The BBC has been accused of spreading “false news” in a recent report on the U.S. President’s promise to prioritise asylum applications from Syrian Christians.
The BBC has reported that a recent claim by U.S. President Donald J. Trump that under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, it was “almost impossible” for Syrian Christians to claim asylum in the United States was “without any factual basis”.
But according to the Barnabas Fund, a charity working on the behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide, statistics on Syrian refugees in America suggest that Trump’s statement is evidence based. The charity has called upon the BBC to apologise for the misleading statement and issue a correction. So far the corporation has failed to do so.
The BBC’s report was prompted by an interview President Trump gave to a Christian TV network, in which he confirmed that he will be altering the U.S. refugee policy to prioritise persecuted Christians.
Trump told the interviewer: “They [Syrian Christians] have been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very, very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian it was almost impossible.”
During the January 29 edition of News at 10, the BBC’s New York correspondent, Nick Bryant reported on Trump’s comments, saying: “In an interview with an evangelical television network [President Trump] claimed without any factual basis the old Obama policy favoured Muslims over Christians”.
But a spokesman for the Barnabas Fund said: “This sweeping assertion broadcast by the BBC was not only wholly untrue, it was also potentially damaging to tens of thousands of Syrian Christian refugees.”
The charity has pointed to figures showing that, of the thousands of Syrian refugees arriving in the USA last year only 56 people in total were Christians, equivalent to 0.5 percent of the total, while the vast majority – 99 per cent – were Sunni Muslims.
This is despite Christians making up 10 per cent of the pre-war population in Syria, and the fact that in March 2016, then US Secretary of State John Kerry declaring that Christians were facing genocide in the region.
Kerry also named Shia Muslims and Yazidis as groups at risk of genocide, yet only 20 Shia individuals and 17 Yazidis came to the U.S. in 2016.
“Whatever one thinks of President Trump, it was wholly wrong for the BBC to make the sweeping claim that suggesting the previous administration’s policy disadvantaged Christians was “without any factual basis,” the spokesman said.
The charity has called on the BBC to issue “an immediate correction”, writing to the BBC’s Director-General Lord Hall of Birkenhead to highlight “the damage such an erroneous statement could have for Syrian Christian refugees.”
No correction has yet been issued.
Further requests to the BBC for a response, again highlighting the potential for damage the statement held for Syrian Christians, were made by the Barnabas Fund in the following days, but according to the charity “the BBC repeatedly declined to comment.”
The Barnabas Fund’s spokesman said: “These actions are deeply irresponsible and wholly unjustified. False news statements need to be corrected immediately, particularly when they come from a broadcaster of such international standing as the BBC. This issue is particularly glaring as the BBC has just set itself up as a fact-checking unit to vet what it calls “false news” posted on the internet.”
The Barnabas Fund has confirmed it will be making a formal complaint to the BBC Trust.
A BBC spokesperson has told Breitbart London: “Nick Bryant’s report was informed by analysis from the Pew Center, which show that overall broadly equal numbers of Christians and Muslim refugees were admitted to the US in 2016. There is no evidence a disparity in the numbers coming from Syria has arisen because of actions by the United States.”
Barnabas Fund refute this claim, saying: “There have been claims that the previous administration could not have been discriminating against Christians as the total numbers of Christian (44 per cent) and Muslim refugees (46 per cent) admitted to the USA were similar. However, this is a misuse of statistics because these totals primarily reflect which countries have crises causing refugee movements.
“It is therefore almost impossible, using that kind of raw data, to say anything meaningful about whether Christians/Muslims are being discriminated against. However, where Christians are BOTH being specifically targeted as they are in Syria AND very significantly underrepresented in the number given entry to the USA then it is almost certain that they are facing significant discrimination.”
The BBC spokesman added: “We stand by our journalism. There are established procedures that are open to Barnabus Fund to follow if they remain unhappy with our impartial journalism. Any correspondence we receive will of course receive full consideration and reply.”