WHO to believe? This was the question Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased? asked yesterday as reports came in of the bombing attacks on Christian churches and upmarket hotels in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, with a death toll of more than 200.
According to the BBC ‘no one was expecting this’ and ‘officials say it is too early to say who is behind it’. This was not, however, the conclusion reached by Agence France Presse, whose simultaneous report stated that although there were no immediate claims of responsibility, ‘documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers ten days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.’
The alert said that ‘a foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo.’
The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka which was linked last year to the vandalising of Buddhist statues.
Checking other news outlets, I found that AFP was not alone in reporting this information. The Telegraph included it in a report of 11.22am, as did numerous other organisations.
Not, though, the BBC.
So it was with interest that I turned on the BBC Radio Four programme, The World this Weekend, hosted by Mark Mardell, to see whether the national broadcaster and worldwide news source had yet caught up with the news.
Not in the 1pm headlines they hadn’t. They made no mention of the suggested radical Islamic perpetrators of this attack. Nor, curiously, did Mr Mardell explore this widely mooted possibility in his more detailed report. Asking his guest, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith, ‘Who do you think was behind it?’ you’d have thought that it was a complete mystery. And when the deeply humane and forgiving Archbishop answered his question in its most profound spiritual and philosophical sense, Mardell did not to pursue it.
Surely he would raise it, I thought, as he introduced his next guest, an associate fellow from Chatham House, the Left-leaning foreign policy think tank. But no, in their generalised discussion of whether this attack fitted any pattern, all she stressed was that in recent tensions in Sri Lanka it was ‘the Muslims who have been mostly persecuted’.
And that was that.
Turning to the ‘Sri Lanka attacks’ (no mention of the word terrorist to be seen) page on the BBC News website at 17.30 (time of writing), the report ‘No one was expecting this’ from Azzam Ameen at one of the attack sites, St Anthony’s Shrine, had still not been updated in light of the widely reported news about the intelligence alert given by Sri Lanka’s police chief. The line ‘it is not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks’ had not been added to. Nowhere on the page is the word ‘Christian’ used to describe the target religious sites.
Why such flaky and incomplete reporting of this devastating attack aimed at Christian places of worship and designed to kill Christians? What exactly does the BBC have to be so coy about?