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UK press regulator urged to intervene over Sky News journalist’s ‘Israel had it coming’ remark

October 11, 2023 at 3:14 pm

The OFCOM headquarters in London, UK on 18 January 2007 [Bruno Vincent/Getty Images]

The UK’s media regulator Ofcom is facing calls to investigate Sky News journalist Kay Burley for attributing an inflammatory remark to Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot that he did not make. Burley accused Zomlot of saying “Israel had it coming” over the recent violence in occupied Palestine. However, there is no evidence that Zomlot ever made this provocative statement.

Nevertheless, it has been the basis of several interviews with Conservative and Labour MPs during which Burley badgered her guests over the issue of sharing a platform with Zomlot knowing that the Palestinian ambassador said “Israel had it coming.”

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The fabricated statement attributed to Zomlot appears to have been a distortion of comments made by the Palestinian ambassador during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. During the interview Zomlot said that the loss of civilian life on “all sides is tragic and worrying.” He added: “What is even more tragic or equally tragic is the blindness and deafness of the international community for so many years. Of the warning we have been giving that this was coming. Israel knew that this was coming their way.” There is no evidence that the Palestinian ambassador said “Israel had it coming,” either in his interview with CNN or any of his many other interviews.

Burley has since been accused of “poisoning” the debate by spreading false allegations. She has also been condemned on social media.

“This is really terrible journalism from @KayBurley and reminiscent of a playground shit-stirrer,” said Novara Media’s Michael Walker. “You can’t just make up provocative quotes and then demand others respond to them.”

“Multiple times today [Burley] attributed claims to Palestine’s ambassador [Zomlot] which were untrue. She put these to Labour MPs in an effort to get David Lammy to not share a platform with Zomlot tonight,” said Aaron Bastani, referring to a meeting with Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary.

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Burley’s false claim is one of several that have been spread by the British mainstream media. Major outlets earlier today, for example, made the shocking and unverified claim that Israeli babies were beheaded by Hamas fighters. A number of journalists on the ground disputed the allegation.

“I’m getting a lot of questions about the reports of ‘Hamas beheaded babies’, that were published after the media tour in the village,” said Oren Ziv of @972mag. “During the tour we didn’t see any evidence of this, and the army spokesperson or commanders also didn’t mention any such incidents.”

Although the allegation was made by an Israeli source without any verification, several UK and Western media outlets ran the story. When asked why it was not covering the “beheaded babies” claim, Sky News said: “We have not seen the evidence of that… we have asked the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] three times to confirm it… they have not yet.”

READ: Hamas denies beheading Israeli children