British government ministers on Saturday criticized the BBC for refusing to show a charity fundraising appeal for Palestinians in the war-hit Gaza strip.
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The national broadcaster said it had rejected the ad because showing it might harm the BBC's reputation for impartiality and because it could not be sure humanitarian aid would reach the needy in the chaotic territory.
Britain's main private broadcasters also turned down the ad.
International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said the BBC had made the wrong decision. He called on the BBC to reconsider, "to recognize the immense human suffering and to address the concern which I think otherwise may develop that somehow the suffering of people in Gaza is not taken as seriously as the suffering of people in other conflicts."
Health minister Ben Bradshaw called the BBC's decision inexplicable and accused the publicly funded broadcaster of being cowed by the Israeli government. "I am afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally," Bradshaw said.
The BBC has given free air time to previous appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella for groups including the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children. The appeals have raised millions of pounds (dollars) for victims of war and natural disaster in Congo, Myanmar and elsewhere.
BBC director-general Mark Thompson said the Gaza crisis was "an ongoing and highly controversial news story." He said the BBC had decided "that to broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully couched, ran the risk of calling into question the public's confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its coverage of the story as a whole."
Demonstrators planned to gather outside a BBC building in central London Saturday to protest Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territory.