Israel says BBC not reporting war fairly

Officials: Foreign Ministry under pressure to boycott British news company.

The Foreign Ministry is under pressure from Israeli citizens to resume its boycott of the BBC and to withdraw credentials from its reporters due to "one-sided" reports on the war in Lebanon, Israeli diplomatic officials said Wednesday. For seven months during a wave of Palestinian violence in 2003, Israeli officials boycotted BBC news programs, declining interviews and excluding BBC reporters from briefings. The boycott was ended after the BBC appointed a panel to oversee its Middle East coverage and to ensure it would be unbiased.
The diplomatic officials said the network had not been reporting the war fairly. Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem went as far as saying that "the reports we see give the impression that the BBC is working on behalf of Hizbullah instead of doing fair journalism." Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Media and Public Affairs Gideon Meir, who declined to comment for this article, spoke on Channel 1 about a column that appeared in The Times of London on July 24 in which Stephen Pollard wrote that a BBC program appeared to have been written by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "The BBC's coverage has been overwhelmingly one-sided, with presenters and reporters editorializing against what they universally refer to as 'Israeli attacks on Lebanon,'" Pollard wrote. Col. (res.) Miri Eisen, who is set to take over as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman on August 20, called the BBC "the only international English-speaking news outlet that is downright hostile to Israel on every level." Eisen told an audience from the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey on Wednesday that the BBC's coverage was fair during the first week of the war, but then the network moved its anchors from Haifa to Beirut, and since then it has been similar to Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. A Foreign Ministry official said the ministry had compiled a dossier of reports from Lebanon by BBC senior correspondent Jeremy Bowen that officials consider biased. The BBC press office issued a statement in response. "Our duty is to provide independent reporting and analysis of all perspectives of a story, so our audiences can make sense of what's going on in the world," the press office said. "There can be times when this is misread by one or other side of a debate. However, this is not to suggest that we do not take complaints extremely seriously; we do. It is also worth noting that the recent independent panel set up by the (BBC) Board of Governors found no deliberate or systematic bias in the BBC's coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict."