An Open Letter from the National Association of Black Journalists to
The following is an open letter from the National Association of Black
Journalists to the BBC on recent coverage by the network which the NABJ
has deemed racially insensitive.
The text of the letter follows below:
The National Association of Black Journalists, the oldest and largest
organization of black journalists, is disappointed to learn that the
BBC, an organization long known for accuracy and impartiality, is
failing to adhere to its own values.
In the height of recent riots in Britain, the BBC simplistically asked
on the global phone-in program World Have Your Say, “Is there a
problem with young black men?”
In asking such a question, the BBC offended many in its global audience.
The question infers that young black men were the only ones rioting and
looting, which we find to be inflammatory. If that’s the case, we call
on the BBC to provide the proof. We are struggling to understand this
stunning lack of sensitivity because the BBC has a longstanding
reputation of integrity, accuracy and impartiality with very clear
In another incident, the BBC allowed historian David Starkey, a guest on
the Newsnight television program, to say that “whites have
become blacks” in reference to the race of rioters. Even more
disturbing, the Newsnight presenter did not challenge that
bizarre assertion – on a program that regularly holds people accountable
for their views. By allowing the comment to go unchallenged, was the BBC
agreeing with the inference that becoming black is monolithically
synonymous with being violent?
All of this in a week when a BBC presenter inaccurately said that
veteran civil rights campaigner and broadcaster Darcus Howe had been
involved in previous riots when in fact he was not and had to correct
the presenter on-air.
Is this just a case of shocking incompetence or racism — as others have
said? Why have black people in Britain not been afforded the same
respect given to others? Why is the assumption that if something is
negative pertaining to black people it is deemed acceptable by the BBC?
What happened to the BBC’s duty to provide accurate and balance
reporting? This raises the question of whether the BBC’s senior
editorial ranks need better racial and philosophical diversity to avoid
being blind to such insensitive incidents.
NABJ represents black journalists worldwide. We call on the BBC to
return to practicing the type of journalism that has won it
international acclaim. We will continue to monitor the BBC to ensure
that its reporting about blacks lives up to its own values.
Gregory H. Lee Jr.
Aprill O. Turner, 202-649-0719
Source: National Association of Black Journalists