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BBC journalists investigated for posts about Oct 7 massacre still reporting on Israel-Gaza conflict

Reporters appeared to endorse the attack on Israel carried out by Hamas
Reporters appeared to endorse the attack on Israel carried out by Hamas - AP

BBC Arabic journalists who were subject to an investigation over “biased” social media posts in the wake of the Oct 7 attacks are still covering the Israel-Gaza conflict, it has emerged.

Following the attacks, reporters at BBC News Arabic appeared to endorse comments likening Hamas to freedom fighters and praising the atrocity.

The BBC said shortly after the revelations that it was “urgently investigating” social media activity by several of its journalists in the Middle East.

But several of those whose social media activity was the subject of complaint are again reporting on the Israel-Gaza conflict, with no further disciplinary action taken against them.

They include Sally Nabil, a journalist who liked over a dozen tweets which appeared to legitimise the targeting of Jewish civilians, including tweets which called the Oct 7 attacks “a morning of hope”, and liked a tweet describing Israel as “an occupation state”.

In December, Ms Nabil also liked a tweet making unsubstantiated allegations that large numbers of Jews from around the world are buying up land in Northern Cyprus, with the aim being “to seize” the territory for Israel

It has now emerged that Ms Nabil was sent to Chicago by BBC Arabic in mid-January to cover reported threats to the city’s Palestinian community and two weeks later wrote a piece about Western diplomacy during the war.

Sally Nabil liked tweets which called the Oct 7 attacks 'a morning of hope'
Sally Nabil liked tweets which called the Oct 7 attacks 'a morning of hope'

Salma Khattab, a journalist based in Cairo for BBC News, had liked a tweet from Oct 7 appearing to refer to Hamas as freedom fighters.

The tweet stated: “You cannot support freedom fighters in Ukraine as they resist Russian occupation but not in Palestine against Israeli occupation, unless you have no conscience.”

But in January Ms Khattab was again reporting on the conflict, examining the plight of a Palestinian poet who claimed he suffered abuse at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force when he was detained in Gaza, as well as covering discussions over aid entering the conflict zone.

Salma Khattab liked a tweet from Oct 7 appearing to refer to Hamas as freedom fighters
Salma Khattab liked a tweet from Oct 7 appearing to refer to Hamas as freedom fighters

A third BBC Arabic journalist, Sanaa Khouri, reposted and liked tweets appearing to support the Oct 7 massacre of Israelis, including one about sweets being distributed in Lebanon following the Hamas raids.

The Beirut-based religious affairs correspondent also tweeted in the wake of the attacks: “Israel’s prestige is crying in the corner.”

Ms Khouri has since contributed to the BBC’s coverage of South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice in January.

Sanaa Khouri, reposted and liked tweets appearing to support the Oct 7 massacre of Israelis
Sanaa Khouri, reposted and liked tweets appearing to support the Oct 7 massacre of Israelis

Mahmoud Sheleib, another BBC Arabic journalist who was subject to complaints about bias, took part in a Twitter conversation shortly after the Oct 7 attacks in which he appeared to joke about a woman whose grandmother was abducted by Hamas receiving an “inheritance”.

He had also suggested in a tweet that all young Israelis were combatants and should not be regarded as civilians in a conflict.

Mr Sheleib is still listed as the executive producer of the Egypt Mean Time programme, which regularly discusses the war from an Egyptian perspective.

The show frequently interviews guests who take an anti-Israel or an apparently anti-Semitic stance.

Mahmoud Sheleib appeared to take part in a joke on Twitter about a woman whose grandmother was abducted by Hamas receiving an 'inheritance'
Mahmoud Sheleib appeared to take part in a joke on Twitter about a woman whose grandmother was abducted by Hamas receiving an 'inheritance'

The BBC is obliged to achieve “due impartiality” in all its output. According to its guidelines, its news journalists also have a “particular responsibility” to uphold the principle in their actions on social media.

A spokesman for Camera Arabic, a US-based NGO that campaigns for “accurate and balanced” coverage of Israel, said: “Employees who spread hatred and celebrate violence on social media are clearly unable to uphold the BBC’s self-professed standards of accuracy and balance in coverage of Jewish and Israeli affairs and should not be allowed back in the newsroom, let alone to report the current war on the Corporation’s behalf.

“By reinstating Sheleib, Khouri, Nabil and Khattab to their former positions, BBC Arabic shows that it is oblivious to what every impartial observer would quickly acknowledge: biased journalists make for bad journalism.

“The British public deserves a better product in exchange for its license fee payments.”

Ms Nabil, Ms Khattab, Ms Khouri and Mr Sheleib were approached for comment through the BBC.

A BBC spokesman said: “As we said at the time, we take allegations of breaches of our social media guidance very seriously and we took urgent action to investigate each case in detail. We do not comment on individual staff matters, however, if we find breaches we take the appropriate action.”