Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:04 pm (KSA) 15:04 pm (GMT)

BBC under fire for blocking Gaza charity appeal

The BBC is worried that the appeal would compromise its impartiality (File)
The BBC is worried that the appeal would compromise its impartiality (File)

The BBC faced intense criticism Saturday from the British government and campaigners after refusing to broadcast a charity appeal to raise emergency funds for people in the Gaza Strip.

The BBC is worried that broadcasting the appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a coalition of 13 aid agencies, would compromise the impartiality of its coverage and questions whether aid can be delivered efficiently in Gaza, where Palestinians say over 1,300 people died during Israel's 22-day offensive.

 If we lose the trust of the audience by appearing...to support one side rather than another, then we will have lost it for the charities themselves as well as everyone else 
Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson

"The most important thing we can do for the people who are suffering is carrying on reporting it and we've done exemplary work in reporting the suffering of the people of Gaza," Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson said.

"If we lose the trust of the audience by appearing...to support one side rather than another, then we will have lost it for the charities themselves as well as everyone else."

 really struggle to see, in the face of the immense human suffering in Gaza at the moment, that this is in any way a credible argument 
Douglas Alexander

But the decision has provoked fierce criticism from Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government and Muslim groups, while demonstrators will take to the streets of London in protest later Saturday.

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander has urged the BBC -- which is publicly funded -- to reconsider its decision.

"I think the British public can distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict," he told BBC radio Saturday.

"I really struggle to see, in the face of the immense human suffering in Gaza at the moment, that this is in any way a credible argument."

The Muslim Council of Britain said the BBC's decision not to show the appeal was "a serious dereliction of its public duty."

Its secretary-general Muhammad Abdul Bari added: "The excuses given by the BBC are simply untenable and the governors need to act quickly before the corporation's image is irretrievably tarnished."

The BBC's main commercial rival, ITV, announced Saturday that it would show the appeal by the DEC.

The DEC, an umbrella group uniting respected charities like the British Red Cross and Oxfam, stresses that it is non-political and works simply to address humanitarian need.

Demonstrations

The Stop The War group has organized big rallies opposed to the violence in Gaza in London

The Stop the War Coalition is organizing a demonstration starting outside the BBC's offices in central London later Saturday.

Stop The War, which estimates that the ban on broadcasting the appeal could cost up to £10 million (€10.5 million, $13.6 million) in donations, is urging protestors to bring children's dolls wrapped in white shrouds to lay on the steps of the BBC.

The group has organized big rallies opposed to the violence in Gaza in London for the past few weekends.

Around 5,000 people also took to the streets of Britain's second biggest city, Birmingham, for a pro-Palestinian demonstration, while around 100 Cambridge University students have occupied the law faculty there in protest at Israel's attacks on Gaza.

The BBC's news coverage of the region frequently provokes controversy among commentators in Britain.

In 2006, its board of governors published an independent report about its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which found no evidence of deliberate or systematic bias.

But the report did say that coverage sometimes "in important respects, presents an incomplete... and misleading picture."

It also cited a "failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation."

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