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BBC presenters accused of sharing ‘toxic and anti-Israel’ content online

The social media accounts analysed include those of Noreen Khan, the award-winning TV and radio presenter
The social media accounts analysed include those of Noreen Khan, the award-winning TV and radio presenter

Multiple presenters on a BBC radio station have been accused of posting “toxic” and “anti-Israel” content on social media about the Israel-Hamas war, The Telegraph can reveal.

This newspaper has seen evidence that influential stars from BBC’s Asian Network have shared disputed claims to thousands of followers.

One presenter shared an image with the slogan “From the river to the sea”, which has previously been described by Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, as a “staple of anti-Semitic discourse”.

The Telegraph has analysed a cache of screenshots, shared by a concerned listener, collated since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct 7 that show Asian Network presenters accusing Israel of committing genocide, sharing conspiracy theory videos and encouraging followers to attend pro-Palestine marches.

BBC bosses were alerted to concerns about the social media accounts about three weeks after Hamas’s attacks on Israel.

Yet on Wednesday, while some of the posts have been deleted, several of the highlighted posts remain online.

Less than two weeks ago, one presenter shared a video that accused Israel of using “atrocity propaganda”, while suggesting that Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, was against a ceasefire because it was in his father-in-law’s financial interests for conflict to continue.

It comes as the BBC faces mounting pressure about its reporting of the conflict and amid questions on the use of social media by BBC employees.

Last month, Ahmed Hussain, the head of the Asian Network, reportedly breached the broadcaster’s social media rules by sharing a comedian’s tweet that described military actions in Gaza as a “genocide”.

It is understood that his tweet was considered to break the rules because he is a “senior leader”.

Under BBC guidelines, staff in such positions, as well as those in news, current affairs and factual journalism, have to abide by its strictest rules on impartiality.

However, other employees are not covered by the guidelines.

And all staff are expected to “respect high standards of civility in public discourse and to not bring the BBC into disrepute”.

Last night, Danny Cohen, a former BBC executive, said that the tweets and posts by Asian Network presenters showed that the guidelines were “not fit for purpose”.

He accused senior management at the broadcaster of being “either complicit in anti-Israel bias” or having “lost control of their own staff and the content they produce”.

Writing for The Telegraph, Mr Cohen, who was director of BBC Television from 2013 to 2015, said: “Since the Hamas terrorist attacks, licence-fee paid BBC presenters with large online followings have accused Israel of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes and have encouraged people to attend marches at which anti-Semitism has been on open display.”

He also added that it was “clear that the latest social media guidelines issued by the BBC director-general just weeks ago are not fit for purpose”.

The social media accounts analysed include those of Noreen Khan, the award-winning TV and radio presenter.

Hours after the Oct 7 attacks, in which Hamas launched a surprise assault on Israel killing about 1,200 people and taking 250 hostage in Gaza, Ms Khan retweeted an account on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing a map claiming how Palestinian territory had shrunk. The caption read: “A casual reminder. #FreePalestine.”

Addressing the post, Mr Cohen said: “As families were being burnt alive in their homes, women raped and children kidnapped, Khan felt that this was not a moment for sympathy for Jewish suffering, but an opportunity for a BBC employee to use her platform to make an anti-Israel statement.

“In doing so she came perilously close to attempting to justify horrific acts of terrorism still taking place at that very time.”

The Israeli government has launched numerous air strikes on Palestine since the attacks, and has sent soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to carry out on ground operations.

More than 14,500 people have been killed in Palestine since Oct 7, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Hashu Mohammed, a DJ and comedian who goes by the name SMASHBengali, shared a video that suggested Mr Sunak was refusing to vote for a ceasefire for financial reasons.

In the video, a man who claims to be a “medical doctor and pharmacist” suggests that Mr Sunak’s father-in-law is financially benefiting from the conflict because of lucrative contracts to drill for oil in the area being signed between BP and a company founded by the billionaire Narayana Murthy.

The doctor, who states in his bio that “I will spread the truth”, also said that there was “a lot of atrocity propaganda”, adding: “Objective is to get the world on side to dehumanise the Palestinians and allow the world to see mass genocide and ethnic cleansing without any objections from the world.”

Danny Cohen, a former BBC executive
Danny Cohen, a former BBC executive, said that the tweets and posts by Asian Network presenters showed that the corporation's guidelines were 'not fit for purpose' - BBC

Crediting the video and sharing the clip on his Facebook page, Mr Mohammed wrote: “Definitely isn’t just about ‘eliminating Hamas’.”

Mr Mohammed, 31, also shared a short video that showed him shouting into a megaphone amid a bustling crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters.

In a separate clip, shared as an Instagram story, he appeared to lead a chant of: “One, two, three, four, occupation’s not a war.”

In a different Instagram story from another user’s account shared to his 101,000 followers, a photograph of Mr Mohammed standing among other demonstrators was captioned with: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ [Palestine flag emoji].”

