Sunday, September 24, 2006

BBC bias against Pope

Currrent status: complaints, please.

The BBC's news website was condemned as 'irresponsible' this week for giving uncritical attention to militant organisations such as Hamas, Hizbut Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to critics, the skewed focus of the reporting has succeeded in lending credence to mistaken ideas about what the Pope said in his lecture last week - and fuelling Muslim anger as a result. The BBC's coverage has also drawn the attention of the Vatican. A senior official referred on Monday to 'exaggerations' in the corporation's reporting. He said there was annoyance in Rome at the way the media has handled the crisis. 'It's sad that people are having to take their cue from what the press is saying, what makes headlines, without realising that the media are making shortcuts, and not explaining that the Pope said A, B and C,' he said. 'On the other hand we're quite happy that some of the exaggerations have worked to our advantage. The BBC reported that Cardinal Bertone had said the Pope was sorry and was extremely upset, but if that stopped the burning of effigies then we don't mind that kind of mistranslation.' Critics of the BBC point out that the news website gave little or no space to the views of Catholic commentators. Journalists and writers expressed their anger over the failure of the BBC's news website to defend or clarify the Pope's comments. James Delingpole, a novelist and critic for the Spectator, said: 'I find it bizarre, dangerous and irresponsible that the BBC should choose to pour petrol on the flames of this row by quoting extremist organisations like Hizbut Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood.' Melanie Phillips, writing for the Daily Mail, insisted that the BBC had behaved in 'a very questionable manner'. She said: 'As so often, it has given undue airtime to extremists, thus lending credence to the false interpretation of the Pope's remarks.' Ms Phillips added that the BBC reported in news bulletins and on its website that the Pope had apologised, rather than merely expressing regret for the misinterpretation of his comments, 'thus helping Islamic extremists believe that the forces of intimidation had cowed the Pontiff and scored a notable victory in the war against western civilisation'. In a website news report on the Pope's apology on Monday the BBC included the reactions of the Muslim Council of Britain, the Council of Muslims in Germany, the Muslim Brotherhood and spokesmen for Hamas and Hizbut Tahrir. No Catholics were called upon to comment. A spokesman for the BBC denied accusations of bias. He said: 'We reported the [Pope's] comments, their context and the reactions to them. We had reactions from a wide range of organisations, as did every other news organisation.' In an editorial, the Catholic Herald says: 'In the past week there has been an orchestrated attempt to present the emperor's words as the Pope's own. This malicious misinterpretation of the lecture was spread around the world by extremist websites and, shamefully, by elements of the global western media. The BBC, in particular, caused entirely avoidable harm to Muslim-Catholic relations by giving undue prominence to extremists who used the free airtime to fan the flames of hatred. We encourage our readers to hold the corporation to account, notably for the blundering and reckless coverage of the affair on the BBC's website … The lack of support for the Pope in Britain's liberal media - which is usually eager to defend free-speech when a celebrated author or journalist is under fire - was striking, but not altogether surprising. This failure to stand up for the basic principles of fairness and religious freedom is a trahison des clercs. This cowardly silence encourages extremists to believe that they can act with impunity, as we saw on Sunday when death threats against the Pope were made in Westminster Cathedral piazza. It is hard for Catholics not to feel angry when they are faced with such gross provocations, and see the Pope's effigy burned and his words travestied in distant parts of the world. But, as Benedict XVI said in his Regensburg lecture, anyone who defends faith with violence violates the very nature of God and the soul. The Pope demonstrated this point gracefully when he spoke at Castel Gandolfo on Sunday of his deep sorrow at the reaction to his lecture. Benedict XVI did not apologise for the speech itself - though the BBC reported that he did - because, if he had done so, he would have admitted, implicitly, that he had intended to offend Muslims in the first place. It is time to state clearly that the Pope's speech was not an insult, but an invitation: a passionate appeal to Muslims and Catholics to stand side by side in upholding the sacred in the secular world …' [Catholic Herald]

For an example of the BBC's reports, see here

and here.

To make a complaint to the BBC use the website here.

(NB you will need to refer to specific BBC web pages containing unbalanced reporting when making your complaint.)

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen