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13 April 2013

The BBC’s warped sense of impartiality

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Its reporting of the circumstances surrounding activist Corrie’s death was not an honest mistake by a cub reporter, but a conscious decision by a supposedly reputable news organisation to suppress the truth

By Tariq A.Al Maeena

When it comes to editorial guidelines and impartiality, the BBC claims to follow a straight path in its standards. The BBC Trust claims that “ensuring the impartiality of the BBC is a key priority for the Trust; it is essential to its independence that the BBC retains the public’s trust as an impartial purveyor of news and programming”.

It goes on to claim that “the BBC is required to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality. The Trust is committed to making sure that the BBC fulfils this obligation”. The need to be “duly accurate” in reporting is also emphasised.

But does the BBC deliver what it claims? Not so, and specifically when it is in the area of reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What really challenges the credibility of this news service is its consistent denial of the distortion and fabrication of facts in the face of hard evidence.

In repeated instances such bias interspersed in short news or video clips have often gone unchallenged, but blatant bias cannot always and easily be dismissed.

In a BBC Radio 4 World at One programme last year, following the judgment by the Israeli courts on the intentional killing of Rachel Corrie as being her own doing, the BBC radio reporter, in interviews with Corrie’s father and Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, manipulated facts and added untruths to support the Israeli court judgment.

Corrie, a US citizen who was born in 1979 in the state of Washington, had come to Rafah in the Gaza strip in early 2003 to witness first-hand the brutality of the Israeli occupation. In her last emails to her family, Corrie spoke of her brief experiences.

“I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable,” she wrote.

A peace activist, she was a witness to the calculated bulldozing of Palestinian homes to make way for illegal Israeli colonies. In speaking about the displaced Palestinians, she added, “I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances — which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity.

“I am just beginning to learn, about the ability of people to organise against all odds, and to resist against all odds.”

However, all that came to an end on March 16, 2003, when at the age of 23, she was run down and crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she stood before it in defiance of the Israeli intention to demolish more Palestinian homes.

In an investigation that took a few days to conclude — and did not take into account recorded statements of eyewitnesses — an Israeli court deemed her death as accidental, saying that “the death of Ms Corrie was not caused as a result of a direct action by the bulldozer or by its running her over, but rather by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved”.
Eyewitnesses rejected the judgment immediately. Nicholas Porter Durie, an activist who was at the scene, declared: “She slipped and fell to the ground in front of the bulldozer, which notwithstanding continued its steady pace.”

Eyewitness account

Joseph Carr, another westerner who witnessed the cold blooded killing, said: “The bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the driver continued forward, which caused her to fall back. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer.”

In that Corrie died by an Israeli bulldozer is no denying. And in that she was actively trying to prevent the demolishing of Palestinian homes is another undeniable fact.

But getting back to the BBC. In diabolical spin doctoring, the radio reporter Martha Kierney tried to casually dismiss her death by commenting that, “Clearly, Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day, and I know Israeli soldiers died too”.

Fabricated information, period! There were no Israeli deaths that day. In fact, the opposite was true. Several Palestinians and the one American had lost their lives to Israeli forces on that particular day.

As Amena Saleem, a network watchdog active in keeping a close eye on the UK media’s coverage of Palestine stated, “The extent to which the BBC is prepared to misreport on the Israeli occupation has been made clear once again. A new ruling by the BBC Trust has defended the corporation’s coverage of the Rachel Corrie case, even though it falsely implied that the unarmed activist was in some way responsible for the deaths of Israeli soldiers.

In denial

“Kearney chose not to mention these Palestinian fatalities at all — instead, she decided to invent some Israeli army deaths. By doing so, she altered the actual reality and created a false impression for her audience that Corrie’s actions had resulted in the deaths of Israeli soldiers.”

This was not an honest mistake by an apprentice reporter from some poor underdeveloped country with meagre resources. This was something from a supposedly reputable news organisation, but yet they continued to justify the fabrication.

A statement released by the BBC stated that, “By referring in her question to the deaths of Israeli soldiers, Martha Kearney was trying to keep the interview focused on the central point of her question — the destruction of Palestinian homes rather than allow the interview to move on to the issue of wider violence”, was yet another attempt to brush off the telling of lies through the crafty manipulation of the truth.

I am sorry, BBC. Your lame explanations simply do not wash. This is one viewer who will no longer tune in to your ‘impartial’ news services.

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

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