THE BBC has been criticised for a “lazy and inaccurate” description of a French Jew accused of spying as a “notorious Jewish spy”.
In a description for a new BBC Four drama Paris Police 1900, the broadcaster referred to Captain Alfred Dreyfus – who became the centre of the Dreyfus Affair – in a way that “implies he was actually a spy when he wasn’t”, according to Jewish News web editor Jack Mendel.
The Dreyfus Affair was largely seen as a notable example of antisemitism and miscarriage of justice, as Captain Dreyfus was wrongly accused of selling military secrets to the Germans.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Mendel called it “lazy and inaccurate”, and explained that a more accurate description of him would have been “the accused Jewish spy”.
Mr Mendel added that “from what I’ve heard, the series is excellent”, but that he felt like “this is clumsy, out-of-context language”.
“I really like the BBC, and think sometimes carelessness can be perceived as spite or deliberate attempts to offend,” he said. “This isn’t that.”
The offending description was also used by BBC Points of View in a tweet asking if they thought the show was a hit.
Instead, many responded angrily to him being called a spy.
The description has since been corrected to refer to Captain Dreyfus as having been “arrested for spying”, though the tweet remains as of Monday morning.
A BBC spokesperson told Mr Mendel: “The sentence was not intended as an historical statement, but to reflect the rumours towards the Dreyfus case that we see in the drama – which also depicts the rise of antisemitism.”
Mr Mendel remarked that it was “good it was corrected”.
The Dreyfus Affair began when Captain Dreyfus was convicted of treason in 1894. He was an Alsatian artillery officer of Jewish descent.
He was sentenced to life in prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana, where he spent nearly five years.
Following an investigation instigated by Georges Picquart, head of French counter-espionage, in 1896 Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy was identified as the culprit of the leak.
However, high-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence as they claimed the matter had already been decided. They did not want to admit to the embarrassment of such a major miscarriage of justice, and so would rather keep an innocent man imprisoned.
Leading French military officials even sought to. “Brinkwire Summary News”.