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press release
Date of issue: 1 May 2013
For immediate release
BBC’s Newsnight admits error over scale of Israeli occupation of West Bank
The BBC has admitted that a Newsnight report which implied that only part of the West Bank is under occupation was inaccurate.

The claim that there is a difference between ‘West Bank towns and villages and areas occupied by Israel’ was made by presenter Gavin Esler in a January edition of the nightly news and current affairs programme.

In an email sent today to Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which had raised the issue with the BBC, the Newsnight team agreed that Esler’s description had been inaccurate and apologised for the error.

Introducing an item about the Negev Desert, Esler said: ‘Israeli soldiers shot dead a seventeen year old Palestinian youth today near the barrier which separates West Bank towns and villages from areas occupied by Israel.’

PSC wrote to the BBC to point out that the whole of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is under Israeli occupation and that a false distinction cannot be made between ‘West Bank towns and villages’ and ‘areas occupied by Israel’.

The BBC at first refused to acknowledge any mistake. However, following an exchange of correspondence, it sent an email to PSC today which said: ‘We agree that it was inaccurate to describe the barrier in this way with the implication that not all of the West Bank is occupied. The reference to the shooting in Budrus was intended to put a newsworthy top line in the introduction to a feature about the Negev desert and we apologise for the error.’

The Newsnight team added: ‘We regret any mistake we made’, but rejected claims of bias towards an Israeli narrative.

Amena Saleem, of PSC, said: ‘It was a serious mistake for the BBC to imply that only part of the West Bank is under Israeli occupation, and it’s curious that this mistake was made in a scripted item.

‘The BBC has a serious responsibility to be accurate in its reporting, and to tell the truth about the Occupation. In this case, it ran a piece on a major current affairs programme which misled its viewers about the scale of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and it was important for PSC to pursue this.’

Ms Saleem added: ‘We welcome the admission of error and apology from Newsnight, and we hope that the same mistake will not be repeated anywhere else on the BBC.’

notes for the editor
  1. This edition of Newsnight was broadcast on BBC2 on 16 January 2013