Saturday 15 October 2016

Jeremy Bowen, Syria and BBC bias

Talking of Samira's Newswatch...

This week's 'We're Getting It About Right' BBC editor up for interview was none other than the BBC's Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen. 

He was on to answer criticism that the BBC's coverage has been one-sided and given a distorted picture of the multi-faceted Syrian civil war. 

Viewers accused the BBC of focusing exclusively on the suffering of the anti-Assad side and ignoring all the suffering on the government side and the atrocities perpetrated by the anti-Assad rebels (other, of course, than Islamic State). 

His defence was that he had reported frequently from the government side - as he's just been doing again recently - and has shown suffering on the pro-Assad side. Therefore, the BBC has shown both sides.

My impression prior to this interview was that the BBC has concentrated overwhelmingly on the anti-Assad side of the civil war to an astonishing degree, interviewing rebel spokesmen and sympathisers far more often than regime spokesmen, regularly reporting regime atrocities but rarely (if ever) rebel atrocities, and focusing pretty much exclusively on anti-Assad victims of the civil war. They've struck me as having (whether intentionally or not) a strong anti-regime bias.

The exception I would always have instantly made to that was Jeremy Bowen's reporting, which has seemed throughout - very unusually - to be coming from the Assad side, including several interviews with Bashar himself (which I always put down to Jeremy Bowen's long reporting links to the Assad government, his past pretty soft interviewing of the Syrian president and - quite possibly - his anti-Israel bias too). 

Jeremy Bowen's 'Reports From Both Sides' defence, therefore, doesn't wash with me as a result. He reports the Assad side a few days every year or so. Everyone else at the BBC overwhelmingly reports the rebel side week in week out. The imbalance still strikes me as very pronounced.

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