The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
LONDON – The BBC declared on Wednesday that its documentary program on the Gaza
flotilla incident screened last year overall was “accurate” and “impartial” it
said, after an investigation following complaints from critics of Israel who
claimed it was biased.
The BBC Trust published its consideration of an
appeal relating to an edition of its flagship documentary program Panorama,
titled “Death in the Med,” and broadcast last August, which examined the
ill-fated Israeli interception of the Mavi Marmara, the only ship in the Free
Gaza flotilla which saw confrontation between activists and Israeli
BBC’s flotilla film slammed as ‘biased’
Using previously unseen video footage from the IDF and
confiscated passenger tapes, mostly recorded by members of a fringe group called
Cultures of Resistance, the program concluded that the main aim of the activists
had not been to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, but rather to orchestrate a
political act designed to put pressure on Israel and the international
The program also concluded that the Israeli commandos
encountered a violent, premeditated attack by a hard-core group of activists
organized by IHH members.
Nine Turkish nationals were killed by the
commandos after they came under attack when boarding the Mavi
Critics were furious that the program was not as hostile to
Israel as they thought it should be and joined activists from the Free Gaza
movement in demonstrations outside the BBC’s London headquarters.
campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC was also
The Trust received 19 appeals which raised 51 substantive
points for consideration. Three of these were upheld by the Trust’s Editorial
Standards Committee (ESC), two relating to accuracy and one relating to
One of the complaints concerned a scene in which the
presenter showed how some of the medicines on board the ship destined for Gaza
were found to have passed their expiration dates. The committee deemed that this
was “just a tiny proportion of a consignment which had consisted of thousands of
tons of aid, including large quantities of much-needed building
As a result, the committee concluded that the program was
“not clear and precise in its presentation of the full extent of the aid on
board the flotilla.”
Accordingly, it deemed there had been a breach of
the Editorial Guidelines on accuracy.
The committee’s chair, Alison
Hastings, stood by the program.
“Despite the three breaches, for which
the Trust apologizes on behalf of the BBC, this Panorama
was an original,
insightful and well-researched piece of journalism and we commend the BBC for
having tackled this issue. It revealed important new evidence in a
much-publicized story and, overall, the program was both accurate and
impartial,” Hastings said.
“However, these breaches are a firm reminder
that the BBC must take great care over accuracy and impartiality, particularly
when the subject matter is as controversial as this.”
courageous journalism is perhaps the clearest articulation of its public service
mission, and it is essential that the BBC is able to report on the most
controversial issues of the day,” said Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC
“But it is equally essential that it meets the very highest
standards of accuracy and impartiality.”