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BBC Official Acknowledges Potential Mistake in Reporting on South Africa’s Legal Case Against Israel

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
31st March 2024
BBC Official Acknowledges Potential Mistake in Reporting on South Africa’s Legal Case Against Israel
Protests outside BBC headquarters (Getty)

The Culture, Media, and Sport Committee of the British Parliament convened at Westminster on Wednesday, March 20, to conduct an inquiry session with key figures from the BBC: Tim Davie, the Director-General; David Jordan, the Director of Editorial Policy and Standards; and Leigh Tavaziva, the Chief Operating Officer. Such sessions are a customary practice for the committee, where parliamentarians engage in discussions regarding adherence to editorial guidelines, the handling of viewer complaints, and the maintenance of impartiality in news coverage.

During the inquiry session, David Jordan, the Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, was questioned about the BBC's coverage of South Africa's lawsuit against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). He responded by stating, "the news team may have “done it differently” if they were covering the ICJ case again.”

BBC's coverage of South Africa's lawsuit against Israel

The British Parliament Scrutinizes the BBC’s Reporting on the Legal Case Against Israel

Labour MP Julie Elliott initially asked Tim Davie, "Do you think it was fair to have a tiny bit of the South African submission and then switch to the Post Office, which is a very important story— I am not decrying that—but then have hours and hours the next day of the other side’s submission. Do you think that was fair and impartial?” The Director-General did not provide a direct response to the question but instead shifted the discussion towards the BBC's rolling news channel. When pressed by Elliott for clarification with the question, "Do you think that was fair, impartial, and balanced?" Davie responded, "I think that overall when you look at our coverage of the rulings, we have been in a reasonable position."

Labour MP Julie Elliott

Following that, Elliott redirected the question to David Jordan, inquiring about his perspective on the fairness and impartiality of the coverage. Jordan explained that deciding to cover South Africa's case was challenging, given the concurrent hearing on another significant matter. Therefore, the editorial team decided to go with the Post Office coverage rather than the other case.

Jordan further acknowledged that upon reflection regarding the coverage of both sides concerning South Africa and Israel, it became evident that they may have erred in not airing the entire case live. He indicated that they would have taken a different approach, possibly, if presented with another opportunity to cover the legal proceedings again.

The BBC Provides Selective Coverage of South African Case

David Jordan informed the British Parliament that while the BBC extensively covered the Israeli occupation's response to the South African state's allegations of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, the coverage of the case itself was limited to brief segments during the BBC’s live coverage.

8,000 Complaints Accuse the BBC of Bias

The Director of Editorial Policy and Standards also noted that on the morning of March 20, the corporation received more than 8,000 complaints, with roughly half accusing the network of bias against Palestine and the other half against Israel. He pointed out that this reflects the division of opinions within the country on this issue.

8,000 Complaints Accuse the BBC of Bias

Responding to MP Damian Green's inquiry regarding the investigation and suspension of journalists from BBC Arabic for expressing anti-Israel sentiments, or as Green put it, "Pro-Hamas" opinions, the Chief Executive of BBC stated, "Some of these tweets are unacceptable and we have taken action and will continue to take action."

The BBC decided to suspend six of its correspondents from BBC Arabic on October 17 of the preceding year, following their comments on Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

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Earlier, an investigation by Misbar uncovered a media campaign aimed at discrediting South Africa's case against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 9, 2024. Certain officials asserted that South Africa's legal action lacked solid foundations or factual basis, despite the support garnered from various countries for the lawsuit against Israel. Recent announcements from countries such as Jordan, Bolivia, and Ireland about coordinating with South Africa to join the lawsuit further underscored international interest in the case.

Media Campaign To Undermine the Credibility of South Africa’s Lawsuit Against Israel Before the ICJ

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