Omission and misrepresentation in BBC reporting on ICJ ruling

On January 26th the BBC News website published five items of content relating to that day’s ruling by the International Court of Justice on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel.

In order of publication, those items are:

  1. Gaza war: ICJ to rule on call for Israel to stop military action by Raffi Berg and Anna Holligan
  2. Live page
  3. ICJ orders Israel to take all measures to prevent genocidal acts
  4. ICJ says Israel must prevent genocide in Gaza by Raffi Berg and Anna Holligan
  5. Israel reined in by ICJ rulings on Gaza – but will it obey? by Paul Adams

Both the live page and the second report by Berg and Holligan include reactions to the court’s ruling from various sources.

On the live page readers find comment from Palestinian Authority officials, South African officials, Israeli officials, Hamas, Egypt, the US State Department, the political NGO Human Rights Watch and vox pops from Israel and the Gaza Strip.

In Berg and Holligan’s report readers find the following:

“”For the implementation of the international rule of law, the [ICJ’s] decision is a momentous one,” said South Africa in a statement. It called Friday’s ruling a “significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people”.

The Palestinian foreign minister said the ruling showed that “no state is above the law”, adding it “should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not address the ruling directly but said “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to defend our country.”

He said South Africa’s allegation that Israel was committing genocide was “not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it”.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant dismissed the ruling, saying Israel “does not need to be lectured on morality in order to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population in Gaza”.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian group whose unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October triggered the war, called the outcome “important”, saying it contributed to “isolating Israel”, Reuters news agency reported.”

Notably, that report – which will remain online as what the BBC calls ‘permanent public record’ – does not inform BBC audiences about additional ‘reactions’ from Hamas on January 26th.

Not long after the ICJ delivered its rulings – including the call for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip – rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Shortly afterwards, an additional barrage was fired at the communities of  Kissufim and Ein HaShlosha. In addition, Hamas released a propaganda video.

“The Hamas terror group published a new propaganda video Friday showing signs of life from three young female hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

In edited-together clips, the five-minute-long video showed Daniella Gilboa, Karina Ariev and Doron Steinbrecher, who identified themselves and asked the Israeli government to return them home.”

We know that the BBC is aware of that video because the following item appeared on its live page, where the summary provided to BBC audiences – like the rest of the BBC’s January 26th content – makes no mention of the court’s call to release the hostages:

However, BBC News website audiences have seen no further reporting on that topic in content which will remain online as ‘permanent public record’, including in the feature about the hostages.

Another issue arising in the ‘live page’ coverage appears in this item:

That presentation of part of Gallant’s remarks by the BBC is misleading. As no small number of media outlets have had to note in corrections, Gallant’s remarks related to Hamas:

“Gaza won’t return to what it was before. There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate everything.”

The ICJ’s own documentation includes the quote in full:

“On the following day, Minister Gallant stated, speaking to Israeli troops on the Gaza border:
“I have released all restraints . . . You saw what we are fighting against. We are fighting human animals. This is the ISIS of Gaza. This is what we are fighting against . . . Gaza won’t return to what it was before. There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate everything. If it doesn’t take one day, it will take a week, it will take weeks or even months, we will reach all places.””

There is therefore no excuse for the BBC’s cherry-picking and misrepresentation of that quote.

Related Articles:

A BBC STORY FROM AUGUST 2014 STILL IN NEED OF CLARIFICATION

THE MISSING PIECE IN THE BBC HAGUE CORRESPONDENT’S GAZA STORY

MEDIA OUTLETS CORRECT YOAV GALLANT MISQUOTE ON ELIMINATING HAMAS

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