20080209endgazasiege1372Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Leader

It’s an insult to the viewing public to suggest they can’t distinguish between the humanitarian needs of thousands of children and families in Gaza and the political sensitivities of the Middle East.

It’s a distinction which anyone can make and to suggest the BBC should somehow not allow people to show their compassion because of the wider controversies in the Middle East is a case, in this instance, of the BBC totally getting its priorities upside down.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams

My feeling is that the BBC should broadcast an appeal

David Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission

I can’t see how members of the public will confuse a humanitarian appeal for people in desperate need in Gaza with unbalanced reporting

NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear & BECTU General Secretary, Gerry Morrissey

The humanitarian crisis, in which innocent children are suffering, is likely to be prolonged as a result of the corporation’s decision.

The justifications given for the decision – ‘question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation’ and risks of compromising its ‘impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story’ – appear to us cowardly and in danger of being seen as politically motivated and biased in favour of Israel.

We, above all, understand the BBC’s need to maintain editorial impartiality and we also understand the pressure journalists and the BBC come under from those who accuse the BBC of bias in reporting the Middle East.

That said, we agree with those senior BBC journalists who say this is a decision taken as a result of timidity by BBC management in the face of such pressures.

Far from avoiding the compromise of the BBC’s impartiality, this move has breached those same BBC rules by showing a bias in favour of Israel at the expense of 1.5 million Palestinian civilians suffering an acute humanitarian crisis.

Our members feel this makes the BBC appear pro-Israeli and indifferent to the plight of the victims of this conflict. How can airing such an appeal risk compromising the BBC’s impartiality? We believe the BBC’s decision not to show the appeal is wrong and we urge you to reconsider.

Comedian Bill Bailey

It’s moral cowardice

Tim Llewellyn, former BBC Middle East correspondent

How is the BBC’s impartiality to be prejudiced by asking others to raise money for the victims of an act of war by a recognised state, an ally of Britain, using the most lethal armaments it can against a defenceless population?

What sly little trigger went off in her head when Thomson questioned whether the aid would reach the right people? What right people? Hamas, the elected representatives of the Palestinian people? The hospitals and clinics run by private charities and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency? The mosques? The citizens of Gaza, persecuted beyond measure not only by their Israeli enemies but by the western powers who arm and sustain Israel and defy the democratic vote of the Palestinian people?

BBC journalists, extant and retired, not the “usual suspects”, not disaffected radicals and high-octane lefties, are incandescent with rage over this extraordinary piece of institutional cowardice.

The episode makes a travesty of the institution’s posturing…and discredits the honest reporters the BBC still has on its books and in the field.

Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield

This is not about taking sides in the conflict

Health Minister the Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw

This is not about taking sides in the conflict. It is about providing urgent help to people in desperate need.

<The important thing is to get aid in to Gaza. This is recognised by almost everyone, including the Government. The BBC appears to be the only one who has a problem seeing this.

Actress Samantha Morton

I’m shocked and appalled…I’ve worked for the BBC since I was a small child. As a public service they’ve got it very wrong. I’m not as articulate about this as I would like to be because I’m so appalled. I will never work for the BBC again unless they change their mind.

It’s very, very wrong. It’s not a political message. It’s about raising money for children who are dying.

I’m proud to have worked for the BBC; I’m proud to be British; I’m proud we even have the BBC. But I need them to explain this decision. I reserve the right never to work for that company again if I feel that I’m too embarrassed to support them or earn money from them.

Douglas Alexander, International Development Secretary

I think the British public can distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict.

I really struggle to see, in the face of the immense human suffering in Gaza at the moment, that this is in any way a credible argument.

They still have time to make a different judgement, to recognise the immense human suffering and to address the concern – which I think otherwise may develop – that somehow the suffering of people in Gaza is not taken as seriously as the suffering of people in other conflicts.

Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary

<The BBC’s decision should not discourage the public from donating to this important appeal. I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision.

I think the people in our country are really decent people, they’re generous and this is about a humanitarian situation here. It’s about ordinary people and their families and the people of Britain being asked to do what they can to help.

Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity. This situation is akin to that of British military hospitals who treat prisoners of war as a result of their duty under the Geneva convention. They do so because they identify need rather than cause.

This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief.

By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality.

Sir Michael Lyons, BBC Trust Chairman

(In a letter to BBC director general Mark Thompson)

As you explained when you told the Trust of your decision on Wednesday, this is a difficult and complex matter, in which a fine balance has to be struck.

It is your job as editor-in-chief of the BBC to make such decisions and to be held accountable for them. Our job as Trustees is to give you the space to make such decisions and to protect your ability to do so. The Trust makes no judgment at this point in time on the editorial issues involved. It would be wrong for us to do as we may, at some future date, have to hear any appeal should complaints be made about your decision.

I am, however, concerned that the level and tone of some of the political comment your decision has attracted is coming close to constituting undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC.

Former BBC Journalist Rageh Omaar

[Thompson] panicked politically…If he changes his mind now it will be even more disastrous

Tony Benn, former Labour politician

The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, which has left aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations, is a betrayal of the obligation which it owes as a public service.

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.

The human suffering that the people of Gaza have experienced over the last few weeks has appalled people who have seen it for themselves on their television screens.

To deny the help that the aid agencies and the UN need at this moment in time is incomprehensible and it follows the bias in BBC reporting of this crisis, which has been widely criticised.

I appeal to the chairman of the BBC Trust to intervene to reverse this decision to save the lives of those who are now in acute danger of dying through a lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies.

Dame Suzi Leather, Charity Commission Chair

The need for charitable humanitarian aid in Gaza is desperate.

For the past 45 years the leading international charities operating under the unique alliance of the DEC have shown themselves well able to deliver aid in areas of crisis around the world in an effective and non-partisan way.

It is critical that the broadcasters, the banks, and other organisations do all they can to publicise and support this humanitarian appeal on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate and undeniable need in Gaza today.

I call on the BBC to reconsider their decision.

Andrew Mitchell, Shadow International Development Secretary

I completely accept that the BBC has independent editorial judgement to exercise on this matter. But I suggest that the BBC should think again and think very hard.

In recent terrible humanitarian tragedies and crises such as Burma, Congo and Darfur, the DEC appeal has been absolutely pivotal at harnessing the generosity of the British people through to humanitarian relief in these crises, and we need this appeal very badly now and I hope the BBC will think very hard and make the broadcast.

Comedian Mark Steel

It’s just nuts

Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster leader & former BBC international affairs reporter

With every day that passes the BBC’s defiance becomes more and more ridiculous.

Whatever people’s views on the conflict, there is no doubt that international aid is of vital importance in Gaza at this time – and for the BBC to hinder that effort is totally unacceptable by a public service broadcaster.

Creative Commons License Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk

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