A press monitoring group has claimed in a new report that much of BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen’s reporting during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was biased against Israel.
BBC Watch, which produced the report, has made an official complaint to the BBC on the back of its findings.
Run by Jerusalem-based lawyer Trevor Asserson, BBC Watch monitored the corporation’s output on the operation from December 28 last year, one day after it started, until January 30, three days after the ceasefire.
The report claimed that Mr Bowen broadcast 58 reports, 38 of which were unbalanced. Of those 38, 98 per cent portrayed Israel in a negative light.
Mr Bowen posted 22 entries on a diary on the BBC website. The report claimed that 20 were unbalanced, all portraying Israel in a negative light.
“The Bowen Diary”, as it was called, also frequently offered up Mr Bowen’s personal opinion, an inclusion which, BBC Watch says, is in clear breach of BBC guidelines.
Mr Bowen said: “I absolutely reject that my reporting is biased in favour of the Palestinians. It is impartial and not balanced in favour of anyone.”
Earlier this year the BBC partially upheld a complaint of inaccuracy and bias against Mr Bowen over an online article he wrote on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, and a radio broadcast about an Israeli settlement.
Mr Asserson said: “I hope the BBC will deal with the complaint on its merits as opposed to using some technicality to sweep it under the carpet.
“What our research shows is that the BBC broke its own guidelines by publishing the personal views of Jeremy Bowen in the diary. It was wrong of him to express those views on the website as an authoritative source of information.
“We decided to put this new report forward as a formal complaint because what we found proved that Jeremy Bowen’s reporting was unfair and partial.
“This was totally unacceptable for a news source which receives huge public funds and has a duty to provide fair and impartial reporting to its public.”
Mr Bowen said: “My reporting is honest and straight and I actually go to places where things happen. I have been going to Israel and Palestine since 1991 and I lived in Jerusalem from 1995 to 2000. I spent about three months there this year.
“I would guess that Trevor Asserson has some strong motivations of his own about Israel and he doesn’t like my reporting of the Palestine side.
“I have had complaints from pro-Palestinian groups in the same way that the British Jewish community made a complaint in this country.”