BBC Accused of 'Sensationalism' Over Racism Claims

Director of the JCC in Krakow accused the BBC of manipulating his comments in order to bolster a “sensationalist” report on anti-Semitism.

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

training for Euro 2012
training for Euro 2012

The director of the Jewish Community Centre (JCC) in Krakow has accused the BBC of manipulating his comments, used in a documentary, in order to bolster a “sensationalist” report on anti-Semitism and racism in Poland and the Ukraine, the hosts of the Euro 2012 football tournament that began Friday.

The documentary titled “Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate,” which was first screened last week, included footage of Polish fans chanting anti-Semitic slogans, giving Nazi salutes, and showed of a group of Ukrainians attacking Asian fans, Asian News International (ANI) reported. 

The graphic footage prompted the former England defender Sol Campbell to urge fans to stay away from Euro 2012 and "watch it on TV" instead.

"Don't even risk [going] ... because you could end up coming back in a coffin," The Guardian quoted Campbell as saying.

Jonathan Ornstein, Executive Director of the JCC in Krakow, accused the BBC of selective reporting saying that he was "furious" at the way documentary had "exploited me as a source" and claimed it had "used me and others to manipulate the serious subject of anti-Semitism for its own sensationalist agenda."

He added that the BBC had “knowingly cheated” its audience by “concocting a false horror story about Poland. In doing so, the BBC has spread fear, ignorance, prejudice and hatred.”

Ornstein said that he was interviewed for about an hour by a BBC correspondent and had emphasized that the “small number of football fans in Poland engaging in anti-Semitic and racist behavior do not represent Polish society as a whole.” The BBC, he said, had “completely disregarded anything positive I said and aired only comments critical of Poland.”

He said he had suggested that the BBC reporters interview two Israeli members of a Krakow soccer team, but “the reporters responded that this line of inquiry ‘didn’t fit their story,’ a response which perplexed me at the time.”

The BBC, however, rejected Ornstein's comments claiming the station had made it clear that the interview was being carried out in the context of football-related racism and anti-Semitism in Poland. It denied refusing the offer to interview the Israeli players because it "did not fit the story."

“It was made clear to Mr. Ornstein that the interview was being carried out in the context of football-related racism and anti-Semitism in Poland and his contribution was clearly placed in this context in the film,” a spokesman for the BBC said. “The program stated in commentary that he believes that most Poles happily accept other faiths but that football hooligans are yet to catch up with wider Polish society.”