BBC News sticks to the narrative after ‘journalists’ exposed

As documented here earlier, on January 7th the BBC News website chose to promote unevidenced allegations made by the Qatari media outlet Al Jazeera concerning the deaths of two people described as journalists:


On January 10th the IDF put out a related statement:

The Jerusalem Post reported:

“Regarding Hamza Al-Dahdouh, the son of Al Jazeera’s chief correspondent in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh, [IDF spokesman] Hagari said that Israeli forces had found Islamic Jihad internal documents in their various command centers in Gaza proving he was part of their terror ranks.

The IDF presented a copy of the document in Arabic, which it said listed Hamza as a dual-hat terrorist-journalist for Islamic Jihad. […]

Documents also said that Hamza had previously served as a terrorist battalion leader for the Zeitoun area of northern Gaza and that he was still currently responsible for firing Islamic Jihad rockets in that area.

Hagari said that similar documents were found by Israeli forces in Hamas command centers linking the other journalist, Mustafa Thuraya, to Hamas.

He said the documents said that Thuraya was a deputy chief of a terror cell.”

Over 24 hours after the release of that IDF statement, the BBC News website published a report by Shaimaa Khalil (who had written the January 7th article) and David Gritten titled ‘Gaza journalists’ families reject Israeli military’s ‘terrorist’ claims’.

That article opens with statements from the families and Al Jazeera and continues for a further ten paragraphs before readers find any reporting on the IDF statement of January 10th.

“The families of the two Palestinian journalists killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza have rejected as “fabricated” and “false” a new claim from Israel’s military that they were “terrorists”.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network, for whom one of the journalists worked, also condemned what it called the “false and misleading attempts to justify the killing of our colleagues”.”

Linking to the IDF’s shorter English language tweet, the report tells readers that:

“On Wednesday night, the IDF put out another statement about the incident which said an Israeli aircraft targeted the operators of a “hostile drone near Rafah” and that Palestinian media had subsequently identified them as journalists.

“However, IDF intelligence has confirmed that both the deceased were members of Gaza-based terrorist organizations actively involved in attacks against IDF forces,” it added.

It alleged that troops in Gaza had found a document that identified Mustafa Thuraya as a “member of Hamas’ Gaza City Brigade, serving as squad deputy commander in the Qadisiya Battalion”.

Troops had also found documents that showed Hamza al-Dahdouh’s “role in the Islamic Jihad’s electronic engineering unit and his previous role as a deputy commander in the Zeitoun Battalion’s Rocket Array”, it added. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the second largest armed group in Gaza and, like Hamas, it is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK and others.

The IDF released a photograph of one document in Arabic that included Hamza al-Dahdouh’s name among a list of “operatives from the electronic engineering unit” of PIJ.

The image is very poor quality, making it hard to assess its authenticity independently.”

The report continues with passages suggesting that the 24-hour delay in reporting was perhaps due to the involvement of BBC Verify and its consultation with “two regional experts”, only one of whom (a graduate of Birzeit University) is named.

“However, two regional experts told BBC Verify that the use of English alongside Arabic in the document was unusual.

Erik Skare, a researcher at France’s Sciences Po university who has written a book on PIJ, said: “I regularly visited the website of the al-Quds Brigades… I have read their martyr biographies, their books etc, and I have never seen the combination of English and Arabic text.”

The IDF did not provide other photo or video evidence about Hamza al-Dahdouh, nor did it release any of the documents that it said showed Mustafa Thuraya’s alleged links to Hamas.

The BBC asked the IDF to share further evidence, but it said: “At this point we have nothing to add.””

As pointed out at the Elder of Ziyon blog, apparently BBC Verify did not verify that claim from its contributing expert because other Quds Brigade documents also include “the combination of English and Arabic text”. 

In other words, the BBC’s attempts to cast doubt on the IDF’s statement include complaints that the image provided is of “very poor quality”, that its heading includes English as well as Arabic and that no additional documents were made public.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC appears to have made no efforts of its own to investigate the links between the people it has now described in two reports as journalists and the two named terrorist organisations.

Khalil and Gritten’s report goes on to provide more amplification to statements from the families and Al Jazeera – once again without any effort being made to provide readers with relevant background information about that media outlet –  before going on to recycle information about previous incidents involving the Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael al Dahdouh (with no mention of his seven years in prison) and his family.

The report also includes more promotion of claims concerning the number of journalists killed during the current war made by the Committee to Protect Journalists – again without mentioning that the CPJ’s own data clarifies that a significant proportion of them were employees of the propaganda arms of Hamas and other terrorist organisations.

Once again it is sadly all too apparent that BBC reporters are more interested in the promotion of a narrative about ‘Israel targeting journalists’ than in addressing the serious topic of the abuse of their profession by people actively involved in terrorism.

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