The BBC has refuted allegations by a Jerusalem-based Middle East expert that its World Service’s Arabic radio is “anti-Western and anti-democratic”
and that it runs a separate editorial system to the rest of the BBC.
Professor Frank Stewart, writing for the New York Times, accused the Arabic Service of shielding Arab leaders from criticism and embarrassment, saying that the station was hostile to the US and British governments.
The BBC rejected the allegations, and said that there is no difference in the stringency with which it applies its editorial guidelines across the services.
A spokesman told Press Gazette: “Middle Eastern politics is extremely complex, populated by widely divergent, but sincerely and strongly held views. It is important to the lives of millions in the region. Therefore we go to great lengths to ensure that as many views of any situation are reflected in our output. This means balancing the story, supplying views from all sides and testing arguments on all sides with equal rigour – pulling no punches.”
BBC World Service plans to supplement the radio with the launch of BBC Arabic TV in autumn of this year, and Stewart said if the BBC’s Arabic TV resembled its radio programmes, they will “serve to increase, rather than to diminish, tensions, hostilities and misunderstandings among nations”.
Stewart, who is a Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, cited a number of examples, including commenting on the BBC Arabic reporting as straight news Saddam Hussein’s reelection to a seven-year term in 2002, when he got 100 per cent of the vote.
The BBC hit back at claims that it shies away from topics such as human rights. “Independent research consistently shows we are popular in the region precisely because audiences can hear a wider range of views on these issues on the BBC than with other stations in the region,” the spokeman said.