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BBC upholds complaint against Today programme clip about Palestinian deaths

BBC upholds complaint against Today programme clip about Palestinian deaths

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday December 09 2015

The Guardian reports on another breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality by the Radio 4 Today programme team.

The BBC’s complaints unit received complaints about a broadcast on 19 October involving presenter, John Humphrys, and Middle East correspondent, Kevin Connolly. The complaints related to an exchange about deaths arising from skirmishes between Israelis and Palestinians which began on 1 October. During the broadcast, Humphrys stated: “Yet another attack on Israelis last night – this time an Arab man armed with a gun and a knife killed a soldier and wounded 10 people. Our Middle East correspondent is Kevin Connolly. The number is mounting, isn’t it Kevin? It’s about 50 now, isn’t it?”

Kevin Connolly replied saying: “We think about 50 dead over the last month or so, John – this sharp uptick of violence – not just that attack on the bus station in Beersheba, in Israeli itself but also on Saturday a wave of stabbing attacks in Hebron and Jerusalem.”

Complainants pointed out that Humphrys’ reference to an “attack on Israelis last night” and his summing up of the total number of casualties would leave listeners under the misapprehension that the total figure was made up of Israelis only.

Fraser Steel, the head of the editorial complaints unit, responding to complainants affirmed that a breach of the editorial guidelines had occurred. He wrote:

“In the context of a discussion of attacks carried out by Palestinians, and in the absence of clarification on the point, the natural inference for listeners was that it referred to the number of Israeli dead – which, in view of the actual incidence of mortality, would have been misleading.”

“To that extent, the report did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards regarding accuracy and I am proposing to uphold this part of your complaint.”

Sarah Colborne, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in response to the ruling pointed out the number of Palestinian deaths since the recent flaring up of violence. She said, “Since the beginning of October, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers across the occupied territories, and thousands more have been injured, many with live fire. It is one thing for Today to ignore this high and rising death toll and choose to put its focus on Israelis who have been stabbed; it is quite another for the programme to completely misrepresent the figures and imply that only Israelis are being killed.”

It is just a matter of months since the Today programme had a complaint upheld against it, again on the subject of Israel/Palestine and again, on the question of complying with the editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

In June, the BBC editorial complaints unit upheld a complaint against Today programme presenter, Sarah Montague, over her interview with Israeli defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon. Montague was criticised for not challenging various controversial statements made by Ya’alon during the interview. A failure which breached guidelines resulting in “output [which] fell below the BBC’s standards of impartiality”.


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