He has also shared dates and locations of pro-Palestine protests on his Facebook page.

While the majority who attend demonstrations in support of Palestine do so peacefully, some attendees have been seen carrying explicitly anti-Semitic signs and others have been charged after displaying pro-Hamas imagery.

Like Mr Hussain, Mr Mohammed also describes military action in Gaza as a “genocide” – a term also repeatedly used by the presenter Mehreen Baig, who shared a Washington Post article via an Instagram story that described how more than a million people had been told to evacuate northern Gaza within 24 hours.

Captioning the article, she wrote: “We are watching an occupied, oppressed people face annihilation by a nuclear state with the full backing of the Western world.

“This is not – and has never been – an ‘equal fight’. This is genocide. It is utterly inhumane.”

In another Instagram story, Ms Baig also shared an image of a tweet in which an author replied to a tweet that asked “What’s the weirdest rebranding of all time?” with the response: “Genocide as self defence.”

‘A profound system failure’

Ms Baig also appeared to show that she knew her content could put her career at risk – in another Instagram story, she wrote: “I’d rather be cancelled than be controlled.”

The concerned listener first contacted Lorna Clarke, the director of music at the BBC, on Oct 26 and continued to raise concerns about the BBC Asian Network’s presenters posting “politically biased” content on their social media accounts.

The Telegraph has seen copies of the correspondence, in which the listener included a link to the cache of screenshots, adding: “What has happened at Asian Network is not OK, and I hope you can take steps to remedy the problem.”

That same day, Ms Clarke replied to the whistleblower’s offer of a phone call, saying: “I have the allegations below and have been brought up to date with your previous correspondence with the BBC so as you say it will be looked into.”

On Oct 31, following further correspondence, she sent another message responding to the whistleblower, saying: “Thank you we continue to monitor.”

Mr Cohen, who has previously called for an independent review into the BBC’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, said that the broadcaster now faces a “genuine crisis” about the BBC’s Asian Network presenters posting “toxic” and “incendiary, deeply offensive and anti-Israel material online”.

He also accused the BBC of “a profound system failure”, adding that the fact Ms Clarke was warned about these posts “means that senior management is either complicit in anti-Israel bias at the BBC or has lost control of their own staff and the content they produce”.

The BBC made changes to its social media guidelines earlier this year after the Match of the Day host Gary Lineker provoked a row with a post on Twitter, since rebranded to X, in which he compared the language of Mrs Braverman to “Germany in the 30s”.

Under the updated guidance, designed to make clear which employees are covered by impartiality rules, presenters on a list of “flagship brand” programmes, including Match of the Day, must adhere to tighter restrictions than other presenters.

Lord Polak, the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel, told The Telegraph: “The BBC is in a mess – much of which is of its own making. The number of times an apology has been made or a post deleted since October 7 has made the BBC unreliable and partisan. Only this weekend Jeremy Bowen admitted he made a mistake but did not apologise. It is therefore little wonder that BBC Asian network despite warnings over the past month has done precious little to ensure that the network is politically neutral.”

‘Important BBC maintains impartiality’

Speaking in a television interview last week, Mr Bowen, the international editor of BBC News, said that he was incorrect to have suggested Al-Ahli hospital “was flattened” in an explosion on Oct 17.

Hamas claimed that Israeli airstrikes had killed at least 500 people in the blast – while the IDF said that the blast had been caused by a misfired rocket from the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad.

The British Government later concluded that the Israeli version of events was more likely to be correct, while later reports found that the hospital building was intact and any explosion had centred on the car park.

When asked about his initial report, Mr Bowen told the BBC’s Behind the Stories programme: “That was my conclusion from looking at the pictures and I was wrong on that, but I don’t feel particularly bad about that.

“It was just the conclusion I drew.”

Sir Michael Ellis, the former attorney general, said: “It is crucially important that the BBC maintains due impartiality across its networks and expects high standards from all of its on-air broadcasting team no matter what channel they’re on.

“The BBC’s reputation has already suffered badly as a consequence of their biased coverage of this conflict and it’s in the national interest that the BBC management require their staff to maintain proper standards. Those standards should obviously include their presenters not taking sides in an international conflict.”

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “We are deeply concerned by highly politicised statements made by a number of presenters and DJs on the BBC Asian network, relating to Israel’s response to the Hamas terror attacks.

He added: “We hope that the corporation will now treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves.”

Earlier this month, Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC, urged staff to “think carefully about the language” they used “in person, on email and on social media” to ensure others did not face “fear or prejudice” in the workplace.

It is understood that the BBC is in ongoing conversation with staff regarding civility and that it assesses all complaints about potential breaches of its social media policy.

A spokesman for the broadcaster declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph.

Ms Khan declined to comment.

Spokesmen for Mr Mohammed and Ms Baig did not respond to requests for comment.

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