BBC responses to criticism of coverage of the Al Ahli explosion – part one

On November 25th the BBC News channel aired an item in which its international editor Jeremy Bowen defended his reporting of the explosion at Al Ahli hospital in the Gaza Strip on October 17th.

That item was apparently taken from a programme currently available to UK audiences on BBC iPlayer.

The October 17th ‘News at Ten’ report about which Bowen says “I don’t regret one thing” and “I don’t feel particularly bothered about that” even though he admits that “Oh yeah, well I got that wrong” in relation to his statement that the Al Ahli hospital building “was flattened” also includes the inaccurate claim from Bowen – who was located miles away in the Israeli city of Ashdod at the time – that “the explosion destroyed Al Ahli hospital” as well as a similar assertion from Clive Myrie who was in Jerusalem.

Citing completely unverified Hamas sources, Bowen also told BBC audiences that “hundreds” had been killed and “thousands” injured in what he described as “the attack” – terminology which would clearly steer viewers towards the erroneous impression that Israel was responsible.

As noted by the Telegraph, initial inaccurate reports concerning the Al Ahli incident had wider effects:

“News of the incident disrupted US president Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, with the cancellation of a summit in Jordan where he had been due to meet Arab leaders.

In the following 48 hours, a synagogue in the central Tunisian city of Al-Hammah was set on fire during mass rioting while two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue in central Berlin.”

Some light may be shed on the obvious question of why the BBC News channel decided to air Bowen’s ‘explanations’ of his October 17th reporting on that particular incident well over a month later by a response to a complaint concerning that particular report which was published by the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) two days earlier.

As reported by the Press Gazette:

“Also cited was a report by BBC News international editor Jeremy Bowen on the News at Ten on the same evening. He said: “The Israeli army’s first response [to questions about the Al Ahli Hospital blast] said ‘hospitals were highly sensitive and not targets of its military’ and urged caution about what it called ‘the unverified claims of a terrorist organisation’. That statement will not be believed by Palestinians and by millions of others in the Middle East who see these images.”

The complaints had pointed out he was speaking over “extremely distressing images of young, injured and crying children without explaining who those children were, but implying, by association with the output, that they were injured by the blast at the hospital”.

Again not upholding that part of the complaint, the ECU said: “While agreeing about the implied association, the ECU noted that the point at issue in the context of Mr Bowen’s report was not the authenticity or otherwise of the images but the impact they and the associated claims by Hamas were having on Palestinian and wider Arab opinion, and judged that the juxtaposition of words and images could not be taken as implying Israeli responsibility for the injuries because Mr Bowen had begun his contribution to the bulletin by making clear Israel denied responsibility and attributed it to Palestinians.””

As we see, the BBC is still trying (albeit unsuccessfully in the case of this pompous Bowen interview) to do damage control in light of the considerable criticism of its reporting of the current conflict in general and the Al Ahli incident in particular. In part two of this post we will look at the ECU’s response to complaints concerning additional issues.

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  1. says: Grimey

    And the IPC (Iran Propaganda Corpn – aka BBC) continues to employ this confirmed lying antisemite. That fact alone says it all.

  2. says: Neil

    Why is Bowen still working at the BBC, he is the single most obnoxious contributor to the rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred in the world. He is a disgrace to his profession if that is what you can call lies, fairytales and deception. Unfortunately he has taken great care to educate the numerous other journalists in the Middle East to follow his path to sewer journalism. #defundthebbc

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