Entries in 'bbc-news' - Eye on the News

US bombs Afghan hospital, and BBC News asks if it can be legal

BBC News - 5 October 2015

After the US bombing of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, BBC News have for some reason decided to ask in a headline whether it can be legal to bomb a hospital.

The BBC habitually asks questions such as this when war crimes are committed by allies of the UK government. It is hard to imagine that similar questions would be asked, if, for example, Russia had bombed a hospital.

Headline: Afghan conflict: Is it ever legal to bomb a hospital?

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BBC News asks whether Gaza hospitals and schools are legitimate targets

BBC News - 4 August 2014

A BBC News website page has asked whether hospitals and schools (in Gaza) can be legitimate targets during a war, a question that rightly is normally not open to debate during conflicts. The article opens with an endorsement for such war crimes from an Israeli student who "explains why she thinks hospitals and UN shelters are legitimate targets for Israeli rockets"

Update (5 August 2014 10:30): BBC News appear to have changed the headline for this page to "Gaza conflict: Contrasting views on targeting". The updated headline can be seen on the article's page.

Headline: Israel-Gaza conflict: Are hospitals and schools a legitimate target?

Introduction: Sophie Tal, 23, is a history student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has two brothers and a boyfriend serving in the Israeli army and explains why she thinks hospitals and UN shelters are legitimate targets for Israeli rockets.

Quote: "In this case targeting those buildings is the moral and right thing to do."

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Contrary to BBC Headline, no Evidence for Snowden/Moscow Link

BBC News - 20 January 2014

Following the claims of some US politicians that they believe Edward Snowden had help from Russia, the BBC have created a headline entitled Edward Snowden 'may have been working with Russia'.

No evidence is offered by these politicians, and it is noted in the article that the FBI believes Snowden acted alone.

In light of this, by quoting these sources, the headline represents the facts inaccurately.

Headline: Edward Snowden 'may have been working with Russia'

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Headline Suggests Widespread A&E Abuse (on basis of 150 people)

BBC News - 7 January 2014

A headline on the BBC News website suggests that Accident and Emergency departments are overstretched because of patients visiting too often. The headline suggesting that people visit too often implies a culture of abuse, by suggesting that 'some people' visit '50 times a year'.

The article itself says the number of people who visited 50 times or more in a year is just over 150. This is 0.00024% of the UK population.

Nick Triggle's analysis does not explore the effect that cuts and closures could have had on the NHS A&E system.

Headline:A&E: Some patients visit units 50 times a year

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BBC Present Baseless Accusations as Fact on Syria Chemical Weapons Use

BBC News - 26 August 2013

Since the reports of chemical weapons use outside Damascus in Syria began last week, all attribution of blame has been based entirely on speculation, and has usually been made by western governments. This BBC report which mentions the 'use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government', after a week of baseless accusations, presents speculation as fact.

No evidence yet exists to prove which side may have carried out the attack in Syria's civil war.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned what he called the "moral obscenity" of the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its own people.

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US Arms that will 'Fix' Problems in Syria

BBC News - 14 June 2013

Note the headline of this BBC analysis of the US decision to arm the Syrian rebels, which assumes that the US intervenes in countries to 'fix' problems - a common perception of US foreign policy in UK news. The article goes on to note that Obama's decision was 'characterised by caution'.

Once again, US intervention in other countries is not only accepted as normal, but also, through the use of such a headline to frame a discussion, perceived as a force which primarily acts only for good and peace in the world.

Headline: Will US arms fix Syrian 'problem from hell'?

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Language Creep as BBC Discuss Chemical Weapons in Syria

BBC News - 6 May 2013

The BBC, reporting on the various suggestions that the rebels or regime have used chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, report incorrectly that 'evidence that government forces have used chemical weapons' has been found by western governments. In reality, what western governments have found, according to David Cameron, is 'limited, but growing' evidence - clearly not conclusive evidence.

Such reporting can easily mislead readers - a correct report may have referred to evidence that government forces may have used chemical weapons.

In recent weeks, Western powers have said their own investigations have found evidence that government forces have used chemical weapons.

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BBC Misinforms about Venezuela's 2002 Opposition Coup

BBC News - 5 March 2013

In their 'look back' at the life of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the BBC have been quick to rewrite the events of the 2002 coup.

James Robbins summarised:

In 2002 the whole country was embroiled in a general strike and Chavez was briefly pushed from office. But just two days later, after his supporters, mainly the poor, took to the streets, President Chavez was back in the palace.

