BBC Admits it failed on Coverage of Itamar Massacre
Outgoing director says murder of Fogel family came at “busy” and “pressure”-filled time
The BBC’s outgoing director-general admitted that the media outlet erred in its lack of coverage of last year’s Itamar massacre, one year and three months since the incident took place leaving five members of the Fogel family murdered, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.
At a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing last week, British Conservative Party MP Louise Mensch quizzed the BBC’s outgoing director-general Mark Thompson as she complained about the light coverage of the murders on BBC radio and television programs.
In March 2011, Hakim Awad and his cousin Amjad Awad entered the West Bank settlement of Itamar andbrutally stabbed to death five members of the Fogel family, including 36-year-old father Ehud, 35-year-old mother Ruth, as well as three of their children: Yoav, 11, Elad, four, and the four-month old baby, Hadas. The murders were first discovered by another daughter who came home and found the bodies.
Both of the cousins were later sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for the murders.
At the time, the story was featured on BBC's Radio 4 and the BBC's website but was not mentioned in its 24-hour news broadcast.
Mensch made various complaints to the network about the coverage and received an apology from BBC News director Helen Boaden, however she remained unsatisfied.
At the hearing, Thompson responded that the story occurred during a “very busy news period,” which included the fighting in Libya and the tsunami in Japan, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.
“News editors were under a lot of pressure,” said Thompson. “Having said that, it was certainly an atrocity which should have been covered across our news bulletins that day,” adding that he doesn’t think this instance can be taken to imply that the BBC has any underlying, systemic bias.
“We try very, very hard… to reflect suffering on both sides of that conflict. When there has been a humanitarian incident in Gaza, we try to show the effects of rockets in Sderot.”
Thompson also cited a decision he made, and claims he still stands by to this day, not to have shown a humanitarian appeal for Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
“I believe I was right, many people thought I was wrong. It might have given the impression we were more sympathetic to one side of that dispute than the other. Israel and Palestine, like Kashmir and Sri Lanka, are so hot in terms of people’s sensitivity,” he said. “But I do want to say, to all our audience including our Jewish and Israeli audiences here and around the world, we do want to make sure we are fair and impartial. We made a mistake in this instance.”
Mensch said she was pleased with the BBC’s apology this time around.
“I was very satisfied with his frank admission, He understood how this had affected the Jewish community,” she said.
Mensch previously described the BBC’s coverage of the incident as “the most reaction I have ever had in all my time in politics.”
She said she only found out about the BBC’s error after the incident from an American blog called “Dead Jews is no news.”
“The more I went into it, the more shocked I was,” she said. “I was overwhelmed by response from the Jewish community both here and abroad. There was a feeling the BBC just didn’t care and that, if a settler had entered the home of a Palestinian family, slit the throat of their children, that the BBC would have covered that.”
Yesha Council spokesman Ronny Arazi told Ynetnews that he was not as impressed with the BBC’s apology.
“The conduct of media outlets that had posted similar horror images from Gaza in those days certainly raised question marks as far as the objectivity of global media in covering the Israeli-Arab conflict,” said Arazi. “The BBC's apology is in place. All systems should constantly check themselves, not just about the terrible massacre in Itamar and not just overseas.”