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Unanswered questions sent to Helen Boaden, January 8, 2010.

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David Edwards
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Post Post subject: Unanswered questions sent to Helen Boaden, January 8, 2010. Reply with quote

Unanswered questions sent to Helen Boaden, January 8, 2010.

1. In August 2008, Emily Maitlis opened Newsnight with these words about the conflict between Russia and Georgia:

"Hello, good evening. The Russians are calling it 'peace enforcement operation'. It's the kind of Newspeak that would make George Orwell proud." (BBC2, August 11, 2008, 10:30pm)

This kind of sceptical comment is never heard whenever the BBC relays US-UK propaganda about the "peace enforcement operation" in Afghanistan or Iraq. No BBC journalist would declare such claims "the kind of Newspeak that would make George Orwell proud.” How can this be considered consistent with “impartiality”?

2. The BBC Trustees are listed here:

As we explained in our book, ‘Newspeak in the 21st Century’ (Pluto Press, 2009), there is clearly a bias towards establishment, financial and corporate links amongst the BBC Trustees:

"There are no representatives from the trade unions, green pressure groups, development charities, child poverty groups or other grassroot organisations. We are to believe there is no reason to doubt that these Trust members are independent from the government that appointed them, and from the elite corporate and other interests that employ them. We are to believe, instead, that these privileged individuals will uphold fair and balanced reporting which displays not a hint of bias towards state ideology or economic orthodoxy in a world of rampant corporate power." (Newspeak, p.27)

How can the BBC trustees possibly represent the interests of the British public as a whole, given that they are embedded in such powerful, elitist networks?

Moreover, how can the BBC possibly be independent of the external influence of the British government that appoints its senior managers?

3. In December 2005, over footage of fighting between Iraqi militias, BBC reporter Paul Wood commented on the BBC’s flagship News at Ten: "This is not promising soil in which to plant a western-style open society." Mr Wood told his audience: "The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights." (Paul Wood, defence correspondent, BBC1, News at Ten, December 22, 2005)

When we asked the BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden, if she thought this version of US–UK intent perhaps compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, she replied: "Paul Wood’s analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many speeches and remarks made by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair." (Email to Media Lens, January 5, 2006)

When Ms Boaden was challenged further, she supplied no less than 2,700 words of quotes filling six pages from George Bush and Tony Blair, supposedly proving her point. How can it possibly be impartial for the BBC to report benign claims as fact? Logically, the BBC should also have presented as fact, Soviet claims about bringing democracy and human rights to Afghanistan in the 19080s; likewise, claims made by Osama bin Laden about the Sep 11 attacks in 2001 to bring democracy and human rights to the Middle East.

What is your response?

4. In 2005, Tarik Kafala, Middle East Editor of the BBC News website, wrote to one of our readers who queried BBC coverage of the death toll in Iraq:

“We do not usually use the Lancet’s figure in standard news stories because it is so far out of line with other studies on the same issue. There are also some questions over the validity of the Lancet study in the case of measuring casualties in Iraq. The technique of sampling and extrapolating from samples has been criticised in this case because the pattern of violence in Iraq has been so uneven.” (Email forwarded to Media Lens, October 31, 2005)

Tarik Kafala was here writing of a study led by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland – one of the world’s premier research organisations – and published in one of the world’s most highly respected science journals.

The same epidemiological methods, deployed by the same researchers, have been used to estimate death tolls in Sudan and the Congo. These findings have been regularly cited by the BBC. Why has the BBC treated the case of Iraq so differently?

5. On the BBC1 Six O’Clock News of March 20, 2006, diplomatic Correspondent Bridget Kendall declared: “There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it justified or a disastrous miscalculation?”

The assertion that the alternative to the pro-war justification was to argue that the war was merely a “disastrous miscalculation” offered a deeply personal view; and was not impartial reporting. The anti-war movement has always argued that the war was not just a “miscalculation”, but a deliberate and criminal war of aggression. Many people, including former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and numerous specialists in international law, are clear that the invasion of Iraq was an illegal war of aggression. Many argue, along with the prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War, that the launching of a war of aggression is “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.

The BBC loses its claim to “impartiality” when it airbrushes from reality the swath of informed public opinion that sees the invasion as a crime, rather than as a mistake. How can the BBC declare this framing of the topic to be “impartial”, “balanced”, “objective” reporting?
Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:28 pm
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