I have lost confidence in the BBC World Service in their ability to present news in an unbiased manner. And I will be making a formal complaint to the Chairman of the BBC Trust.
Yes. Perhaps I am one of the few remaining MPs who has consistently defended the BBC for their standards of journalism and impartiality. And when occasionally I have been angered by the output of their domestic services, I have consoled myself with the high quality of BBC World Service reportage. No longer.
Being abroad for me always involves my taking a short wave radio in my back-pack. India, where I am now, remains on the ever reducing list of areas where the BBC is available on the radio. And I have been listening for several hours each day.
I have been horrified and angered by the coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict. While paying scant regard to the provocation of 10,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza over the last seven years, the BBC has chosen to broadcast ‘human interest’ stories reminiscent of salacious photos in the cheaper red top newspapers.
Thus I heard a heart rending report from a Palestinian in Cyprus how he
imagined – yes: IMAGINED! – Gaza’s streets would be running with the
blood of dead Arab children.
After that, the BBC located individuals in Gaza who have taken the
opportunity of repeating over the BBC what they have already said on Al
Jazeera. No balance there then. And today I heard an "unbiased report
from a British aid worker in Gaza, from Islamic Relief". Oh come on!
But perhaps the worst interview of all was with the Foreign Minister of
the Czech Republic who dared to suggest that every country has a right
to defend its citizens, that Hamas had walked away from negotiations,
that they had resumed firing rockets into Israel unprovoked, and that
Israel’s actions are therefore defensive and not offensive. The ire and
vitriol of the BBC interviewer was extraordinary. Paxman and Humphreys
are pussy cats in comparison. The Czech minister sounded shell shocked.
And so was I.
Being in India, it is interesting to compare the tone of their media.
India, like so many countries now – a victim of Islamic extremism –
knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end. They have experienced
attacks on their Parliament in New Delhi and the more recent attack in
Mumbai and in Assam. Their reporting of the current Middle East crisis
acknowledges the human misery, but identifies its causes.
What a shame such thorough analysis has escaped the BBC.
I wonder how the Corporation will report matters when the next outrage happens in our own country? This is an issue the Conservative Party will have to address too.
The majority of British Muslims want nothing more than to lead peaceful, law abiding lives playing their full part in British society just like other immigrant groups before them.
Yet we cannot ignore the fact that Islamic fundamentalists from the UK – and born here too – have attacked targets not only in Britain, but abroad. And the growth in antisemitic violence on our university campuses stems not from the extreme right, but from extremist Muslim groups. At a more mundane level, Asian youths instigate brown on white violence in some of our cities though it often goes unreported. It does sadly follow an international pattern.
The instigators of this activity are a minority of the Muslim population, but a highly disruptive one. This, too, is a dangerous example of our ‘broken society’ and cannot be ignored. We must awake and address this vexed issue.
Future generations will not thank us if we fudge the issue for fear of criticism.