Sunday, 15 November 2009

BBC: Glossing over Palestinian loss of life

Dear BBC,

I am writing to complain about this report that appeared on your news website.

I am quite frankly disgusted how you quickly gloss over the killing and seizing of children. I can only imagine the terror of being shot at, diving for cover while bullets ricochet around me and watching my friends one by one get hit.

Your headline, "Palestinian killed on Gaza Border", is an absolute disgrace. It gives the reader a mental image of a Palestinian being shot 'on' the border and not in Gaza 'near' the border. It therefore gives the impression to some that they were a justified target. It is my belief the BBC does, inadvertently or not, tend to use ambiguous wording (not to be confused with impartial wording) in these cases which have the effect of favouring or excusing Israel.

After reading other reports from other sources including that of Israeli military sources, it is my understanding that the Israelis entered Gaza to shoot at the Palestinian youths. Your headline would better read, "Israeli troops enter Gaza, Palestinian youth killed".

I would thank you to use the correct wording as to the victim's age. You say a "man" was shot dead but then refer to him as a "boy". Please could you spend a little more time to ask more questions. A person has died. Is it too much to ask for his name?

You write, "The Israeli military said they would investigate the incident but the group "appeared to be planting explosives" ". Is it possible for someone at the BBC to ask a basic question and include the answer in the report as to whether or not there was any actual evidence of explosives? I am sure you know that it is simply routine for Israeli troops to shoot at anyone in firing distance of Israel. There are plenty of reports and videos available showing they have an open-fire policy. Here are some videos that took me moments to find.

Is it possible you could add a mention of Israel's open-fire policy?

You write, "Three Palestinians have been detained", but later you say, "Gaza is controlled by Hamas". Is "detained" the correct word to use? The Israeli troops entered Gaza after all. I'm sure you would never in a million years describe it as "detained" if a Palestinian entered Israel and did the same. Please can you correct this bias.

You write, "Clashes have been relatively rare in Gaza since Israel's military offensive in December and January". In what sense of the word could this situation be described as a "Clash"? This by all accounts was an attack based on unfounded suspicions. Why do you give the reader the impression that somehow the Palestinians were in some state of conflict with the Israeli troops? Please can you correct this bias.

I would like to thank you for mentioning this, "The strips borders, airspace and coast line are controlled by Israel, and Egypt along the southern border. The territory is under a crippling Israeli blockade under which only a limited number of humanitarian goods are allowed in."

I would like a response to all my points.

Update: Reply from BBC 23/Nov/2009

Thank you for your comments regarding this report

There was a great deal of confusion over the ages of the people killedand injured in this violence. Our final version of this report shouldclear all this up. It appears that the person killed was between 18 and22, reports vary. A boy - probably the 16-year-old referred to inearlier reports - was injured, and later detained and taken into Israelfor treatment.

The Israeli troops almost certainly went into Gaza in this incident.This is a very common occurrence and Israel has established an exclusionzone along the border, inside Gaza. The violence probably occurred inthis area or on the Gaza side of the imposed zone. I am afraid we do notknow precisely where the incident happened, nor whether explosives werefound. We did not have reporters on the scene, and the agencies thatprovided information on this, the Israeli army and Palestinians medics,have not provided this level of detail.

It is, of course, possible that the Palestinians were civilian farmerswho got too close to the zone that Israel has imposed. It may be thatthey were militants, as the Israeli military claims. Our report does notlead a reader to a particular conclusion, but presents the facts as weknow them.The final version of the report does not use the word clash.

Best regards,
Middle East desk BBC News website

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