An Open Letter from the National Association of Black Journalists to the BBC


    Aug. 16, 2011 17:43 UTC

    An Open Letter from the National Association of Black Journalists to
    the BBC

    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:

    Dear BBC:

    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
    editorial guidelines.

    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.
    NABJ President


    Aprill O. Turner, 202-649-0719

    Source: National Association of Black Journalists