On Friday, we looked at media coverage of a new translation of a video from 2010 that was released by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaking against Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs.” One of the outlets to cover the story, albeit a few weeks after the release of the video, was the BBC.
One section of the BBC report, which has since been corrected, read:
The controversy erupted after the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) translated and released Arabic footage of interviews Mr Morsi gave in 2010, as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the clip from Palestinian broadcaster Al-Quds TV, Mr Morsi referred to Jewish settlers as “occupiers of Palestine” and “warmongers”.
He called for a “military resistance in Palestine against these Zionist criminals assaulting the land of Palestine and Palestinian”.
Of course, Morsi was not referring simply to settlers as occupiers. It has since been corrected to read:
In the clip from Palestinian broadcaster Al-Quds TV, Mr Morsi referred to Zionists, the term most commonly used by the Muslim Brotherhood to refer to Israelis or Jews, as “occupiers of Palestine” and “warmongers”.
It’s good to run this correction but it’s odd that the BBC changed what Morsi said to begin with. There is no need (nor any other journalistic reason) to downplay the comments to make them more palatable — or otherwise not be precise about the rhetoric Morsi used. It’s patronizing and bizarre. Far better, it seems, to follow the New York Times model of accurately quoting Morsi (although there’s no reason to wait a few weeks until public pressure to report the news grows so much) and explaining the context.
But I have another question.