BBC journalists barred from attending march against antisemitism

Employees claim the news corporation has banned them from events deemed “contentious”, including upcoming solidarity march


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BBC employees have been banned from attending a march against antisemitism on Sunday, much to the ire of Jewish staff members.

The National Solidarity March Against Antisemitism is set to be the largest demonstration in support of British Jews since the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, according to organising group Campaign Against Antisemitism.

Staff members in news, current affairs, factual journalism and senior management who sought permission to attend have reportedly been told they cannot, with reference to BBC guidelines prohibiting employees in those divisions from attending demonstrations of any kind.

According to reports from The Times, staff members were informed that the event on Sunday has been deemed “a controversial march or demonstration”, and that they cannot attend any event categorised as “commemorative or celebratory”. BBC employees who asked to participate in previous pro-Palestinian marches are understood to have received the same response.

However, critics have decried the lack of consistency in the BBC’s application of its guidelines - one of which states that ‘Opposition to racism is a fundamental democratic principle’ - and accused the BBC of a double standard. Sources have also questioned the contentiousness of the march against antisemitism given its lack of overt political motives.

In 2020, the BBC allowed all staff members to attend a Pride parade, with director general Tim Davie saying at the time that as long as news and current affairs employees were “mindful of ensuring that they do not get involved in matters which could be deemed political or controversial”, they were free to participate in the event.

Criticism of the BBC over its coverage of the conflict in Israel and Gaza has also been rife, with accusations of bias lobbed from both sides. This week a group of BBC journalists wrote a letter to Al Jazeera accusing the BBC of unfair partiality in favour of Israel, while former director of BBC television Danny Cohen labelled the broadcast network “institutionally antisemitic”, writing in a piece for the Telegraph that “BBC’s credibility with the Jewish community is reaching a point of no return” thanks to unbalanced reporting on the war between Israel and Hamas. According to Cohen, the BBC deals with editorial complaints through its own internal management in a process that allows the broadcaster to circumvent public opinion.

“The problems started almost as soon as Hamas began its horrific attacks on October 7,” Cohen wrote. “The BBC’s unwillingness to describe the burning alive of families in their homes, the rape of women and the murder of babies as a terrorist attack is now well known and stands in stark contrast with its reporting of other recent terrorist incidents.

“If it were possible, the BBC’s description of these massacres has actually become more egregious. BBC News has since described the pogrom of October 7 as a ‘cross-border attack’ as if it were a skirmish between two warring armies rather than the worst massacre of Jewish families since the Holocaust.”

In a statement, the BBC said: “The BBC is clear that antisemitism is abhorrent. We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC. Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend, but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues.”

The march on Sunday is set to host a record 40,000 participants from a spectrum of religious and political backgrounds in support of the British Jewish community.

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