Saturday 21 April 2018

The BBC's coverage of Syria

Him again

Even Helen Boaden, the BBC's then Director of News, admitted that the Corporation had, at times, become too "over-excited" about the so-called Arab Spring and that some of the BBC's reporting, due to BBC reporters being "embedded" with the opposition, had "taken on the colour" of the protestors.

The BBC's own impartiality report (which, of course, largely gave the BBC a clean bill of health), immediately after citing Ms. Boaden saying the above, then singled out Jeremy Bowen for specific criticism:
On 29 January even Jeremy Bowen could be heard on the Today programme referring to “the great mass of people in Cairo celebrating”, and making the surprising claim that “I don‟t think I've ever really spoken to an Egyptian who doesn't believe that Mubarak is part of the problem, and definitely not part of the solution”.
Ms. Boaden also admitted that "it took (the BBC) a while to understand" the Islamist element in the uprisings. 

That background is worth bearing in mind when you read the Newswatch transcription below. Even now Samira Ahmed is saying that the spark for the Syrian Civil War was "pro-democracy protests". To what extent were the protests in Syria, even at the very start, ever free from heavy amounts of Islamist extremism? 

As for the substance of the complaints featured on Newswatch, well, to find out if they're true you'd really need to properly monitor the BBC's coverage and see if, say, the BBC really did use phrases like "very likely" as far as the Assad regime being responsible for the recent apparent chemical attack (thus backing the Government's line) or if (as the BBC claims) words of caution were used (thus putting such distance between the BBC and the Government's line). 

Have alternative viewpoints (rejecting the line that President Assad carried out the chemical attack) been ignored by the BBC? Obviously, to answer that you'd also have to monitor the people interviewed. What little I've heard and seen of the BBC's Syrian 'chemical attack' coverage, I'd have to say that I've heard plenty of people expressing various degrees of scepticism about the UK Government's line against President Assad (including several Labour frontbenchers) and plenty of people asserting that it was President Assad wot did it. 

What do you make of the BBC's coverage of the apparent chemical attack?

And what do you make of Jeremy Bowen's comments?

Except for the bit where he says he's not really bothered by Twitter (something he keeps on saying, usually tetchily, so he obviously is deeply bothered by Twitter!), it's sensible-sounding stuff - journalistic motherhood and apple pie even. 

I've wondered before why he gets all the interviews with President Assad and always seems to report from the Syrian government side while every other BBC reporter seems "embedded" with the rebels. It looks as if Jeremy is the BBC's designated "visa holder" when it comes to reporting from the Syrian government's side. 

Also interesting is his scepticism about the UK Government's reaction ("And I must say, they must have very efficient intelligence services if they can get stuff out of eastern Ghouta that quickly and get it analysed") - though he immediately adds a softening speculative caveat ("But maybe they have men on the inside, who knows?").

The full transcript is below. Please see what you make of it.


  1. I was just writing about the "Arab Spring" narrative on the other thread...The BBC really has no excuse. It has hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on news gathering. Robert Spencer was quite clear about the nature of the anti-Mubarak revolt at the time. Why couldn't the BBC see the Islamic, Muslim Brotherhood, domination of the revolt (it wasn't just an "element")? Answer: they didn't want to see, because that would spoil their ideology-driven narrative, which has to match PC multiculturalism.

    1. I spotted your comment and used it (discreetly!) as the starting point for this post.


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