The details are laid out in these earlier reports (listed chronologically):
- 04-Feb-21: The BBC is sorry they showcased a terrorist. But do they actually grasp the problem? [Our blog]
- BBC refused request by father of teen terror victim to address staff over interview with her killer [Jewish Chronicle UK, December 24, 2020]
- 15-Nov-20: On SKY Australia, Arnold Roth says what he thinks about the BBC promoting Tamimi [Our blog]
- 22-Oct-20: Whose business is it if BBC engages in advocacy journalism? [Our blog]
- BBC World Service boss: Giving mass murderer airtime was a ‘lapse in standards’ [Jewish News UK, October 21, 2020]
- ‘BBC lost its moral compass’ by giving mass murderer a platform [Jewish News UK, October 21, 2020]
- Why does BBC promote my daughter’s murderer? [Palestinian Media Watch, October 13, 3030]
- Shame of BBC Arabic as systematic bias revealed | A JC investigation shows a pattern of anti-Israel bias and inaccuracies"
As you see, it comes with no English sub-titles. But in sharing the on-air apology video with us, the BBC also sent us their translation of the Arabic.
Here it is below - unedited, unchanged. The speaker is BBC Arabic’s Rania ‘Attar; one of Trending’s regular presenters since it got started in 2017.
On 8 October, BBC Arabic’s Trending programme item on social media reactions to a phone call made by Ahlam Tamimi to a Jordanian radio station. Trending then broadcast a short clip recorded with Tamimi.
This item was in breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines. Tamimi was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to multiple life sentences in Israel for an attack that killed 15 civilians including eight children, she is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list and is a member of an organisation proscribed by the UK and several international governments.
Therefore, any contact with her should have been approved in advance by senior editors in the BBC, as per our editorial guidelines. That approval was not sought and would certainly not have been given.
This item should not have been shown. It was a clear breach of our editorial guidelines and we apologise for it.
As we wrote in our February 4 post, this apology has some troubling features.
- It’s devoid of any on-screen headline. There is no photo of Tamimi or of the massacre or of anything else that would catch a viewer's attention. In fact, there's no visual link to convey that this is important. All that the audience experiences is the rapidly spoken flat-toned speechlet of the cold-faced presenter herself saying that it’s about Tamimi. There's simply no indication that this has any special significance.
- On the positive side, it’s delivered by the same journalist who was the program’s presenter when they showcased the Sbarro monster a few weeks earlier. That on its own is important. But her tone is monotonous and uninflected, and her brief recitation lasts just a minute.
“Our viewers, I read you a message from the BBC”.
The omission leaves us feeling that the non-Arabic speakers at the world’s most important broadcast enterprise, including senior BBC management, don’t realize that this (using our words and not hers) is what their audience actually heard from Trending’s presenter:
“Friends, what I’m about to say is not me speaking but something the BBC people have obliged me to say. So here goes. We’ll get this out of the way in a minute and get back to our show.”
|Image source: REACTION screen cap|
Even though [Malki] died 20 years ago, [Arnold Roth's] pain at her loss is obvious and still raw. It does not diminish. Imagine, then, in October last year, him turning on theBBC Arabic TV programme, Trending, to watch the mastermind of her deathbeing interviewed and treated respectfully...
Listening to Roth and observing his anger and hurt, you do wonder. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter and all that... This isn’t about IRA versus Britain or Palestine versus Israel; it is about grief and torment. Here, there was not even an attempt at balance, no account of what happened, and Tamimi’s role. That one-sidedness was then compounded by the robotic, distanced apology.
Perish the thought that the BBC’s Arabic service is pursuing a political agenda at the expense of the Corporation’s mission statement: “To act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”
Shame on you, BBC.
[From "Terrorism, Malki Roth’s murder and questions to answer for the BBC’s Arabic service", Reaction, February 6, 2021].
As we keep saying, and as respected voices like Mr Blackhurts's are reiterating, there is a serious problem here. Arnold Roth expressed it this way in his interview this week with the Jewish Chronicle:
There's a toxic culture at BBC Arabic... This isn’t journalism. It’s the advocacy of pushing their own hateful views. She confessed to all the charges in court and is unabashedly proud of what she has done. Yet BBC Arabic wants to treat her like Joan of Arc. I believe in senior management’s good faith but fear they don’t fully grasp the BBC Arabic agenda. The language barrier leads, I suspect, to the Arabic producers and reporters playing BBC senior people for fools.[Jewish Chronicle. February 4, 2021]
Since you are here at our blog, you likely know that we are in the midst of a years-long battle to see justice done. We want the woman who boasts - boasts! - of killing the children inside the pizzeria brought to justice in Washington. We believe the US Department of Justice wants to see her stand trial and we are doing all we can to expose the obstacles (about which we have never been explicit) and get them removed.
What the BBC allowed to be done in shamefully platforming Tamimi and what she stands for is a microcosm of what we personally have encountered over and over again. And still do.
The media part of this is particularly painful. Faced with a news story involving pure unadulterated evil in a very specific political setting, a broad spectrum of editors, reporters and commentators prefer to stay silent.
Or, as the BBC did in October, put lipstick on a pig rather than deal with the crucial matters (of terrorism, justice, malfeasance, cover-up) at hand.
Tamimi's years of illicit freedom and the fact that Jordan breaches its own extradition treaty with its most powerful and important ally in order to keep her safe and out of the reach of law enforcement is a time bomb. Failing to deal with terrorism, with those who do it and with those who ensure it endures and thrives has real consequences.
And so does lethal journalism.
UPDATE February 9, 2021: And another valuable contribution on holding the BBC to account comes today from Jake Wallis-Simons in The Spectator: "What’s the problem with BBC Arabic?". A brief extract:
...it should come as a cause for concern – if not necessarily surprise – that a Jewish Chronicle investigation has uncovered evidence of shameful and systematic bias at the channel. The idea for the investigation came after a conversation with an Australian-born Israeli called Arnold Roth, 69, whose teenage daughter Malki was one of 15 people killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in 2001. The female terrorist who masterminded the attack, Ahlam Tamimi, was released from jail in a prisoner exchange in 2011 and went to live in Jordan, where she became a celebrated media personality.
Last year, BBC Arabic broadcast a fawning interview with the convicted terrorist. Incensed, Roth complained and won an apology from Jamie Angus, head of the World Service. Roth suspected, however, that this was not an aberration but a symptom of a rotten culture at the heart of the licence-fee-funded Arabic channel.
The investigation appears to confirm this view.
We're waiting to see where, if at all, this attention goes and who steps up to propose actual next steps.