BBC immigration bias, but only against Europe
We all sympathise with refugees but why do BBC journalists say it's solely our responsibility to take them in rather than, say Egypt's, or Russia's, or China's. Post-imperial guilt? Are they reporters or activists?
Watching Fiona Bruce on the BBC News at Ten the other night, it was possible to believe one had wandered into a charity support function for Syrian refugees.
Reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis, Ms Bruce did not so much read the news. She acted and performed it, with facial and hand gestures giving an impression of strong disapproval of Britain’s and Europe’s failure to deal with the crisis and to bring to Europe as many refugees as possible.
Arctic weather has hit the Middle East and Syrian refugees are clearly suffering terribly. That’s a fact, and it is shocking.
However, is it the job of the BBC News at Ten to dramatise this fact with possible suggestions of political blame? Surely the personal feelings of the newsreader are no part of an objective and impartial report?
And it wasn’t just Fiona Bruce. Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East Editor reporting from a Syrian refugee camp, seemed to go way beyond reporting the bare facts. He spoke about the adequacy or otherwise of EU funding for the refugees and certainly gave this viewer the impression that the West was not doing enough to help.
Mr Bowen was further exercised or concerned by Britain’s policy of not accepting Syrian refugees and spoke to one of them, asking her about the possibility of coming to Europe.
Is it the job of news reporters to make or suggest moral judgements about facts or to insinuate solutions to the world’s problems? If the British and other European governments have policies to do with Syrian refugees, is it for the BBC to give an impression of the adequacy or otherwise of these policies?
The BBC News at Ten also gave powerful prominence to an Amnesty International report which condemned as ‘pitiful’ the EU’s response to the Syrian crisis. The EU, Amnesty claimed, ‘has miserably failed to play its part in providing a safe haven to the refugees’.
Amnesty believes that Europe should open its borders to Syrian refugees, and this belief was a central plank of the BBC report. But why should the BBC give the highly contested political opinion of Amnesty International such prominence? After all, Amnesty International does not represent any democratically mandated public opinion.
The fact that Amnesty believes that European countries should open their borders to Syrian refugees should be of no more concern to the BBC than an immigration report from the British National Party, another organisation with strong (though racist) views on the subject.
Furthermore, if the BBC deemed it appropriate to give prominence to the highly contested (most Europeans strongly oppose further mass immigration) views of an unelected left-wing body such as Amnesty, then for balance it should have given airtime to MigrationWatch UK, for example. Or not?
However, given that the BBC was interested in the Amnesty International report, why did it not ask questions relating to some curious facts about the report? For example, why did Amnesty concentrate only on Europe’s supposed duty to Syrian refugees? What about the duty of Egypt, or Tunisia, or Morocco?
Should these countries not accept their suffering cousins? And what about Russia? What about China and Japan? Or India, the homeland of Mr Salil Shetty, the almost £200,000 a year Secretary General of Amnesty? Why does nuclear, space-age India not have a duty to Syrian refugees, but Ireland and Belgium and Britain do?
Many viewers of the BBC News at Ten must have been left with a sense of their moral inadequacy. Only European peoples, it seems, have a duty to help the Syrian refugees by opening up their borders and allowing entry to a potential six million refugees.
The BBC is not the only network with problems of impartiality. However, as a publicly-funded and hugely influential force in the public perception of world events, the BBC has a particular duty to be scrupulously impartial.
Viewers of BBC news and current affairs should not be left with a one-sided impression of highly contested issues. If the BBC gives a platform to political organisations such as Amnesty International and Liberty, whose director Shami Chakrabarti seems to be a fixture of the BBC, then impartiality requires a platform for organisations of the opposing view.
The BBC should understand that organisations such as Amnesty International and Liberty are not politically neutral, for the simple reason that issues of ‘rights’ and ‘liberty’ are inherently highly charged political issues. To give an unchallenged platform to Amnesty and Liberty is bias.
Vincent Cooper is a regular contributor to the Commentator
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