The events during which Hugo Chavez was ‘pushed from office’ were, contrary to Robbins’s claims, not the result of a general strike. Rather, the footage shown by the BBC was filmed during a violent coup attempted by opposition parties. The general strike occurred in December 2002, 7 months after the coup attempt, during which Chavez remained in office.

See more of our analysis of the UK media's reporting on Venezuela here.

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BBC Removes Gung-Ho Headline on French Military Action

BBC News - 14 January 2013

A headline from 14 January, early in the day, 'France upbeat on Mali military campaign', has been removed entirely from the BBC website. The report, revised seemingly with updated information, now appears under the headline 'Mali Islamists seize town amid French intervention'.

The original headline reveals a somewhat gung-ho attitude on the part of the BBC in relation to France's military bombardment of Mali. France's mood seems a curious aspect to emphasise, given that the reality of the situation involved the bombing of another country.

France upbeat on Mali military campaign

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BBC: 'Early' End to a Ten Year War and Occupation?

BBC News - 11 January 2013

Following Barack Obama's announcement that US troops in Afghanistan will have 'a different mission' this spring, noting that 'our troops will continue to fight alongside Afghans when needed', the BBC have misleadingly headlined the story with 'Early Afghan combat handover agreed' and 'US to end Afghan combat role early'.

If, for example, Russia had occupied a country for over ten years and then made an announcement that they would change mission in a few months, promising to still fight 'when needed' and leave 66,000 troops there until 2014, it would be hard to imagine the BBC citing this as an 'early' end to the occupation. The headline, apart from hardly representing the reality of the story, appears to identify with the rhetoric of the US and UK governments.

Early Afghan combat handover agreed

US to end Afghan combat role early

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When are Jihadists not Terrorists? When they Attack 'our' Enemy

BBC News - 2 August 2012

A recent example of BBC reporting in line with the views of UK foreign policy can be seen in an article about the role of Jihadists in Syria.

As the report points out, both the UK-backed 'FSA and jihadists want an end to Assad's regime'. However, in this context, the BBC does not refer to the Jihadists as 'terrorists' operating in the conflict (as the media normally deems such groups), but rather refers to the 'struggle' in a sub-headline within the article.

It seems 'terrorist' is a label reserved specifically for those considered 'enemies' of the UK and its allies. In this, the media is very much in step with the position of the government once again.

Sub-headline: "Urbanisation of the struggle"

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BBC Headline Change: Iran Goes from 'not building' to 'undecided on' Nuclear Bomb

BBC News - 25 April 2012

The image below shows how the BBC initially ran the headline 'Iran not building nuclear bomb, Israeli military chief says', and then changed the words 'not building' to 'undecided on' for their story about Israel's Lt Gen Benny Gantz's interview with Haaretz.

Headline: (11:13 AM) Iran not building nuclear bomb, Israeli army chief says

Headline: (12:05 PM) Iran undecided on nuclear bomb - Israel military chief

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BBC Deception Continues about November's IAEA Report

BBC News - 25 April 2012

Even when running an article with the title 'Iran not building nuclear bomb, Israeli army chief says', the BBC continue to mislead readers as to the conclusions of the IAEA's November report on Iran's nuclear weapons programme. It is stated that the report shows that 'Iran was secretly working towards obtaining a nuclear weapon'.

One needs only to read the news reports from around that time, or the report itself, to see that the report did not make that suggestion.

Tehran says it wants nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but the West believes Iran is developing weapons.

In November the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report with new evidence showing Iran was secretly working towards obtaining a nuclear weapon.

It did not say that Iran had succeeded in mastering the relevant technology or how long it might take to develop a bomb.

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The Debate Begins on David Cameron's Plan to Privatise Roads

BBC News - 19 March 2012

In a report titled 'Roads Plc? Why privatisation might look tempting', BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, writes what amounts to a ten-step endorsement of privatisation.

He notes only two 'cons' in his analysis, among them that the public don't like to see privatised that which they 'think' they own.

Robinson concludes his report linking to two reports 'which examine the options'. Both reports advocate charges for road use.

...and two big reasons why it might not

1. The public hate the idea of road tolls. Labour's examination of road tolls produced an e-petition of 1.7 million names which is why David Cameron is now saying that he won't allow tolls on existing roads. Since then the cost of motoring has gone up

2. The public don't much like anything that smacks of privatising that which they already think they own (although water shows that once it's happened people shrug their shoulders and get on with their lives)

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Israel Has a 'Task', Iran Presents a 'Threat'

BBC News - 27 February 2012

On the BBC's 'How Israel might strike at Iran' page, defence corresspondent Johnathan Marcus reports on the options Israel might use to attack Iran, without noting that such an attack would be illegal, or that there is no proof of existence of nuclear weapons.

