The BBC has been forced to apologize after it suggested that money raised by the famine charity Band Aid had been used to buy weapons.
The broadcaster said it apologized unreservedly for the “misleading and unfair impression” it created.
The suggestion that Band Aid’s millions – intended for famine relief in Ethiopia – had been diverted by rebels occurred in an Assignment programme on the BBC World Service in March this year.
The BBC says: “Although the report did not directly link Band Aid, other BBC outlets suggested its money had been involved.
“The original investigation by BBC World Service Africa editor Martin Plaut included claims that substantial amounts of aid from Western governments and charities went into rebel-held areas of Tigray province in 1985 and was used to buy weapons.”
The allegation also went out on other BBC outlets as a result of the Assignment report.
The Band Aid Trust complained to the BBC, and its Editorial Complaints Unit investigated. It concluded that there was no evidence.
Band Aid co-founder and trustee Bob Geldof said it had been an unusual lapse in standards by the BBC.
Journalist and humanitarian role
“It was [reporter] Michael Buerk’s frontline reports for the BBC from Ethiopia [in 1984] which prompted me to act and establish Band Aid in the first place and I recognize the important journalistic and humanitarian role the BBC has played in our story,” said Geldof.
“We welcome the BBC’s apologies and hope that the public corrections can begin to repair some of the appalling damage done, and move forward.”
The BBC says in a statement that it accepts that it should have better made it clear that the allegations did not relate specifically to Band Aid.
“Assignment did not make the allegation that relief aid provided by Band Aid was diverted. However the BBC acknowledges that this impression could have been taken from the programme,” the statement said, adding:
We also acknowledge that some of our related reporting of the story reinforced this perception.
We note that the ruling validates the main thrust of the programme’s journalism: that there was evidence from a number of sources that the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front had diverted money intended for famine relief and that some of this was spent on weapons.”
All BBC outlets that broadcast the claim will make their individual apologies.