Wiped off the map?
Did Iranian President Ahmadinejad say Israel should be wiped off the map? There is a body of opinion who argue he did not, and he has been misquoted. The BBC does attribute the quote to him so I thought it might be useful to set out why.
President Ahmadinejad made the remark at a conference. The comment was picked up and translated from the Farsi by the BBC's Monitoring Service. Those who challenge the 'wiped off the map' translation argue other translations would be more accurate, among them:
"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".
They argue the President was merely repeating a quote from Ayatollah Khomeini. They also point out that when subsequently asked about the quote President Ahmadinejad said he had not been advocating practical military action against Israel and that he was saying Israel has no legitimacy as a state.
So why do we continue to use it? The BBC's experts at the Monitoring advise "there is no direct translation into English of the Farsi phrase used by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Therefore there a number of possible ways of rendering the Farsi original into English. However, in the context of the whole passage we believe our original interpretation is an accurate reflection of the words."
At the end of last year after a complaint from a viewer that Andrew Marr had used the phrase "wiped off the face of the map", the position was investigated by the BBC Governors' Complaints Committee (before it was replaced by the BBC Trust). The judgement reads in part:
"The Committee carefully considered the wording of the translation of the speech from a number of sources, including translations from BBC Monitoring and from the Middle East Research Institute in Washington. The Committee also reflected on how the speech had been translated in British newspapers and on Al Jazeera Online. The Committee noted the inherent problem with accuracy in translations. It noted that all the translations varied to a greater or lesser degree, and it was difficult to decide which, if any, was the most accurate. None of the various translations provided any evidence for the charge that Andrew Marr had misrepresented what the Iranian President had said.
The Committee felt that the language used by the Iranian President was highly emotive by its nature and had been recognised as such in the international condemnation of what he had said. Andrew Marr had done nothing more than highlight this in his introduction. The Committee was also clear that neither the language nor the tone used by Andrew Marr could be considered as showing bias."