The BBC then gives one of their lists of military hardware used by both sides. Amazingly, one of the headers for each kind of Israeli plane is 'Task', while the equivalent header for Iran is 'Threat' (see image below).

Odd, given that the page is about an Israeli threat towards Iran.

Table headers for Israel: "Aircraft, Details, Task"
Table headers for Iran: "Type, System, Threat"

Update 15:40 -
BBC News have now changed the word 'threat' to 'efficacy' on this page.

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BBC Makes Good Use of PR Stock Photo

BBC News - 20 February 2012

BBCNews : 'Opponents of the [NHS] bill... complain they have been excluded from [David Cameron's NHS meeting].'

How best to illustrate this?

A photo of Cameron giving undivided attention a nurse, naturally.

Opponents of the bill including the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing (RCN) complain they have been excluded from the event.

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Blatant Spin in BBC Hugo Chavez Headline

BBC News - 14 January 2012

A BBC headline about Venezuela reads "Chavez 'would accept' Venezuela election defeat". To take this quote in its proper context, the spin is clear.

The Chavez government has never implied that it would retain power undemocratically. Hugo Chavez's statement marked not an about-face, but was directed at the opposition who previously, in an attempted coup, had tried to undemocratically remove the Venezuelan president: "If any of you win the elections I will be the first to recognise it, and I ask the same of you".

That Chávez would leave office if not re-elected is presented as a news-worthy turn of events and as such appears anomalous.

The technique of referring to "some ... critics" is similar to the Fox News style "some people say", allowing claims to be made without attributing them to accountable sources.

Headline: Chavez 'would accept' Venezuela election defeat

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has told opposition leaders that he will relinquish power if he loses elections due in October.

Some of Mr Chavez's strongest critics have suggested he might cling on to power at all costs if he were defeated at the polls.

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Ortega Wins 'Controversial' Third Term with 60% Support

BBC News - 11 January 2011

In their reporting of Daniel Ortega's new presidential term in Nicaragua, the BBC use their favourite adjective when describing left-wing Latin American presidents or their terms in office: 'controversial'.

Ortega received more than 60% of the vote.

Compare this with the BBC's Q&A about Greece's unelected technocracy. No controversy there, apparently.

Daniel Ortega has been sworn in for a controversial third term as Nicaragua's president following his landslide victory in November's polls.

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BBC Speculates on the Suitability of Iranian Site for Air Strikes

BBC News - 9 January 2011

Why is BBC news website speculating about sites for potential air strikes within Iran in this report? The report is a clear example of how the idea of war on Iran is being normalised in the public consciousness.

It [the uranium enrichment facility] is underground, heavily fortified and protected by the armed forces - making it a very difficult target for air strikes.

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Iran 'Threatens', the US 'Warns'

BBC News - 28 December 2011

Iran's pledge to react to sanctions is reported as a 'threat', while it is reported in the same article that the American military (who have 'not ruled out military action') simply 'warns' that they will react to the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz. Again the idea of Iran being irresponsible, or reckless, is portrayed (they have 'vowed to respond by attacking Israeli and US interests in the region), while the US is portrayed as a responsible overseer (the 'US maintains a naval presence in the Gulf, largely to ensure the transport of oil remains open') in the article.

As in previous reporting, no challenge is made to the assumption (which is now almost accepted as truth) that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Headline: 'US warns Iran over threat to block oil route'

...Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if sanctions and diplomacy fail.

Iran has vowed to respond by attacking Israeli and US interests in the region.

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Police Violence at Occupy Wall Street Reported as 'Violent Exchanges'

BBC News - 12 December 2011

BBC News describes clashes "between police and protesters" during November's night raid to dismantle the Occupy Wall St camp and a near media-blackout.

Eye-witnesses have reported otherwise, describing destruction by police of personal items, the dumping of the camp's library, and the use of pepper spray against peaceful resistors, rather than "violent exchanges".

The [Occupy LSX] camp is closely modelled on Occupy Wall Street. Though it began a month later, it is still going almost a month after its New York counterpart was dismantled with violent exchanges between police and protesters.

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Anders Breivik referred to as 'mass killer' instead of 'terrorist'

BBC News - 14 November

As the court hearing for Anders Breivik begins in Oslo, a clear example can be see of how the media stopped using the label "terrorist" for Breivik shortly after learning that he was a right-wing white male. In a headline on the BBC website for a story about his trial, he is labelled instead as a "mass killer".

While Breivik does fit the general definition of a terrorist (someone who uses terror as a political tool), he does not fit the image of a terrorist that the media understands - which is generally that of a radical Islam extremist.

