Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Hiding Yemen from the Voters

In a recent report, BBC News the headline stated, “US forces kill seven al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, says Pentagon.” 
Nowhere in the article was there any attempt to provide an alternative view of who had been killed.  Reprieve, an international human rights organisation, however, reported that five of the ‘militants’ were civilians, including a partially blind 70-year-old man who was shot when he tried to greet the US Navy Seals, mistaking them for guests arriving in his village.

Since January 2017, the US has launched 90 or more drone strikes in Yemen, killing around 100 people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. This death toll includes 25 civilians, among whom were 10 children, killed in the village of al Ghayil in the Yemeni highlands during a US raid that was described by President Trump as ‘highly successful’.

It would not do for the corporate media, including BBC News, to dwell on the international arms deals providing Saudi Arabia with weaponry to conduct a vicious war in Yemen. Iona Craig, formerly a Yemen-based correspondent for The Timesnotes that ‘more than 58 hospitals now have been bombed by the coalition air-strikes.  Saudi Arabia has imposed a cruel blockade on Yemen that is delaying, or even preventing, vital commodities from getting into the country. Grant Pritchard, interim country director for Save the Children in Yemen, says:

These delays are killing children. Our teams are dealing with outbreaks of cholera, and children suffering from diarrhoea, measles, malaria and malnutrition. With the right medicines these are all completely treatable — but the Saudi-led coalition is stopping them getting in. They are turning aid and commercial supplies into weapons of war.”

One doctor at the Republic teaching hospital in Sanaa commented: “There are babies dying in incubators because we can’t get supplies to treat them.” The doctor estimated that 25 people were dying every day at the hospital because of the blockade. He continued: “They call it natural death. But it’s not. If we had the medicines they wouldn’t be dead. I consider them killed as if they were killed by an air strike, because if we had the medicines they would still be alive.”

This grim reality was deemed irrelevant to Trump’s signing of the massive new arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the trivial inanities such as Trump ‘joins Saudi sword dance’ or ‘no scarf for Melania’.

British historian Mark Curtis poses a vital question that journalists fear to raise, not least those at the BBC: is there, in effect, collusion between the BBC and UK arms manufacturer BAE Systems not to report on UK support for the Saudi bombing of Yemen, and not to make it an election issue? Curtis also notes that the BBC has not published any online article about UK arms being sold to the Saudis for use in Yemen since as far back as January.  He also rightly points out that the BAE Systems Chairman, Sir Roger Carr, was also Vice-Chair of the BBC Trust until April 2017 (when the Trust was wound up at the end of its 10-year tenure). The BBC Trust’s role was to ensure the BBC lived up to its statutory obligations to the public, including news ‘balance’ and ‘impartiality’. How could Sir Roger’s dual role not suggest a major potential conflict of interest?

Mark Curtis provides some telling statistics: “From 4 April to 15 May, the BBC website carried only 10 articles on Yemen but 97 on Syria: focusing on the crimes of an official enemy rather than our own. Almost no BBC articles on Yemen mention British arms exports. Theresa May’s government is complicit in mass civilian deaths in Yemen and pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation; that this is not an election issue is a stupendous propaganda achievement.”

A Medialens newspaper database search reveal that, since the election was called on April 18, there has been no significant journalistic scrutiny of May’s support of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen. Theresa May’s support for the Saudi regime, have gone essentially unexamined by the BBC.  When has BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg ever pressed May over her appalling voting record on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen? The ‘mainstream’ media rarely, if ever, seriously challenge her about being consistently and disastrously wrong in her foreign policy choices; not least, on decisions to go to war.

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