Omissions in BBC News report on Israeli footballer in Turkey

On January 15th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages which was originally headlined “Sagiv Jehezkel: Israel footballer in Turkey facing sack for hostage plea” and opened as follows:

“An Israeli footballer faces prosecution in Turkey and the sack from his club for showing solidarity with hostages taken in the 7 October Hamas attacks during a goal celebration.

Sagiv Jehezkel, a player for Antalyaspor, held up a bandaged hand that read “100 days. 7/10”.

The attacks triggered Israel’s bombardment of Gaza which has left tens of thousands dead.

Turkey accused the footballer of supporting “Israel’s massacre in Gaza”.

Jehezkel said he was not “pro-war” and Israel accused Turkey of hypocrisy.

He was detained before being released pending trial on Monday – he is being investigated for “publicly inciting the public to hatred and hostility”.

Turkey’s Minister of Justice Yilmaz Tunc said an investigation had been launched due to the player’s “ugly action supporting Israel’s massacre in Gaza”.

Jehezkel has also been suspended by his club.”

Over the next eight hours that report was amended several times and it now carries the headline ‘Sagiv Jehezkel: Israel footballer leaves Turkey after hostage plea row’.

“An Israeli footballer at the centre of a row over a gesture of solidarity with hostages in Gaza he made during a match in Turkey has returned to Israel.

After Sunday’s match Sagiv Jehezkel was briefly detained in the southern city of Antalya and accused of incitement.

It is unclear whether he faces prosecution if he returns to Turkey. His club, Antalyaspor, has sacked him.”

The Times of Israel reported that:

“Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said Sagiv Jehezkel, 28, a player for Antalyaspor, flew out of the country after being detained Sunday, appearing in court and being released earlier Monday pending trial. Proceedings will continue against the Israeli, but Turkish authorities allowed him to leave.”

By the time the later amendments to that report were made, news had broken of another Israeli professional footballer in Turkey facing similar issues:

“Soccer team İstanbul Başakşehir said it would open disciplinary action against midfielder Eden Kartsev for harming “sensitive values” in Turkey. […]

Meanwhile, pressure mounted on Turkish social media for the top league İstanbul Başakşehir to take action against Kartsev, who published an Instagram story similarly identifying with the Gaza hostages and echoing the slogan calling to “Bring them home now.”

The fan club for Başakşehir, a favorite club of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, wrote on X: “We do not want Zionist supporters who disregard the values ​​and sensitivities of our country.”

On Monday afternoon, after initially ignoring the issue, Başakşehir published a statement saying it had launched a “disciplinary probe” against Kartsev, alleging that he had “violated the club’s disciplinary rules by publishing a post on his Instagram that harms sensitive values of our country, and we expect a written defense by the player on the matter.”

Israeli sports network Channel 5 reported that Kartsev and his partner were asked to remain within the confines of the club’s complex after training sessions and not go to their home to avoid any possible confrontation. According to the report, the club had received information about possible trouble.

Israeli officials, among them Israel Football Association chair Moshe Shino Zuares, were said to be making efforts to bring Kartsev back to Israel as soon as possible due to fears he could be physically harmed, the Israel Hayom outlet reported.”

The BBC’s report was not updated to include that information.

Three days later, on January 18th, the BBC Sport website published a short report titled ‘Istanbul Basaksehir fine and loan out Israel’s Eden Karzev for social media post’ which was cross-posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page and includes a link to the January 15th article.

All four versions of the BBC News website’s report tell readers that:

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been a staunch supporter of the Palestinians, including Hamas, and has been highly critical of Israel’s conduct in Gaza. The country has also seen large pro-Palestinian rallies since 7 October.

The link in that paragraph takes readers to an article published on January 2nd which, like this latest report, makes no mention of the history of Erdogan’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood or Turkey’s related hosting of groups such the IHH. Both those BBC reports completely avoid the fact that since 2011 Hamas has maintained a presence in Turkey from where it has directed operations against both Israel and the Palestinian Authority and run financial affairs.

Also absent from the BBC’s report is the context of domestic politics in Turkey and in particular, Erdogan’s vilification of Israel in order to advance his own interests.

Once again the BBC has failed to meet its obligation to “offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”.

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