The BBC Trust has said that the terror organisation Hamas “should be treated fairly and a right of reply conferred where appropriate”.
The response was revealed after the Trust rejected a complaint from solicitor Andrew White, who runs a pro-Israeli website, beyondimages.info.
He had complained originally that a website article about a BBC Panorama programme on Gaza gave a “very skewed” view of Hamas, airbrushing out much of its violent actions against Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
Mr White argued that Hamas’ activities had put it beyond the BBC’s guidelines for it to be given a right of reply. Since a right of reply was a “presumption”, he told the Trust, that presumption could be overridden.
He said this week: “Nowhere was it mentioned in the adjudication on my complaint that a right of reply for Hamas was purely for this one occasion.”
Hamas is regarded by the British government as having two sections, a political wing and a military wing. The military wing is proscribed in this country, but this carried no sway with the BBC.
Asked if this were now official BBC policy, a Trust spokesman said that the right of reply “was a one-off”.
The spokesman said that “we are talking about Hamas in Gaza and this [website article] was about the relationship between Hamas and Fatah, so they would have the right of reply. Every adjudication is a one-off. It is about that particular complaint and particular piece of content.”
In rejecting Mr White’s complaint, the Trust said it “noted” that in 2006 Hamas won the majority of votes and seats in the Palestinian Assembly.
In its adjudication, it said: “It was important that the BBC cover the activities of Hamas with fairness which would include a right of reply where appropriate.
The committee considered that applying the requirement for a right of reply to Hamas, where appropriate, simply acknowledged that Hamas should be treated fairly and a right of reply conferred when circumstances required.”
Mr White had pursued his complaint through all three levels of the BBC’s complaints procedure, of which the Trust is the last.
He argued that all criticism of Hamas had been left out of the web summary, but that criticism of Israel remained. He said he did not know if he would pursue his complaint any further.
In a statement, the Trust said: “The BBC Trust considers every appeal against the relevant BBC editorial guidelines. Each complaint is considered on its merits and depends on the context of the particular broadcast or online publication.”