Friday 21 December 2018

Less than half the story

Maren and Louisa

I didn't want to post about this, but just look at this report, now in, from the BBC News website

It begins:

Morocco tourist murders: Video appears genuine - Norway police
A video appearing to show the murder of one of two tourists killed in Morocco is almost certainly real, Norwegian police have concluded.
The bodies of university students Maren Ueland and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen were found on Monday near a popular tourist spot in the Atlas mountains.
The men in the video claim the murders were in revenge for events in Syria.
Police say four men arrested this week appeared in a separate propaganda video recorded before the murders.
Nine further arrests were made on Thursday and Friday for "suspected links to the perpetrators of the terrorist act", Moroccan officials said.
The women's bodies were flown from the Moroccan city of Casablanca to Denmark on Friday.
Ms Jespersen, who was 24 and from Denmark, and 28-year-old Norwegian Ms Ueland had been studying outdoor activities at the University of Southeastern Norway.
They had arrived on a month-long holiday in Morocco on 9 December and had travelled to the foothills of Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak, 10km (6 miles) from the tourist village of Imlil, south of Marrakesh.
Their bodies were found in their tent.
Both women had taken full precautions ahead of their trip, Maren Ueland's mother said.
Thousands of Moroccans are expected to pay tribute to the women on Saturday, in a vigil outside the Norwegian and Danish embassies in Rabat.

I read that after clicking on The Times's website tonight (astonishingly, published before the latest BBC report). It begins:

Islamists held over murder of backpackers in Morocco 
Three more men with links to radical Islam have been arrested on suspicion of murdering two Scandinavian backpackers in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, as footage purporting to show the killings “in the name of Allah” was shared on social media. A fourth man has been in custody since Monday.
The killing of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, has damaged Morocco’s reputation as a relatively stable country, free of the terrorist threats to tourists elsewhere in the region.
The Danish intelligence service was working to authenticate the video posted on social media. It shows a knife-wielding man railing against the “enemies of Allah” and saying that the act was revenge for “brothers” in Syria.
“The video and preliminary investigation according to the Moroccan authorities indicate that the killings may be related to the terrorist organisation Islamic State,” the Danish security service said. “This is a case of an unusually bestial killing of two totally innocent young women.”
Separate footage emerged yesterday of four men, apparently Moroccan, sitting in front of a black and white flag and pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State. One is wielding a large knife. Morocco’s chief prosecutor said last night that the four men who had been arrested featured in that second video.

Which tells you more? 

Can there be any clearer example of how different media outlets report stories in vastly different ways, influenced by their respective outlooks on the world? And how certain media outlets are much more forthcoming as far as the facts go than others? 

Seriously, please read and re-read the above passages and compare and contrast.

Here, one outlet (The Times) uses the word 'Islamists' in its headline. It then uses 'radical Islam' and quotes “in the name of Allah” in its first paragraph. A "knife-wielding man railing against the 'enemies of Allah'" appears in The Times's third paragraph. The world "Islamic" appears in its fourth paragraph, and in its fifth. 

The other outlet (the BBC), in contrast, seems to be deliberately going to gargantuan lengths to avoid mentioning any words connected to 'Islamic', 'Islamist' and 'Allah' in the early paragraphs of the report.

It's all "the men...", "the men...".

We get a hint from the BBC when the report says "The men in the video claim the murders were in revenge for events in Syria", but it is just a hint. 

And, going on, we get (for some reason) "Thousands of Moroccans are expected to pay tribute to the women on Saturday, in a vigil outside the Norwegian and Danish embassies in Rabat".

Only in the 12th paragraph of the BBC report do we get the word 'Islamic' in connection to Islamic State, with paragraphs 14 and 15 further mentioning the Syria connection and the IS connection. 

And there's none of the 'Allah' quotes featured in The Times here. 

We're in the all-too-familiar realm of BBC censorship again here. 

It's as if the BBC is trying to lead us little ones by our tiny little hands when it comes to reporting this kind of story. 

Having well-intentioned it is, such censorship is dangerously insulting.


  1. Probably not the best story to be referencing the Festive Fifty - but just to note the list does include "Bias by Paragraphing" (where the bad news is often kept to the penultimate or other buried paragraph) this is not an accidental one-off - it's part of a pattern.

    1. The fact that it's such an upsetting story makes the "Bias by Paragraphing" so much worse. What was going through the mind of the BBC robot who wrote this?

    2. Come to think of it, the old B-BBC (David Vance?) coinage 'Beeboid' (combining 'Beeb' and 'android' for any newbies) really does ring true here. It's as if BBC reporters (like this one) are following an algorithm.

    3. And to add...the BBC can immediately see when a story puts "the ideology" in peril. This tragic news item is covered in emotional buttons that the BBC wants to make sure are never going to be pressed: attractive carefree young women from free cultures, life-loving backpackers, imperilled by a cruel culture that has its roots in the religion the BBC is telling us all the time is a wonderful boon to civilisation.

      The Guardian seems able to tell us there was a beheading involved:

      Of course beheading is a very emotive issue because it relates to "the religion that must be protected".

    4. The BBC seem determined that we shouldn't hear of ideological fanaticism such as this and its brutal outcome from them. Bias is one description - censorship of news is another.

    5. Well, they are clearly masking the details of the story, even to the point of it not making sense. At one point they quote Moroccan officials' reference 'the terrorist act'. What terrorist act? That's the first mention in the article. And similarly, the BBC mentions a propaganda video. What propaganda though? And by whom? Nothing to tell us that either.

      I wonder who is in charge of the BBC News editorial policy.

    6. Craig - What's going through the mind of the Beeboid writing this story?

      I think we have to start with the premise that whoever is writing the story is probably in the top 5 percentile of the UK population in terms of intellect and educational's not easy to get to a position where you actually write or even "compile" stories for the BBC (means you are already on a respectable salary and have a guaranteed pension)...and it has a certain cachet at the dining table.

      So, my view is they know EXACTLY what they are doing.

      They have internalised all relevant BBC policies and also the anxieties of what you might call the BBC Group Culture. The BBC Group Culture anxieties are even more narrow than the Guardian I would say. I reckon the Guardian are OK with saying person X was beheaded because they know one of their columnists is free to say "this is what you get when act as agents of American Imperialism".

      But the BBC feels a need to control the narrative much more tightly (as they are addressing a much wider audience composed 98% of non-Guardian readers)...they might suggest there is a link between the incident and "American Imperialism" but they won't be explicit. Equally they will try and cover the link between their favourite religion and the crime. And overall they will try and damp down the emotional impact of the narrative (compare and contrast with those events - say a Muslim woman having her scarf snatched from her head - where they want to elicit sympathy).

  2. This is horrific event so I feel bad about posting this.

    But reading the BBC article, I’m amazed
    how I’ve learnt to read their output by reading between the lines and more or less figured out what happened without them saying it. The Syria comment is worrying because I’d say at least 50% of the population won’t understand the link.

  3. It is fun, and tempting to mock the BBC's 'market rates' as incompetent but, as you say, often it is more horrifying to realise that their default actions and words are more often than not entirely deliberate.

    Ofcom and the dcms should be all over this, but won't go near our of professional courtesy. The public who pays for this is very poorly served and, clearly to a fatal degree.


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