinary action against the prisoners, which added to the tension.”

According to an additional report, the Israel Prison Service forces also found knives, penknives and screwdrivers which had been smuggled into the prisoners’ cells and were apparently linked to those “plans to harm staff”. BBC World Service radio listeners would be unlikely to be aware that in 2019 Hamas inmates in the same prison attacked and injured two guards.

Neither of these BBC reports clarifies what lies behind the allegations of “mistreatment” they amplify or that in fact those claims come from members of a terrorist organisation. As explained by Ha’aretz:

“Hamas security prisoners on Thursday threatened a hunger strike and to not show up for headcounts, ostensibly due to what prisoners regard as increased aggression with the Israel Prison Service following that solitary confinement of a prisoners’ spokesman at the Ketziot prison in southern Israel. […]

The prisoners’ leaders announced that they would carry out sanctions of their own in protest at what they descried as the prison service’s “aggression,” a reference in part to steps that affected the prisoners’ living conditions – for example by transferring them to different cells or into solitary confinement.”

Israel HaYom reported that the Hamas prisoners also complained about searches carried out by prison guards in the Hamas wing.

The bland promotion by Lipika Pelham of Ahmed al Qudra’s talking points does not clarify to BBC audiences that rather than mere “mass rallies”, he called on Palestinian youth in Judea & Samaria to “ignite the confrontation points with the occupation” after Friday prayers.

The BBC’s reports make no mention of related rocket fire from the Gaza Strip:

“The prison leaders also threatened to have Hamas members in the Gaza Strip join the fight if their spokesman in the prison wing at Ketziot and the other prisoners weren’t returned to their original wings. Palestinian sources in Gaza told Haaretz that Thursday’s firing of roughly 50 rockets from the Strip towards the sea, which was described as an equipment test, is also related to the prisoners’ battle with Israeli authorities.”

Several hours after the BBC had aired these reports worldwide the hunger strike was called off following talks.

“A source in the prisoners’ organizations told “Israel Hayom” that there are still no final summaries between the two sides, but there is a positive atmosphere, and he hopes that a compromise will be found in the coming hours. […]

According to him, the prisoners do not set new conditions and are ready to continue to cooperate with the security checks conducted by the guards, but demand that the searches be conducted “in an orderly manner based on mutual respect and without humiliation”. Another demand is to “return the prisoners who were moved from their wings, as quickly as possible, to their cells.” He noted that the prisoners in whose cells smuggled phones were found understand that they will be punished but demand that the punishment be reasonable and not “provoked”.”

To summarise, BBC audiences around the world heard reports which completely erased a terrorist organisation from the story, promoted statements from Palestinian parties without any input from Israeli sources and uncritically amplified allegations of “mistreatment” of prisoners without any explanation of what the story is actually about.

Can the BBC really claim that such blatantly sloppy and one-sided reporting meets its supposed standards of accuracy and impartiality?

Related Articles:

BBC WS RADIO PROGRAMME ON HEBRON OMITS VITAL BACKGROUND

More from Hadar Sela
Superficial BBC report on Hizballah drug trafficking
Back in July the BBC News website published a report headlined ‘Captagon:...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *