Britain’s state-funded broadcaster BBC has launched an investigation into six reporters and a freelance contributor working for its Arabic service over allegedly exhibiting anti-Israel bias and cheering attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The probe is related to the social media activities of the journalists, namely liking and reposting pro-Palestinian content and criticism of Israel. The online conduct of BBC employees is covered by BBC’s ‘impartiality’ rules.
According to British media reports, the offensive posts, all of which have been taken down, included descriptions of Hamas as “freedom fighters” and the group’s surprise attack on Israel as a “morning of hope” for Palestine.
While the staff reporters have not been formally suspended as of yet, only put off-air, the corporation has already parted ways with the freelance contributor, who had only been working with the outlet since early October.
“We are urgently investigating this matter. We take allegations of breaches of our editorial and social media guidelines with the utmost seriousness, and if and when we find breaches, we will act, including taking disciplinary action,” a BBC spokesperson said on Sunday.
The probe comes as the broadcaster faces domestic backlash over its refusal to call Hamas a “terrorist” group – despite London designating them as such – and describing them as “militants” instead. While the BBC argued it has been doing so for the sake of maintaining “impartiality,” multiple fellow British media outlets have attacked the broadcaster over this approach.
Seven former culture secretaries, led by Sajid Javid, penned a letter to the corporation’s director-general, Tim Davie, arguing the approach actually damages the BBC’s impartiality.
“The BBC’s commitment is to impartiality, not indifference. This distinction is now in danger of being blurred. Worryingly, the imprecise language of ‘fighters’ and ‘militants’ also serves to conflate terrorists with the Palestinian people, who suffer more than anyone from Hamas’ actions,” they argued, asking the corporation to “urgently reassess” its approach.
The BBC has also faced online backlash over using very specific language to describe victims of the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas, referring to Israeli victims as “killed,” and Palestinian – as those who “died” in massive retaliatory air strikes. Another major British broadcaster, SkyNews, has been caught using the same wording to describe the matter amid the escalation.