Former attorney general Sir Michael Ellis, a prominent Jewish politician, has claimed the broadcaster has “suppressed” an inquiry named the Balen Report, which was commissioned back in 2004.
The report followed repeated complaints of bias from the Israeli government 19 years ago, and senior journalist Malcolm Balen was tasked with carrying out the investigation.
The BBC has now been accused of suppressing its findings after representatives sought to keep them secret, having gone as far as to protect the report’s contents in court.
Sir Michael has now contacted Tim Davie, the broadcaster’s director-general, and demanded the inquiry’s conclusions be made public as criticism of its reporting in the Middle East continues to mount.
The former cabinet minister demanded in a letter sent to Mr Davie that the corporation demand “the same transparency it seeks in others” while setting out a timetable for disclosing the report’s content.
He wrote: “The BBC’s erroneous and highly damaging misreporting of the hospital explosion in Gaza was one of the most shocking errors in news reporting for generations and has caused real harm, as well as long-lasting reputational damage.
“Furthermore, the BBC’s refusal to describe Hamas as a terrorist organisation, despite the UK Government proscribing them as such, has caused further distress and concern.
“The Balen Report has been suppressed by the BBC since it was written.”
Sir Michael concluded: “Nearly 20 years on, the public are more concerned than ever at BBC partiality on this sensitive subject.”
Veteran broadcaster and world affairs editor John Simpson explained that the reasoning goes “back to the BBC‘s founding principles” in an article, stating terrorism is a “loaded word” people use regarding “an outfit they disapprove of morally”.
He said it is “simply not the BBC‘s job to tell people who to support and who to condemn – who are the good guys and who are the bad guys”.
Mr Simpson pointed out that, while the BBC does not outright brand the group terrorists, it does “regularly point out that British and other governments have condemned Hamas as a terrorist organisation”.
With regards to the Balen Report, the broadcasters said it was commissioned “for the purposes of journalism”, and, therefore, falls outside the scope of freedom of information laws that would otherwise require it to disclose its contents.