BBC: Flotilla program overall was accurate and impartial

Following complaints from critics of Israel deeming show as biased, investigation does however find 3 instances where guidelines breached.

April 20, 2011 21:33
2 minute read.
The 'Mavi Marmara'

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)


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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 troops.

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 community.

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 Marmara.

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.

A campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC was also initiated.

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 impartiality.

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 materials.”

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.”

“The BBC’s 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 Trust.

“But it is equally essential that it meets the very highest standards of accuracy and impartiality.”

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