Monday, January 31, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Media Bias

In this recent article, the BBC admits they didn't quite get the facts right.
The BBC has apologised for incorrectly broadcasting figures which suggested more Iraqi civilians had been killed by coalition and Iraqi forces than by insurgents.

The information was based on figures given by the Iraqi Ministry of Health to the BBC's Panorama programme. The statistics concerned the number of people killed in conflict-related violence in the second half of 2004.
The figures said that 3,274 civilians had died in that period, 2,041 of them as the result of "military operations". The rest were attributed to "terrorist operations".

The BBC reported the figures as suggesting that coalition and Iraqi forces could be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq.

To summarize, the BBC reported that the Coalition and Iraqi forces were primarily responsible for civilian combat-related deaths. Now, let's see what they needed to correct:
However, the Iraqi Ministry of Health then clarified that the figures included not just civilians, but also insurgents and Iraqi security forces. And it said that the phrase "military operations" referred to Iraqis killed by insurgents as well as coalition or Iraqi forces. The ministry said the BBC had misinterpreted the figures...

"The Iraqi Ministry of Health has issued a statement clarifying matters that were the subject of several conversations with the BBC before the report was published, and denying that this conclusion can be drawn from the figures relating to 'military operations'," said the BBC in a statement.

"The BBC regrets mistakes in its published and broadcast reports."

That's not a small mistake. It's a good thing the BBC has remained objective in their reporting of the War for Iraq. If they hadn't, I might suspect their admitted "mistakes" were anything but "mistakes".