BBC 'failed to part with key facts on Israel'

By Robyn Rosen, September 7, 2010

The BBC failed to answer 80 per cent of Freedom of Information requests submitted about Israel and Jews.

The FoI website, What Do They Know, published the 3,701 requests not directly related to journalism, sent to the BBC since the act became law in 2005.

Of these, the broadcaster withheld information in response to 497 queries. Of the 17 requests about Israel or Jews, 14 were not given answers, including one asking for all correspondence between the BBC and the Israeli embassy on the subject of Gaza.

Five questions were asked about Jewish employment at the BBC, including: "How many Arab people does the
BBC employ in a senior capacity, including directors, compared with Jewish employees?"

Another was: "How many people of the Jewish faith make up the BBC Trust?"

Three such questions were asked
in the weeks following Operation
Cast Lead last January.

Six more asked about the BBC's correspondence with Israel during the conflict. All answers to questions about Cast Lead were withheld. Those enquiring about religion were told the information was not held.

In February 2005, there was a request for details about the expulsion from Israel of BBC journalist Peter Hounam, who interviewed Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. The information, according to the website, was withheld.

Only three requests were provided with all or partial answers, including one in June this year asking for the number of Jewish, Somali, Sikh, Hindu and Tamil people who sent applications to work as a lawyer or currently working as a lawyer in the BBC.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "The BBC answers every FOI it receives, in the spirit and letter of the Freedom of Information Act.

"Out of the hundreds of requests we receive, we endeavour to release as much information as possible and often volunteer information that we are not obliged to give.

"Each year to date, we have disclosed information in response to the majority of correspondence. "

Last updated: 10:41am, October 15 2010