An editorial review by the BBC “found that this segment was in breach of our editorial guidelines.”
A pedestrian walks past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in central London
(photo credit: OLIVIA HARRIS/ REUTERS)
The BBC apologized on Thursday for broadcasting an appeal by convicted Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, mastermind of the Sbarro Pizza parlor bombing in Jerusalem in 2001, to be reunited with her husband, after the families of Tamimi’s victims and the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) spoke out against the broadcast.
On October 1, 2020, Tamimi’s husband Nizar, who is also a convicted terrorist, was deported by the Jordanian authorities to Qatar.
Seven days later the BBC’s Arabic TV service broadcast a report in its program Trending on how Tamimi had called into a popular Amman-based radio station in a bid to appeal directly to King Abdullah II to intervene and have her husband returned to Jordan.
The BBC’s report glossed over key elements of Jordanian-born Tamimi’s story, reporting that she had been “accused” of the Sbarro terror attack but not that she had boastfully pled guilty to the charges in an Israeli court – or that she had said she would be happy to carry out such an attack again.
Tamimi was sentenced to 16 life sentences following the attack, but only served ten years as she was released in the deal that secured the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas’s hold.
The BBC’s Arabic service, which is funded by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, further failed to mention any of her victims by name.
A video of the segment had been uploaded to the BBC’s YouTube site, carrying the description: “‘Ahlam Tamimi, your voice is loud’ – responses of solidarity on Jordanian and Palestinian sites with Palestinian Ahlam Tamimi.”
British MP Bob Blackman, who also serves as an officer for the CFI, contacted BBC Director General Tim Davie and asked for “clarification on the BBC’s editorial guidelines for such coverage,” according to a statement by the CFI.
“Giving a platform for Tamimi’s appeal to be reunited with her husband is understandably deeply distressing for the families of her victims, who will never be reunited with their loved ones,” added Blackman.
Former chairman of the BBC, Conservative peer Lord Grade, stated that there were “very serious issues of balance and impartiality raised” by the broadcast, adding that the corporation, and possibly the UK’s Office of Communication, should investigate.
An editorial review by the BBC “found that this segment was in breach of our editorial guidelines,” said the Director of the BBC World Service, Jamie Angus, in response to Blackman, confirming that the video clip had been removed from the BBC’s digital platforms.
“As you point out, Ahlam Al-Tamimi has been convicted of serious crimes and is therefore not a suitable subject for this kind of item,” said Angus in a statement, according to a press release by the CFI. “I am afraid the programme team did not follow the correct BBC procedures by failing to refer the matter to the BBC’s Editorial Policy team or to senior editors in BBC News Arabic. Had they done so, the segment would not have been authorised for broadcast.”
Donna Rachel Edmunds contributed to this report.