Friday, January 26, 2007

A reply from the BBC on Somalia article.

More bollocks from Auntie Beeb. Following a formal complaint about their article on US airstrikes against civilians in Somalia, they have sent the following reply:


Thank you for your e-mail about the BBC News website article US Somali air strikes 'kill many'. We are sorry to hear you were unhappy with the article.

This was a developing story, which, at the time of writing, had not elicited much reaction from critics. This appeared in later stories carried on the website. For example, we noted criticism from Italy and the UN in this article:, considerable opposition in the regional press in this article:, and condemnation of the strikes from Djibouti in this piece: We followed the story up with a report that the air strikes had failed to kill any of the US'
stated targets.

On the original story itself we also had a link to a Have Your Say which allowed readers to contribute their own views on events.

We believe it is relevant to have referred to the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in East Africa and to the 2002 attacks on property of Israel, one of its allies, as it adds valuable context on the US' stance on al-Qaeda in the region. However as this is a news story focused on the strikes, we would note that there is little room for the discussion of the US' wider role in the world which you feel should also be present. We regularly carry pieces on the website that discuss the impact of US involvement in other countries.

You rightly point out that much in the original article is attributed to the United States. It would surely be cause for complaint had we not attributed these claims and instead reported them as bald facts - there is a marked difference for instance between "The US says Somali Islamists sheltered al-Qaeda operatives" and "Somali Islamists sheltered al-Qaeda operatives". We take care to attribute claims and statements in our stories so that our readers can decide on their validity for themselves.

In terms of the impact of the raid on local people, the article does contain description of what they said happened, a quote from a bereaved father, and the estimated civilian death toll. We sought out further details of the raid and its aftermath in an eyewitness report obtained through the Somali Service, which quotes an elder talking about the impact on herders and their animals:

Thank you again for your e-mail.

With kind regards
BBC News website

The rolling excuse is that it is rolling news. The numerous quotes from the US and its allies were given prominence in almost two thirds of the article (see post below). I did not complain that the quotes were not attributed in my letter but I did complain that so many quotes from the US and supporters were included. The fact that civilian casualities and criticisms were highlighted in later articles does not excuse shoddy journalism and the damage done by the original article which was not amended. Online news viewers do not necessarily follow a story for a whole week after reading the original on the BBC website particularly when the follow up stories are not given prominence unlike the original. Why it is necessary to mention attacks on Israeli property by Al-Qaeda to add context is still unclear to me, despite Israel being an ally but strangely enough they see little point in looking at the wider picture of US involvement in the region (particularly mentioning oil). Surely that context is far more relevant than attack on Israeli interests that had nothing to do with Somalia. The 'Have your say' section is a joke. If you are a right-wing islamaphobic zionist you will find your views easily published but any word of criticism of the BBC is censored.


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