The BBC’s Arabic news channel has issued more than 130 corrections following complaints of bias and inaccuracy in reports about Israel and Jewish affairs since the beginning of 2021 — an average of more than one every week, the JC can reveal.
The sheer volume of corrections was a signal that recent attempts to “reform” BBC Arabic were a failure, according to a media watchdog, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) Arabic.
Over the course of just two months this year, April and May, the channel published 13 separate stories it later had to correct, including two that described the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70CE as a “Jewish belief” and a “Jewish narrative”, rather than a historical fact supported by archaeological evidence.
The flood of corrections came despite an attempt by BBC management last year to improve editorial standards in its Arabic output.
As the JC first disclosed, Mohamed Yehia, the BBC’s Head of Multimedia Output, sent an email in October to BBC Arabic staff ordering them to observe BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.
His instructions included reminders not to use the term “Wailing Wall”, which carries negative connotations in Arabic; not to refer to all Israeli citizens as “settlers”; and not to describe the entire Temple Mount as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
BBC Arabic (Photo: BBC)
But in April and May, BBC Arabic repeated all these errors and had to correct them multiple times.
The corrections were made in response to complaints by CAMERA Arabic.
A spokesman for the group said: “The fact that such lapses do not occur anywhere near as frequently in the BBC’s English language content means it is difficult to take seriously the BBC’s recurrent claim that the same editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality are applied equally to its services in all languages.”
CAMERA Arabic has made more than 50 separate complaints since the start of, some of which demanded more than one correction.
Only three have been rejected. Of these, one concerned a website headline on a story about the deaths of the Palestinian killers of Lucy, Rina and Maia Dee, which said the gunmen had been “accused” of their murders.
One of the complaints concerned reporting the deaths of the Palestinian killers of Lucy, Rina and Maia Dee (Photo: The Dee family)
In fact, as the body of the article stated, the Hamas terror group to which they belonged had admitted responsibility.
Asked about the complaints and corrections by the JC, a BBC spokesperson said: “BBC News Arabic offers independent and impartial news and information produced by experienced editors, journalists and programme-makers.
"As with all content produced by the BBC, their output is subject to the BBC’s rigorous editorial guidelines.
“Where mistakes are occasionally made, we acknowledge and rectify them as appropriate. We do not accept they represent a wider issue with the service’s 24-hour, multi-platform output.”