By Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi, Arab Media Watch
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often in the news, and violence is one of the most reported aspects of that conflict. As such, how that aspect is covered is extremely important, as it shapes public understandings and perceptions of the peoples involved.
The BBC and Al Jazeera are two of the world's biggest broadcasters. Arab Media Watch monitored how their respective English-language websites reported acts of violence between Israelis and Palestinians for four months, from 1 February to 31 May 2009.
AMW analysed the prominence of each side's viewpoint and version of events by monitoring how many words were devoted to quoting and paraphrasing Israeli and Palestinian sources, and in what order they were reported. AMW also analysed the prevalence with which each side is portrayed as instigating or responding to violence.
The results are startling, not just due to the one-sidedness of BBC coverage, but also because Al Jazeera fared little better.
Summary of Results
- While every BBC article included Israeli sources, 35 per cent had no Palestinian sources.
- While every Al Jazeera article had Israeli sources, 11 per cent had no Palestinian sources.
- 82 per cent of BBC articles containing sources from both sides devoted more words to Israeli sources.
- 69 per cent of Al Jazeera articles containing sources from both sides devoted more words to Israeli sources.
- Of the articles containing sources from both sides, the majority for both the BBC and Al Jazeera reported Israeli sources first: 59 per cent and 53 per cent , respectively.
- When articles contained more words for Israeli sources than Palestinian, the BBC averaged 3.3 times more words for Israeli sources per article, while Al Jazeera averaged 3.4 times more words.
- When articles contained more words for Palestinian sources, both broadcasters averaged 1.8 times more words for Palestinian sources.
- The BBC published four pictures with captions citing Israeli sources. Al Jazeera
- The absence of Palestinian sources and viewpoints, and the predominance of those from the Israeli side, go against the editorial guidelines of both broadcasters.
- Both broadcasters used words that unequivocally portrayed Israeli violence as a direct response to Palestinian violence. The BBC did so six times, Al Jazeera three times. On no occasion did either portray Palestinian violence as a direct response to Israeli violence.
- The BBC and Al Jazeera overwhelmingly reported Israeli violence as following Palestinian violence: 10 times and seven times, respectively. Only once did the BBC report Palestinian violence as following Israeli violence. This was one occasion more than Al Jazeera.
BBC and Al-Jazeera coverage of Israeli-Palestinian violence