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Monday, 31 May 2010

To the BBC regarding the Freedom Flotilla

I sent this to the BBC today:

I would like to complain about the BBC coverage of the aid flotilla to Gaza.

On the day preceding the murder of aid workers, the BBC had little coverage of this flotilla, while most other news agencies in Europe covered it.

On the morning of the murders, even though twitter was full of messages from flotilla workers that they were being boarded, and the live streaming video that clearly showed Israeli soldiers boarding and firing weapons in one of the ships (I watched coverage until the cameras went off after 4am), the BBC did not react. People I was in contact with sent tweets to the BBC and sent emails etc, to no avail.

Following what seemed a really strange almost silence on the part of the BBC in the following hours (compared with Aljazeera and other networks), the BBC began to report the "incident" - but with Israeli spokespeople as the only official accounts being aired. In fact, Israeli Govt spokespeople were repeated and repeated. And switching back and forward across networks, the BBC coverage - studio based, showing shaky camera shots of the boarding interspersed with Israeli spokes people -and little from the aid organisations, was seen to be left lacking. Aljazeera had people commenting across the world - from Canada through to Jordan, Germany, Gaza, Israel, Turkey - and UK.

BBC coverage actually looked biased when it was parroting the Israeli line that aid workers were alQuaeda and had attacked soldiers with clubs etc - as if the obvious defence of the ship justified 19 deaths in some way.

What has been left out of coverage, repeatedly, that this was an act of piracy in international waters. The BBC seem to see this as some kind of "mistake" on the part of the Israeli army... not the blatant murder of aid workers and abduction of over 700 others on the high seas.

I have been disappointed in the BBC news coverage for some time - from before the UK election to be exact, when the political correspondents seemed to take the line that the Tories were sailing, unquestionably, to victory. The coverage of this as an Israeli mistake - or that the Israeli line on Gaza and the flotilla is somehow justified, seems to be more of the same lazy reportage.

As I type, I am watching an interview with yet another Israeli spokesperson (8.14pm). The journalist is allowing this man free range to peddle his side of the story without challenge – there was no questioning the boarding in international waters and kidnap of aid workers. There was no reference to the blockade and the reason that the aid was being given because of the fact that the Israeli control of the Gaza crossing points means that less than a quarter of the supplies needed actually get to Gaza. This sums up the coverage throughout the day. In contrast, the following interview of a Jewish man who is going to sail a boat to Gaza later in the year, was challenging and again put the accusations of the Israeli govt to him.

If this had have been Iran boarding a ship, the BBC would most certainly have been covering it in a completely different way.

Unless I see a more balanced and enquiring news coverage, I will be shifting to Aljazeera. The BBC seems to think it must act slightly more sensibly than the despicable Sky or Fox networks in order to seem balanced. This is not good enough and certainly does not justify my hard earned TV licence fee (a system, I may add, I defend to the hilt).

Neil Scott

Glasgow

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