UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

BBC under fire for protest advice that encourages people to commit offences

The BBC has published a guide to protests, titled:  “When can protesting over the Gaza war be illegal in the UK?” It mainly relates to flying flags, rather than demonstrations or other conduct. It was published on 3 November 2023 and can be found online here.

It purports to be a helpful guide for people unsure of the laws around protests. However, it contains some serious inaccuracies and far from helping people to avoid committing offences, it risks encouraging people to break the law.

UKLFI has complained to the BBC about their guide, pointing out inaccuracies.

The BBC article wrongly states that “individuals are allowed to fly a flag on private property as long as it meets standard conditions such as it being in a safe location and not obscuring roads or railways”.

This is not correct. It is generally contrary to planning regulations  to fly a flag outside a building, or even inside a building within 1 metre of an external door, window or other opening through which it is visible from outside the building, unless planning permission is obtained.

This is subject to some exceptions, including flying  “any country’s national flag”.  However, it is generally prohibited to fly other flags without planning permission, not just flags of terrorist organisations.

Contravention of the regulations is a criminal offence under Regulation 30 and section 224(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UK Lawyers for Israel, said: “It is very unsatisfactory that the BBC is encouraging unlawful conduct, particularly in this highly sensitive context. It also gives the appearance that BBC journalists are keen to encourage demonstrations hostile to Israel and adds to concerns that the BBC is fundamentally biased against Israel.”

Further on, the article also gives a misleading explanation of the position at football matches. The position is that football clubs are entitled to impose conditions on those admitted to its premises,  for example that they must not fly flags unrelated to the teams playing in the match.  Contravening the conditions is unlawful and makes the person who does it is a trespasser. Allowing the flying of flags unrelated to the match may also put the club in breach of the rules of the relevant football association for which it  may be heavily fined. 

Thanks to Hadar Sela of CAMERA UK for drawing the article to our attention.