How the BBC Reports Foreign Policy (2/3/21)

Today the BBC offers an interesting example of how foreign policy is reported. The headlines are ‘Yemen conflict: UK cuts aid citing financial pressure from Covid’ and ‘Yemen conflict: UK defends Yemeni aid cuts amid criticism from MPs’.

There is no reason to doubt UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ view that the British government cutting aid to Yemen from £164m pledged last year to £87m this year is a ‘death sentence’. As the articles say, 2/3s of Yemenis are now reliant on humanitarian assistance.

The aid cut is a shocking act, especially given the government’s moral responsibility for what has happened to Yemen in recent years. But this broader context is not given. Both BBC reports leave out that this cut comes while the UK government has been actively supporting the atrocities committed in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.

Since the war began in 2015, the government has licensed about £5bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. This dwarfs the £1bn that the government has contributed in aid to Yemen during the same time period. But the disparity, and British arms sales in general, are omitted from the articles cited. Clearly this is essential information to include in reports about aid to Yemen, even if the arms sales have been reported in other BBC articles. It clarifies the government’s moral culpability, and consequent responsibility, for what is happening.

While the British state facilitates the killing and maiming of civilians, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expects us to be impressed by the government ‘doing our bit’ in his words. This is shameless hypocrisy. The government cannot sincerely give aid while licensing the sale of bombs to countries that have made the situation so dire.The BBC shouldn’t allow the government to escape criticism for its hypocrisy by omitting the aforementioned facts about arms sales.

If the government was serious about protecting human rights around the world, as it claims to be, it would make no cuts to aid for Yemen and end all arms sales and support to the Saudi-led coalition’s war effort.

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