BBC backs down over Gaza Surf Club article

The BBC has accepted that statements made on their website about freedom of trade and movement in Gaza do not “accurately reflect the current situation” and have now amended them.

The changes were made to an article accompanying a BBC Radio 4 programme The Gaza Surf Club, broadcast in November last year.

The article originally stated that “few [Gazans] are able to leave the territory or to import and export goods” and that Palestinians who surf in Gaza “defy… the Israeli blockade”.

Londoner Stephen Franklin, who regularly uses the BBC complaints procedure, complained, pointing out that residents of Gaza can travel to both Israel and Egypt, there is trade in both directions with both countries and there is no blockade preventing surfers from using the sea.

In a process that took from November until this week the programme’s producer Jeremy Grange has finally changed both phrases.

Two months after the original complaint was made, Mr Grange responded: “As far as the fishermen are concerned there is a blockade: they are not allowed to go more than three miles out to sea. However, although these restrictions apply to fishermen I accept that they don’t affect surfers who pursue their sport close to the shore, and we will therefore find a more appropriate wording on the website.”

The whole sentence was then removed from the website.

However, it took a further complaint from Mr Franklin and another two months to receive a response on the issue of free movement and trade.

Mr Grange wrote: “I accept your point that the statement ‘few Gazans are able to leave the territory or to import and export goods’ doesn’t accurately reflect the current situation.”

That phrase was then changed.

Mr Franklin explained: “I am not trying to score cheap hits. I just hope that such complaints will put a little extra pressure on the BBC journalists to paint a truer picture of what is happening in the Israel/Palestine dispute.”

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “Every effort is made to ensure that the BBC’s content is accurate but on this occasion we could have been clearer about some of the points made in the online programme description, which now have been changed.”

Last updated: 9:19am, April 3 2013