BBC apologises after its reporter asks if there are lesbians in Morocco women’s football team

BBC apologises after its reporter asks if there are lesbians in Morocco women’s football team

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was forced to issue an apology after one of its reporters asked a highly objectionable and inappropriate question to the captain of the Moroccan women’s football team during the ongoing FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The Moroccan women’s World Cup team captainGhizlane Chebbak was questioned by a BBC reporter on Tuesday about whether any of her football teammates were lesbians, which invited a massive outrage against the channel, after which the British channel issued an apology.

At a press conference on Sunday before the Moroccan team’s match against Germany, a BBC reporter questioned captain Ghizlane Chebbak if there are any lesbian players in the team, given that gay relationship is banned in Morocco. The reporter asked, “In Morocco, it’s illegal to have a gay relationship. Do you have any gay players in your squad and what’s life like for them in Morocco?”

Ghizlane Chebbak and the Moroccan coach were visibly uncomfortable at the question. In answer to the question, Chebbak frowned and took off her earphones before turning to her coach and laughing. Before Chebbak could react, a FIFA representative intervened, claiming the question was “political” and directing the media to stick to questions relating to football.

The press conference moderator said, “Sorry, this is a very political question, so we’ll just stick to questions relating to football.” However, the BBC reporter insisted that the Moroccan football team captain answer the question.

“No,” the reporter said, “it’s not political.” “It’s about people. It’s got nothing to do with politics. Please let her answer the question.” The moderator then disregarded the reporter’s comments and continued with the press conference by allowing one more question from another reporter.

Apart from being inappropriate, the question was also a safety risk for the players. Because, any revelation of same-sex relationships in the team could result in serious reputations, as gay relationship s are banned in Morocco. According to Human Rights Watch, Morocco is one of at least 67 nations that have made same-sex intimacy a criminal offence. Further, according to the international advocacy group, Moroccans who break the law might spend six months to three years in jail.

After a massive outrage from all sections, the BBC issued an apology on Tuesday. A BBC spokesperson said: “We recognise that the question was inappropriate. We had no intention to cause any harm or distress.”

A BBC representative considered the question “inappropriate” on Tuesday and claimed the news outlet “had no intention to cause any harm or distress.” Also, other reporters who were there in the room criticized the question on social media. 

CBS Sports reporter Shireen Ahmed tweeted saying, “The reporter was completely out of line. Harm reduction matters and posing the question to the captain or coach was unnecessary. The question was waved off by a FIFA media officer moderating but it shouldn’t have been asked.”

“This isn’t an issue of journalistic freedom. You can inquire about social laws in different places without endangering people. Journalists have an obligation to be fair, accurate and practise with care. If reporting harms someone, it is not only unethical but dangerous,” said Ahmed.

The event wasn’t the first time in recent years that the BBC has faced criticism for its treatment of LGBTQ people.

In 2021, the BBC came under fire from LGBTQ activists for publishing a report titled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women,” which detractors claimed portrayed all trans persons as sexual predators. And just last month, it came under fire from some activists when it revised policies that forbade its reporters from covering LGBTQ Pride celebrations that can be construed as “overt” protests in order to avoid charges of bias.

On Monday, July  24, Morocco played in the Women’s World Cup’s inaugural game, becoming the first team from an Arab or North African country to o qualify for the Women’s World Cup. Germany defeated the team 6-0.

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