BBC Responds to Reports it Pulled Mideast Editor From Gaza for Upsetting Israel
LONDON – The BBC has stepped in to dismiss claims that it pulled its Middle East editor from reporting on Gaza following a complaint by Israel.
Writing in the New Statesman magazine last month, Jeremy Bowen, a veteran broadcaster with 30 years of experience at the BBC, wrote that while reporting on the current conflict in Gaza he “saw no evidence” of Israel’s charge that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields, an accusation that the country has used to defend its shelling of densely populated areas that has resulted in the death of more than 1,800 Palestinians, most of whom are civilians.
A few days following the article’s publication, Bowen disappeared from air and his Twitter feed — boasting more than 100,000 followers — went quiet, sparking conspiracy theories online. The BBC presently has Martin Patience reported from Gaza and Bethany Bell reporting from Jerusalem.
A mock statement, together with an image of Bowen and the BBC logo, was put up on social media channels that said Bowen had been pulled because Israel had complained to the BBC that he was “pro-Hamas.” This quickly circulated, with BBC Trending claiming that Jeremy Bowen’s name had appeared on Twitter more than 3,000 times in the space of 12 hours.
In response, the BBC’s head of news-gathering Jonathan Munro tweeted on Tuesday: “Nonsense that @BowenBBC left Gaza under Israeli pressure. After Syria, Iraq, Israel & Gaza he’s on holiday.” Bowen himself answered a query on Twitter about his absence from the social media platform since July 22, saying: “because I’m on holiday.”
But clarifications from Bowen and the BBC weren’t enough to quell all of the rumors. British politician George Galloway tweeted: “On holiday? In the middle of a war? When you’re the senior correspondent? Really?”
Since the recent violence in Gaza erupted, the BBC has been accused by some of offering a pro-Israeli bias in its reporting. Last month several thousand people protested outside the corporation’s London headquarters and delivered an open letter urging its journalists to provide a historical context when describing Israeli attacks as a “retaliation.” The letter had been signed by 45,000 people, including filmmaker Ken Loach and scholar Noam Chomsky.