BBC blunders on: “militants” in Gaza revealed as cameraman’s baby

Published November 15th, 2012 - 12:41 GMT
BBC cameraman, Jihad Misharawi cradles dead son, Omar
BBC cameraman, Jihad Misharawi cradles dead son, Omar

According to the BBC website, “violence” in the Gaza Strip escalated due to rockets fired into Israel yesterday. The writers added that in retaliation, Israel had targeted Palestinian “militants”. 

It was an interesting choice of words for an apparently fair and accurate report written without bias. However, the story was somewhat undermined when an 11-month-old baby was also killed in Israeli strikes on the besieged Strip.

Unfortunately for the BBC report, this child was the son of one of their own staff members, a BBC Arabic cameraman called Jihad Misharawi. His son Omar was certainly not a “militant” and so the article needed to be modified.

While the title didn’t change, BBC news writers added that “mainly militants but also children” were killed, a small acknowledgement that among the dead was the family of a staff member along with another 3-year-old child and more than 50 injured. The death toll looks set to rise.

The report drew attention to some interesting questions. In Israel’s ‘targeted defense’ had they really been either accurate or acting in their own defense? And why had the BBC failed to include their own cameraman’s tragedy in their initial story?

In the past, the broadcasting organization has been accused of neglecting ‘local staff’ in favor of their homegrown correspondents. Jihad was a Gazan helping the BBC capture the chaos of the most recent Israeli attack but he would not have been a full-time contract worker.

Those local operators working for the British news network are often paid much lower salaries despite risking their lives on the ground. So, while news of ex-Gaza Strip correspondent, Alan Johnston’s kidnapping, was plastered all over the offices in London, Jihad Misharawi’s loss went almost unnoticed.

With the death of Gazan children on their hands, the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) claim to be launching “targeted” attacks also looked in doubt. But despite the civilian casualties, were they acting in their own defense? 

There is no doubt that rockets from Gaza killed three Israelis - that much is sure. But there was no mention on the BBC of what prompted the attacks. On Saturday, Palestinian militants shot an anti-tank missile at Israeli soldiers stationed near the border. Four IDF men were killed.

This was in response to two previous incidents in the Occupied territory. Last week IDF soldiers shot and killed a 23-year-old man who approached the border fence. According to locals, the man was clearly mentally ill and was not intending to attack.

The tension escalated when, three days after the shooting, Israel brought tanks and bulldozers into southern Gaza. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, IDF troops then began firing indiscriminately, killing a 13-year-old boy.

Neither of these cases fitted neatly into the “Palestinian militants/Israeli defense” rhetoric that often appears in the media. It was a blow for the BBC but more importantly, for the people of Gaza. 


Do you think the BBC's coverage of Gaza is fair? Are they left in an impossible situation? Tell us what you think below. 

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