Did Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman break the BBC's impartiality rule?

By JLCohen
June 4, 2010

The BBC's flagship news and current affairs programme Newsnight demonstrated what appeared to be a blatant example of the anti-Israel bias of which the corporation is frequently accused last night (02.06.10) when presenter Jeremy Paxman repeatedly referred to the IDF's boarding of the "aid ship" Mavi Marmara as an "attack." The show in its entirety - including excellent features on life inside Gaza and North Korea - can be seen here. In doing so, the BBC may well have failed utterly in its duty to remain impartiality at all times, so yesterday I fired off a quick complaint which can be read below:

"While I understand Jeremy Paxman is fully entitled to his own beliefs, I would like to make a complaint over his continual use of the term "attack" in reference to Israel's raid upon the Mavi Marmara on Monday the 31st of May during his interview with US Assistant Secretary of State Philip J Crowley. At one point, Crowley took issue with this, leading Paxman to crowingly ask which other term could be used. How about "interception?"

"While I have sufficent respect for Paxman as a journalist to convince me that he is above anti-Israeli prejudice, the word "attack" suggests that Israel's actions were aggressive and reprehensible and that it is entirely responsible for the deaths, whereas there is a great deal of evidence to support their claims that they made several invitations for the vessel to dock in Israel where the cargo could be inspected and delivered to Gaza - after all, Israel surely is within its rights to take steps aimed at protecting its people from violence and, as it distributes 15,000 tons of aid to the region each week has the infrastructure to do so - and that it was in fact the activists on board who instigated the violence. At present we do not know and will not until any inquiry is complete - however, I feel that the BBC completely failed its duty to remain impartial during this broadcast."

While I don't wish to accuse Paxman of being personally anti-Israeli - or worse, an anti-semite - I believe that when a broadcaster uses language such as this, especially on a respected programme broadcast by an organisation that is required to remain impartial and in the public view is so, it strengthens and spreads preconcieved ideas such as those already held by a large number of people who, due to the opinion pieces as found in many newspapers which do not have to remain impartial, have been seduced by the romantic image of "Hamas as freedom fighters." This is bad for both Israel and Palestine, as it obscures the truth - that Hamas are violent terrorists; they are, after all, a group that thinks throwing those found guilty of the "crime" of opposing them from roofs as an example to others is an acceptable way to do business and the people of Gaza suffer a great deal under their rule. If allowed to go unchecked, it could also endanger British Jews too, for as we all know far too well anti-Israeli sentiments in the media frequently become anti-semitic incidents in society, as was the case when we saw a dramatic rise in vandalism, verbal abuse and physical attacks following the reporting on Operation Cast Lead.

I suspect I won't be the only one who was angered by this - which is why I'm providing this link to the BBC website's complaints section. I've requested a reply and will report further developments here.



Sat, 06/05/2010 - 00:00

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The best thing to do is complain to the BBC. They will usually brush it off initially, but escalate it to the next level for them to sit up and take notice.


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