Child Guinea Pigs

On Monday (Sept. 15), the IDF caught two barefoot Palestinian children ? ages 8 and 10 ?  breaking through the security fence from Gaza.

Why were they breaking through the fence? Agence France-Presse reports a cruel case of child abuse: “The boys had been sent to test the security capacity of the fence around the Kissufim area, the Israeli army said Monday.”

What AFP doesn’t report, however, is the boys’ statement that an Arab man from Gaza forced them to do it. “An adult told us to cross the fence, and if not, he would hurt us,” the boys said. IDF officials said that terrorist elements sent the boys as “guinea pigs” to see how the IDF would react.

AFP quotes the IDF that the boys were sent “to test the security capacity of the fence.” But since there’s no mention whatsoever of Palestinian agents (who would also be interested in testing the fence), the reader has no reason to consider that a malicious Palestinian sent the boys, and is left assuming Israeli guilt.

HonestReporting does not wish to imply that AFP intentionally distorted this story. However, given the sensitive and volatile nature of the Mideast conflict, it is irresponsible for journalists to present facts in such a vague manner ? in this case, falsely suggesting that Israel used two innocent boys for a cruel test of IDF readiness.

Please write to AFP, requesting they clarify the matter in an official correction:


HonestReporting readers are well aware that when it comes to major network media bias, no one has a worse record than the British Broadcasting Corporation. The ignominious recipient of our 2001 Dishonest Reporting “Award,” BBC News has demonized the Israeli government and IDF at every turn ? for this, Israel officially broke links with the BBC in June.  Who can forget the words of the veteran BBC correspondent from Gaza who openly admitted at a Hamas rally that “Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people”?

Now the BBC’s negligent journalism is finally coming to a head, amidst an enormous domestic scandal that calls the network’s entire future into question. Here are our Cliff Notes on the dramatic “Beeb-gate”:

ACT I: Last September, to support the ousting of Saddam Hussein, the British government published a dossier warning against Iraq’s imminent threat to the West.

ACT II: In covering the Iraq War, BBC News was openly hostile to British military participation, and often supportive of the Iraqi regime. Then, in May, BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan dropped a bombshell by reporting that “a member of the intelligence services” claimed the September dossier was intentionally “sexed up” to make a more convincing case for military action. Prime Minister Blair’s office, incensed, launched a formal inquiry into the BBC charge.

ACT III: In July, Gilligan’s “informant” emerged ? Dr. David Kelly from the Ministry of Defense (not a member of the intelligence services), who met the BBC reporter in early May. In an official statement, Kelly denied Gilligan’s central point – that Kelly accused the Blair administration of willful deceit. Then three days later (July 18) Kelly committed suicide in a forest outside his home.

ACT IV: This week (Sept. 17), the whole BBC house of cards came crashing down, as BBC’s Gilligan admitted before an independent judicial board that he never had a basis for claiming governmental deceit: “The allegation I intended to make was a spin. I do regret those words…and I shouldn’t have used them.”

As writer Douglas Davis recently stated, none of this should come as a surprise: “The BBC sees and hears what the BBC chooses to see and hear. Israel has long since learned that lesson…Israel might not be able to quantify the effects, however unintended, of the BBC’s deeply flawed coverage of its affairs. But for the wife and children of David Kelly, the consequences of the BBC’s reporting can be tragically and precisely measured.”

That’s why HonestReporting has long maintained that BBC’s distortion of the Mideast conflict ? promoting terms like “militant” and “cycle of violence”  ? whitewashes Palestinian terror and emboldens terrorists to further attacks.

To make matters worse, the British public pays for BBC’s “journalism”: BBC is largely funded by the 2.3 billion pounds ($3.9 billion US) it receives yearly from a mandatory 109 pound ($175) licensing fee levied upon every UK television owner. In return, BBC’s Royal Charter demands “authoritative and impartial coverage of news and current affairs in the United Kingdom and throughout the world” ? a far cry from what BBC delivers.

A BBC employee recently revealed that “[g]oing from a newspaper…to the BBC is like traveling to another professional planet…What strikes you most about the BBC scene is what a closed world it is. Walk into a BBC newsroom and you will hear more talk about the BBC itself than about the outside world: more office and corporate politics than real politics.”

It is high time that the BBC reforms its insular, elitist culture, and be forced to compete in the open marketplace like all other news agencies. The public demands that BBC reporters and editors clean up their acts and practice journalistic integrity.

The time is right to act ? BBC’s Royal Charter and funding are presently under governmental review. HonestReporting encourages subscribers to support the cancellation or non-renewal of the charter by writing to UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell:

British citizens are further encouraged to support the petition drive to end the TV licensing fee that funds the Beeb.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.