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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BBC defends silence on Gaza appeal

Tue, 24 Feb 2009 06:34:09 GMT PressTV

Delivering humanitarian assistance to war-hit Palestinians has become a daily challenge due to a 19-month Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The British Broadcasting Corporation defends a controversial decision not to broadcast a humanitarian bid that would benefit Gaza.

The BBC in January refused to air a charity appeal for the victims of a three-week Israeli war on Gaza and thus provoked tidal waves of condemnation in Britain.

Thousands of people held demonstrations in front of the BBC Broadcasting House in central London over the stance of the network.

Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust, however, argues that the British network was subjected to "undue external pressure" over the issue -- after senior members of the British parliament filed a motion in condemnation of the decision.  
"I began to feel that some of the political criticism of his decision was crossing the delicate line between fair comment and undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC," Lyons told The Guardian on Tuesday.  
BBC Director General Mark Thompson was accused of "being complicit in denying humanitarian aid" to the people of Gaza when he turned down the screening of a commercial demo by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Lyons, however, defended the BBC verdict. "At that point I thought, and still do, that a red card was in order," he asserted.  
The decision reportedly left humanitarian agencies with a donation shortfall of millions of pounds.

The British network says in its defense that it refrained from broadcasting the "controversial" bid mainly because it would undermine its policy of impartiality.

The public-funded broadcaster nevertheless raised more than 10 million pounds to alleviate the humanitarian disaster in the Congo and nearly 18 million pounds for the Burma crisis. 
"I never thought I would live to see [the BBC] refuse to broadcast a humanitarian appeal on the grounds that it was controversial," said veteran Labour lawmaker Tony Benn, who was among those to criticize the broadcaster as an Israel appeaser.
 "The destruction in Gaza, and the loss of the lives of over a thousand civilians and children, has shocked the world as secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, made clear, when he saw the devastation for himself," he explained.

With more than a month after Israel declared an alleged ceasefire, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip -- home to 1.5 million people -- is at its worst.

UN relief workers believe the humanitarian crisis in the strip is spiraling out of control as Palestinians are suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.

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