Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Unbearable Excuse of Impartiality

By Joseph El-Khoury

A young girl, from the Al Solton family, at Al Shatee school where she has been staying
being displaced from her home by the current conflict in the Gaza,
January 10, 2008
. Eman Mohammed/Save the Children

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has refused to broadcast an emergency appeal on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a coalition of Aid agencies. Since 1963 this umbrella organisation has been involved in setting up efficient aid relief to victims of natural disasters and armed conflict across the world.

Representing well established charities the likes of Oxfam and the British Red Cross, they can hardly be suspected of pro-Hamas sympathies. Their websites reads: "At times of overseas emergency, the DEC brings together a unique alliance of the UK's aid, corporate, public and broadcasting sectors to rally the nation's compassion, and ensure that funds raised go to DEC agencies best placed to deliver effective and timely relief to people most in need".

In response to numerous calls, including from British Government officials (Douglas Alexander, Ben Bradshaw) and the tireless veteran MP Tony Benn, Caroline Thomson (CEO) echoed today the earlier words of the corporation’s Director General Mark Thompson, in his insistence that the decision was motivated by a commitment to ‘impartiality’. This surprising decision reveals a lack of sensitivity to the suffering of thousands of Palestinian casualties (wounded, orphaned, displaced etc) following the Israeli assault on Gaza.

If balanced reporting is a highly regarded value in complex conflicts, impartiality is a sad excuse for not airing an appeal to victims of war, regardless of the identity of the aggressor. Reading through the viewers comments on their online portal, one could argue that some support can be found among sections of the public for their editorial line so far on this matter. Obviously many others, including many British TV Licence payers (effectively those who fund the BBC as a public service) are appalled by it and have also made their thoughts clear in the comments section.

Abstract impartiality might have been achieved on the Gaza conflict, except that the BBC might realise that it has lost any relevance in its coverage of the Middle East, notably among Arab and Muslim audiences (An ironic state affairs at a time they are launching their Persian TV service). This relevance was earned the hard way through the excellent truly balanced reporting over the years by reporters of the class of Jeremy Bowen and Alan Johnston, to only name a few.

By emulating Sky and the covert pro-Israeli stance of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled media, the bureaucrats might have reassured the Right Wing pro-Israeli section of their audience, who have long accused the BBC of anti-Israel bias at the hint of any criticism...but by doing so this well respected and loved institution might have lost its soul.

Related links:
- BBC defends Gaza appeal decision
- To donate to the Gaza appeal


Anonymous said...

Find out more about British Red Cross work in Gaza at
or to donate to our appeal go to

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