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BBC NEWS Omissions

Excerpt from:

THE BBC AND THE MIDDLE EAST, AN ANALYSIS, DECEMBER 2002

TREVOR ASSERSON

 

Part 8. OMISSIONS –

(i) REPORTING ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE DEBATE

We consider that the duty of due impartiality requires the BBC to give expression to both sides of the conflict when covering regular news stories. During the period under review the BBC generally alloted approximately equal time to the expression of views which were pro Palestinian and those which were pro Israeli.[51] This was effected both through editorial comment and through selection of interviewees or quotations from sources.

However, we note that the BBC failed to include the views of one side. All the examples which we have found during the period monitored have been instances where the Israeli view has been omitted. In none of the examples was there an attempt to explain the failure to obtain an Israeli commentator. Examples include the following:

a) 30 May 2002 – BBC Online, “Israel detains suspects in Hebron”

The BBC quotes a statement by “the Palestinian Leadership” which is highly critical of Israeli actions during incursions into West Bank towns alleging, inter alia, that Israelis were “killing and wounding many civilians.” The statement remains unchallenged by the journalist. No Israeli source is quoted in response, either to deny or to explain the alleged actions.

b) 6 June 2002 – PM

Following the death of 17 Israelis at the hand of a suicide bomber near Megiddo on 5 June 2002, Israel raided Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah. Saeb Erekat, a leading Palestinian Authority source, was interviewed. He made some far-reaching allegations.[53] No Israeli source was interviewed or quoted.

c) 8 – 9 July 2002

In early July 2002, the UK Labour Government was criticised for selling weapons parts to America which were to be placed in planes destined for Israel. This was a lead story covered by World at One, PM, Ten O clock News, Newsnight and News Online.[54]

An intense debate took place. Eight pages of text, containing three separate stories on the topic, were posted on BBC Online. A further ten pages were required to transcribe the coverage on the other programmes listed. Two principle issues were debated. One was whether the sale of the arms parts was consistent with guidelines recently published by the Defence Secretary. The other was the morality of Israel’s behaviour with regard to the Palestinians.

Israel was accused, principally by the interviewees, of “terrorising Palestinians,” and of “internal oppression.” It was alleged that “Ariel Sharon doesn’t want to make peace,” and Sharon was accused of “refus[ing] to stop the occupation, to seriously discuss peace.” It was said “it is completely immoral supporting Israel.” It was said that sale of the weapons parts “undermines our values.”

Of nine people interviewed, three had known pro-Palestinian views.[55] None of those interviewed had pro-Israeli affiliations that we have been able to discover. In the resulting debate we counted 33 statements which were critical of Israel and only 3 which put an argument in defence of Israel. This disparity was a foreseeable result of the choice of interviewees.

Conclusion

We consider it a breach of the duty of impartiality to fail to provide a balance of views for such news stories. We are concerned where repeated breaches of duty all favour the same side of the debate.

 

 

 

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