The BBC has been accused of breaking the law in its reporting of the antisemitic abuse of a party of Jewish teenagers and others who were celebrating Chanukah in Oxford Street on 29 November 2021.
Some passengers on the bus carrying the party have been assisted by UKLFI Charitable Trust and 3D Solicitors to write a letter to the BBC’s Director General threatening legal action against the BBC. The letter explains that in its reporting of the incident, the BBC discriminated against them on grounds of religion or race, in breach of section 29 of the Equality Act.
Jonathan Turner, Executive Director of UKLFI Charitable Trust, commented: “In our view, the BBC’s reporting of this incident discriminated against the Jewish people on the bus, in particular by claiming that they or members of their party were at fault and should be blamed as well as those who abused them. In doing so, the BBC subjected them to a detriment to which it would not subject people of a different religion or race in similar circumstances.”
UKLFI Charitable Trust provides legal support to victims of antisemitism.
The BBC’s report of the incident on its website at www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-59495842 initially claimed that “Some racial slurs about Muslims can also be heard from inside the bus. The Met Police has said the incident will be looked at ‘in its entirety’”. This was subsequently amended to “A slur about Muslims can also be heard from inside the bus.The Met Police has said the incident will be looked at ‘in its entirety’”.
The letter sent to the BBC explains that the claimed racial slurs or slur about Muslims were reported as if they were undisputed fact, without any qualification whatsoever. By contrast, the antisemitic abuse is only reported as the subject of “allegations” and as “apparently abusing passengers”. In addition, the gravity of the claimed slur or slurs about Muslims is emphasised by the reference in the following sentence to the Police looking at the incident “in its entirety”. This conveys an innuendo that the alleged slur (or slurs) itself amounted to a criminal offence, or at the very least justified the antisemitic abuse. The words “from inside the bus” imply that the slurs or slur were/was made by a member of the Jewish party inside the bus.
3D Solicitors say that their clients, who wish to remain anonymous, categorically deny that any slur about Muslims was made by anyone on the bus. Furthermore, the BBC’s report failed to make clear that the antisemitic abuse was entirely unprovoked and significantly understated its seriousness.
UKLFI and 3D Solicitors were informed by passengers on the bus that the men who abused the teenagers brought up a loudspeaker to play a version of a song used by the Palestinian terrorist organisation, Hamas; chanted anti-Israel slogans and expletives; beat the side of the bus with shoes and fists; and lobbed a metal shopping basket into the open upper deck of the bus where it could have seriously injured or even killed one of those on the bus.
Daniel Berke of 3D Solicitors said: “The BBC’s reporting of the incident has added significantly to the distress suffered by our clients as a result of the incident.”
3D Solicitors’ letter calls for the BBC to publicly withdraw its allegations against the Jewish people on the bus and offer fair compensation, if it concludes they are correct in their claims. Otherwise, they call for the BBC to “set out the grounds and evidence on which it relies”.