Rishi Sunak delivered a lesson in journalism to the BBC during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), amid outrage about the broadcaster’s coverage of the Gaza hospital strike.
At PMQs, former Secretary of State Stephen Crabb slammed the BBC, saying last night that sections of the media were reporting “as fact that it was Israeli rockets that had landed and attacked” the hospital.
Mr Crabb said the media had been caught “relying on information supplied by officials in terrorist-controlled Gaza”.
In light of subsequent evidence the missile was in fact fired from Palestine but malfunctioned mid-air, Mr Crabb noted “the headlines have since been rewritten, but the outpouring of Jew hate on social media overnight was vile”.
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He demanded the Prime Minister reiterate the point “that the way this conflict is being reported has massive implications for our Jewish community, and that any information coming from Hamas must be treated with a degree of scrutiny and cross-examination that is sadly sometimes lacking”.
Rishi Sunak commended the Tory MP’s intervention, saying Mr Crabb “is absolutely right that we must not rush to judgment before we have all the facts”.
He warned the BBC and other media outlets that it is “incumbent on them” to “recognise that the words we say will have an impact and we should be careful with them”.
The PM also compared Hamas’ propaganda to that published by the Russian Kremlin and warned journalists to treat both equally sceptically.
He said: “In the same way that we don’t treat what comes out of the Kremlin as the gospel truth, we should not do the same with Hamas.”
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The BBC has come under heavy criticism this morning for its initial, and overnight, reporting of the hospital explosion.
Immediately after the incident, the BBC pushed out alerts informing the world: “Hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.”
One BBC reporter in Jerusalem, Jon Donnison, speculated to viewers: “It is hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes.”
Over the coming hours, it became increasingly clear that Hamas’s claim was far from cut and dry, and evidence now points to it having been caused by a malfunctioning missile fired from Gaza.
Photographs this morning have also cast doubt on the size of the explosion, and the true number of casualties.
This morning President Biden appeared to back intelligence suggesting Israel did not fire the weapon that hit the hospital.
The BBC’s coverage is now once again under attack, with Westminster voices and fellow journalists rounding on the corporation for its irresponsible reporting.
Former Culture Secretary and Mail columnist Nadine Dorries slammed Jon Donnison’s on-camera speculation, demanding to know who the “propagandist on the BBC” is.
She added: “Is he a journalist?”
Journalist Dan Hodges blasted the reporter, saying it was “entirely reckless and unsubstantiated speculation. It’s not defensible”.
John Woodcock, former Labour MP and member of the House of Lords, noted that a BBC correspondent had said that the “perception” that Israel bombed the hospital, rather than a misfired Hamas rocket, “matters as much as reality”.
He added that it has been the BBC in the first place that has “helped set that perception by faithfully reporting the word of terrorists without verification”.
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