By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
November 5, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – The BBC World Service has retracted a report in which it claimed money raised by Live Aid to fight the 1984 famine in Ethiopia was diverted to purchase weapons for Tigrian rebels.
In a broadcast online, the BBC on Thursday apologized to Sir Bob Geldof, the chief organizer of Band Aid, for series of false reports linking Band Aid cash to arms purchases.
“The BBC wishes to apologize unreservedly to the Band Aid Trust for this misleading and unfair impression. The BBC also wishes to apologize unreservedly to the Band Aid Trust for a number of reports on television, radio and online which went further than the programme itself in stating that millions of pounds raised by Band Aid and Live Aid had been diverted to buy arms. The BBC had no evidence for these statements, and they shouldn’t have been broadcast.” The corporation said.
The government of Ethiopia welcomed the apology but complained that band aid apology excluded asking government and people of the country.
“As much as Sir Bob Geldof deserves the apology, it is odd that the apology did not extend to all those who were victims of smear by the BBC report said a statement on Thursday by the Office for Government Communication Affairs on what is called the BBC’s ‘Inadequate and Delayed Apology’.
“The BBC’s apologies should have also included retracting the smear campaigns that allege government is using foreign aid as apolitical weapon to control people and crush dissent.”
The statement went on to calling on other “false campaigners” to similarly retract their unfounded reports of allegation.
“The Ethiopian government urges others like Human Rights Watch to refrain from fabricating similar campaigns aimed to shade images of the country which sooner or later will end up in such humiliation.”
In the run up to Ethiopia’s May 23, 2010 national elections, the BBC World Service broadcast last March, initially claimed that millions of pounds raised by the charity for famine relief in Ethiopia had been used to buy weapons by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group led by Ethiopia’s current prime minister Meles Zenawi.
Mr Geldof who had been outraged by the BBC repots, welcomed the move but warned the BBC’s “misleading and unfair” coverage could damage public faith in charity campaigns.
“This was an unusual lapse in standards by the broadcaster and, most critically, the World Service. It was Michael Buerk’s frontline reports for the BBC from Ethiopia 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”, he was reported as saying.
“On behalf of all those members of the public who have so magnificently donated to Band Aid and Live Aid over the last 26 years, 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.”
Band Aid was a charity super group founded by Sir Bob and Midge Ure to raise money for Ethiopia by releasing the Christmas single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984.