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Thursday, June 10, 2010
Why you won't see me on the BBC
By Yvonne Ridley
A BBC news crew has been chased away by angry protestors at a central London rally in support of Palestine. The very sight of the BBC logo on a microphone at Saturday’s Stop the War Coalition protest turned some of the crowd nearby hostile; they vented their frustrations on the hapless crew who represent an organization which appears to be hell-bent on spewing out lies, distortions, and manipulation of the truth about Gaza, its supporters, and the brutal siege enforced by Israel.
Apart from a few moments of journalistic integrity and clarity -- John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today program, for example -- the BBC’s coverage of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has thrown the corporation’s gold standard for journalistic integrity into a tail spin. The reputation of the world’s best known broadcaster is lying in tatters, not because of the quality of the journalists it employs but because of the sinister political agenda pushed by its director-general and a few of his cronies.
Without doubt, the BBC’s coverage of events surrounding the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla has been at the very least questionable. For instance, on Saturday evening the news bulletins reported that 2,000 protestors had assembled outside the Israeli Embassy; the organizers put the figure for the march closer to 20,000. Even allowing for the fact that the space allocated for the rally near the embassy was very limited, 2,000 has to be an underestimate. The BBC is renowned for doing this in reports of such protest events.
Director-General Mark Thompson might not care much for the BBC’s reputation, but he should have a duty of care to his staff because it looks as if his pro-Israel stance is now endangering the safety of his own news teams, many of whom find his views repugnant in any case.
Of course, I’ve seen BBC staff being deliberately targeted before, but until Saturday it has always been overseas, which is why most BBC journalists never stray too far from green zones and hotel rooftops in Middle Eastern and Asian conflict zones. British foreign policy is usually cited as the reason for the BBC being targeted.
As a journalist, I felt very uncomfortable about the events I witnessed at the protest rally, but more and more BBC crews in Britain and across the world can expect this sort of treatment as long as Mark Thompson remains director-general. For many, he left an indelible stain on the BBC’s reputation when he refused to broadcast the Palestinian charity appeal in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, in which more than 1,400 Palestinian civilians, one-third of them children, were killed by Israeli bombs and bullets. Real and lasting damage, however, was done when, in November 2005, Thompson and his wife Jane Blumberg traveled to Israel for what The Independent on Sunday called “peace talks” with the then “hard-line” Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. The Independent on Sunday claimed, “Thompson… intends to build bridges with the country's political class.” Never before had any BBC director-general embarked on such a meeting and references to it are removed continually from Thompson’s biography on Wikipedia, an indication of just how sensitive the whole event remains.
Around the country windows have been smashed at BBC offices, including Manchester. When your own listeners, viewers, and financers -- most of us in Britain are BBC license fee payers -- turn on you, then surely you need to reassess your coverage and the effect of the personal political views of the organization’s director-general on editorial policy.
By continuing to side with Israel (and let us not forget that it is Israel which is in illegal occupation of Palestinian land, not vice versa), Mark Thompson has shown that he is not interested in freedom, justice, or equality. These are qualities for which people are prepared to die and they have done, from Soweto to Sharpeville, from Leningrad to Stalingrad, from Jenin to Belin. I am growing increasingly concerned that his out-of-touch stance will endanger the lives of his staff around the world. He has turned the once respected BBC logo into a symbol of Zionism and hatred. He is not fit for purpose and should step down with immediate effect.
Thompson pledged in an email in July 2007 that the BBC would restore its damaged reputation for honesty and accuracy, and around the same time he made an undertaking to Gavin Esler on BBC 2’s Newsnight that, “From now on, if it (deceiving the public) happens we will show people the door.”
Obviously someone close to Thompson believes that the best way to rebut his Zionist and pro-Israel allegiances is by erasing from Wikipedia any reference to them which -- like his meeting with Ariel Sharon -- lay bare his political bias. Lest anyone is still in doubt, analyze the BBC’s coverage of this latest Israeli atrocity. No amount of whitewash on Wikipedia can hide the facts.