Correcting the Record in the #Assange Case – The BBC

The BBC is the national broadcaster in the UK with access to every TV set in the country and  its financed both by a state grant and a licence fee paid directly to it by the TV viewers. It has a good complaints system with a online form, case reference numbers allocated, an e-mail acknowledgement of receipt and e-mail response with the outcome. It also has time deadlines for dealing with complaints.

In the many years that it has covered the Julian Assange case the BBC has exhibited bias when covering events. For example the 2016 Newsnight interview of James O’Brien with Professor Roland Adjovi of UNWGAD when the United Nations body published its legal opinion that Julian Assange has been arbitrarily Detained was clearly adversarial and misleading. The BBC also actively participated in creating a cultural bias against him by commissioning a comedy series ridiculing Assange in 2014 called “Asylum” whose writer had advocated for his death at the time he had entered the Ecuadorian embassy.

In 2013, another BBC serialised programme ‘By any means’ again creates cultural bias against him by re-constructing real life events and situations facing the WikiLeaks publisher but attributed to a fictional character of a wealthy corrupt businessman. Transgressions include blatant use of fake news when it suits the creation of negative narrative like in 2018 using a quote from a twitter parody account to claim he does not shower. You can follow the hyperlinks for details of my complaints. In  most cases the BBC dismissed them.

The response to my August 2018 complaint about BBC Newsnight’s Sweeney given Assange special despite malicious tweets was typical of the style of dismissal: “Please rest assured that all staff working for BBC News, though clearly entitled to hold personal views, are acutely aware that their views should never in any way influence their work for the BBC.” An assurance that all is well and not to worry, ‘just trust us’.

On some occasions my complaint despite receiving an acknowledgement and reference number, would go unanswered.  On 21st October last year I challenged their article’s assertion that: “He was given a set of house rules by the London embassy this week, including taking better care of his cat.” by providing them with the original Protocol in Spanish and a translation in English fully referenced to original documents and explaining that “Nowhere is it implied that the care Mr Assange gives to his pet needs to be improved“. No action or dismissal was communicated to me in the form of a reply and the inaccuracy in reporting remains online in their website, the same assertion was replicated in other BBC articles for months.

BBC reporting since Julian Assange’s arrest.

Since the arrest and imprisonment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh such re-assurances are revealed as synonymous to inciting participation in a moral crime. The moral crime of allowing a witch-hunt for ultimately bringing about the mental and physical extermination of the WikiLeaks publisher. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in his op-ed “Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange” says:

“In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide.”

And so when Julian Assange was arrested I scoured the BBC News website for misreporting and since I knew from past experience I had to focus only in the most blatant misreporting I focused on the well documented myth of : ‘Julian Assange faces charges in Sweden’ or ‘He denies the charges’ or ‘The charges were dropped’ etc. I raised four complaints:

Case No: URL Result
5445251 & 5457183 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/world-europe-48249486 Corrected & Note
5445351 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/world-europe-48253343 Corrected No Note
5454943 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48335692 Corrected & Note
5456146 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-48255668/sweden-reopens-assange-rape-inquiry Corrected & Note

They were all corrected after several weeks and I received both acknowledgement and a reply to inform me of the changes. The correction notes were placed in three articles only after I sent a second complaint for one of the articles to inform the BCC that their inaccuracy had been referenced as a fact by an article in the New Statesman via a hyperlink with the words “For instance, what about the rape charges against Assange?”

These are not the only BBC inaccuracies since Julian Assange’s arrest. Narrowing down the complaint to a single issue the result is indicative of how this particular misinformation persists at the state broadcaster.  Further recent articles that make exactly the same ‘error’ appear on April 12th, 13th, May 1st, 20th, and this is only what I have been able to identify without looking at radio and TV broadcasts.

Considering this type of error goes back to 2010, the BBC can boast of nine years creating bias via misreporting the allegations against Julian Assange as charges. I think this is a sinister error. How many other ‘errors’ exist?

But let’s remain positive in this journey! Here is some practical advise. Whoever wishes to correct the record in the Julian Assange story, best break down their complaint to the smallest most clear misinformation point of an article. Be it just a single word. Get it right, get the most up to date source for reference to back your point and go for it! the complaint systems await and IPSO too for escalating the issue when your complaint is being ignored.

Pick your battles and win! :-)

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