Norway mass killer in open court

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More Presumptions about Iran Nuclear Arms

BBC News - 5 November 2011

A headline on the BBC website again misleads towards what are assumptions about Iran's nuclear programme. The media has for days being reporting about an IAEA report which they say will prove that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The headline chosen for this by the BBC is "UN 'finds Iran nuclear arms bid'".

This headline is based entirely on assumptions but serves to mislead readers.

An attempt at impartiality is made at the end of the article: "Analysts say they believe Iran may still be several years away from having nuclear weapons."

UN 'finds Iran nuclear arms bid'

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Israel want to attack, but the threat in the media is still Iran

BBC News - 2 November 2011

Benjamin Netenyahy of Israel openly wants to invade Iran, and following testing of Israeli rockets this is reported in western media as entirely normal. Despite the fact that the news page on the BBC website is covering a threat of international aggression from Israel, the article still conveys the idea of Iran as the threat, reiterating the usual rhetoric about nuclear weapon development for which there is no evidence.

Israel and Western powers say Iran has been trying to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

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Replacing "The Chairman of NTC" with "Libyans"

BBC News - 26 October 2011

In the front page of their "Middle East" news page, the BBC website reports with a headline that "Libyans ask NATO to stay longer".

Given that the reality of the story is that the chairman of the unelected NTC in Libya asked NATO to stay, the headline is not representative and gives the impression that it is the Libyan people who have asked for the occupation to continue.

Libyans ask NATO to stay Longer

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Reasons for Venezuela election victories

BBC News - 14 September 2011

Reporting on the date for elections in Venezuela in 2012, the reasons given for Hugo Chavez's "repeated election victories" are cited as "personal charisma" and "promise of revolutionary change". Even though the same article mentions the social programmes which have helped the poor, it is not suggested that this may have led to election victories in the past.

Mr Chavez's personal charisma and promise of revolutionary change have helped him secure repeated election victories since he first won the presidency in 1999.

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Iraq internal violence is used to call for prolonging of US occupation

BBC News - 14 September 2011

A report about violence in Iraq ends by raising a question about whether US should end their occupation. In this and many similar reports, the assumption is made that the military occupation provides the only possibility for ending the violence in Iraq.

Although violence has dropped from its peak in 2006 and 2007, the attacks have prompted concerns about the US completing its withdrawal of troops from the country in December.

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Wasted money on wars: blame the invaded

BBC News - 29 August 2011

Like many reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the recent report about $30bn wasted on wars by the US (which results from an opinion piece in the Washington Post) discusses corruption on the part of the invaded countries, but does not question the integrity or conduct of the invading countries, portraying them instead as working in the best interests of everyone.

US-funded projects in those two countries also risk going to waste because host governments are unable or unwilling to sustain them.

In one case, $300m was poured into a sophisticated power plant in Kabul which the Afghan government will not be able to run, and a programme worth $11.4bn of facilities for the Afghan national security forces is likely to be unsustainable.

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Police claims not questioned, eye-witness accounts forgotten

BBC News - 12 August 2011

In Peter Jackson's analysis of the rumours behind the riots, he refers to the incident that is said to have initiated the Tottenham riot (the attack of a girl by police). He writes about a girl who "threw a stone" and then was "knocked to the ground by police officers". He then goes on to question whether the girl was attacked by police, but does not at all question whether the girl threw the stone. The sense is created from this analysis that what we hear from eye-witnesses can be 'rumours', but what police say cannot be.

Furthermore, this differentiates largely from the eye-witness account given to BBC News during the Tottenham riot itself.

Witnesses claimed a teenage girl was knocked to the ground by police after she threw a stone at officers - allegations police say they are investigating.

But whether or not a girl was attacked, the rumour quickly spread through the crowd and then on via mobile phones and the internet to the rest of the UK and beyond.

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Getting the desired message across after Spain protests

BBC News - 4 August 2011

Reporting on the protests in Madrid, the headline subtly contradicts what is in the text. The wording of the headline suggests that it was the protesters that clashed with the police, while the text reports eye-witness accounts of the police storming the protest. This is common practice in the reporting of protests, seemingly aiming to demonise the protesters.

[Headline]: Madrid 'indignant' protesters clash with riot police

Witnesses said police charged into a crowd outside the interior ministry.

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Roger Noriega calls for overthrow of Chavez, and then informs BBC analysis article

BBC News - 28 July 2011

In the BBC's analysis of who could succeed Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela, one of the experts quoted is Roger Noriega, part of the conservative US think tank, American Enterprise Institute. It is worth noting that shortly before this analysis appeared on the BBC website, Noriega wrote an article in the Miami Herald.

His article called for opposition leaders to "jumpstart a transition", while the "ailing dictator [is] off the political stage". His ending suggests a reassurance of US assistance: "If they act urgently, they may even be able to convince slumbering policy makers in Washington to support a Caracas Spring over Chavismo without the charm."

"He [Elias Jaua] is just a sheer placeholder," says Mr Noriega. "He's trusted by the Cubans but he doesn't have any charisma whatsoever".

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Nick Triggle excuses predicted NHS reform problems

BBC News - 14 July 2011

Nick Triggle at the BBC reports on the NHS being opened up to the market in a very positive way, demonstrating a pro-privatisation bias, despite widespread opposition to the plans from the majority of the general public, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Royal College of GPs.

His analysis goes on to almost excuse the predicted rise in waiting lists and decline in service, by saying "Such problems will probably be blamed on the reforms. But in reality in many cases it will be hard to tell whether the changes have helped or hindered performance."

[Headline]: Analysis: Why the NHS wants to move on

Greater competition and choice, albeit more managed now after the listening exercise, is clearly the way forward.

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NATO not mentioned when reporting on Libyan rebel's human rights abuses

BBC News - 14 July 2011

Reporting on human rights abuses by the rebels in the Libyan war, the BBC has neglected to mention NATO's involvement anywhere in the article on the subject. After months of reporting on NATO's help for the rebels in the attempt to overthrow Col. Gaddafi, this is a clear example of omitting important information from the story.

[Headline]: Libyan rebels abused civilians: Human Rights Watch

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An attempt at impartiality on Israel-Palestine

BBC News - 30 June 2011

Following last year's attack of an aid ship to Gaza, resulting in the deaths of nine activists, condemned by many nations, the BBC will still not lay any blame on the Israeli navy. In this article about the recent sabotage of a flotilla ship, a short discussion of the flotilla killings appears to be very cautious not to take sides.

Last year, nine activists on a Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, were killed in an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla. Each side blamed the other for the violence.

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Can reporting about Libya be at least as upfront as politicians?

BBC News - 15 June 2011

Despite numerous calls from western leaders for the Gaddafi regime to step down, much of the BBC News reporting continues to claim that NATO action is humanitarian intervention (today's example is this article about Gadaffi not being invited to the Olympics.

British troops are part of a NATO mission enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya aimed at protecting civilians.

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Did Iraq say that, or was it the US speculating?

BBC News - 10 June 2011

Reporting on the speculation of US defense secretary nominee Leon Panetta that Iraq will ask the US troops to stay beyond 2011, the BBC have chosen a misleading headline on their front page. The link on the front page says "Iraq 'to request' troops to stay" for this story

Iraq 'to request' troops to stay

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BBC continuous claims that Hamas 'seized power'

BBC News - 28 May 2011

Reporting on the repoening of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza strip and Egypt, the BBC claim that Hamas 'seized power' of the area in 2007. In reality Hamas were democratically elected and did not seize power of the area (As Greg Philo points out).

Egypt and Israel closed borders with Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007.

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Does Britain support Mubarak or not?

BBC News - 1 February 2011

The BBC's Roger Hardy suggests that western policy-makers favour 'political reform' in Egypt, while Jeremy Bowen tells us that Egypt, under the Mubarak regime, receives 'political support from Britain'. Presumably, only one of these statements can be true.

Roger Hardy: "If the Mubarak regime were to collapse... it would pose painful dilemmas for Western policy-makers who have long favoured gradual political reform in the region"

Jeremy Bowen: "Egypt has continued to receive vast amounts of American aid, as well as political support from Britain"

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Selective imagery: Demonise the protesters

BBC News - 27 January 2011

While reporting a story about a petition to end police kettling at protests, the BBC use a grossly misrepresentative image for the story: one of a fire by protestors. This conforms to previous BBC reporting of the student protests, which ensure that the protestors are portrayed as dangerous beings who threaten a 'breach of the peace'.

[kettling] is only used as a last resort to prevent an actual or imminent breach of the peace (see the image on the news page).

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Is corruption or 'anger at corruption' the problem in Egypt?

BBC News - 25 January 2011

Instead of referring to 'corruption' as a problem in Egypt, the BBC refer to 'anger at official corruption' as one of the social and political problems that Egypt shares with Tunisia:

Egypt has many of same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia - rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.

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Assumption that Iran has nuclear weapons

BBC News - 21 January 2011

Reporting on Tony Blair's time at the Chilcot Inquiry, the BBC make an unfounded claim that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme:

Asked whether what had happened in Iraq had made the risk from Iran and other countries developing nuclear weapons worse, rather than better, he said: "I don't think so."

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