Thursday, 13 June 2013

The BBC is not happy with the word "terrorism"

Some extracts from the BBC's editorial guidelines (for the not-too-dissimilar NUJ guidelines click here) -

"Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements....the word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding .....we should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as 'bomber', 'attacker', 'gunman', 'kidnapper', 'insurgent', and 'militant'.....our responsibility is to remain objective..."

"We also need to ensure that when we report acts of terror, we do so consistently in the stories we report .....We have learnt from the experience of covering such events in Northern Ireland as much as in Israel, Spain, Russia, Southern Africa or the many other places where violence divides communities, and where we seek to be seen as objective by all sides, that labels applied to groups can sometimes hinder rather than help....careful use of the word 'terrorist' is essential if the BBC is to maintain its reputation for standards of accuracy and especially impartiality...."

"There is no agreed or universal consensus on what constitutes a terrorist.....terrorism is regarded through a political prism....The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words 'terrorist' or 'terrorist group' can....raise doubts about our impartiality. For example, the bombing of a bus in London was carried out by 'terrorists', but the bombing of a bus in Israel was perpetrated by a 'suicide bomber'.....the use of the words can imply judgement where there is no clear consensus about the legitimacy of militant political groups...."

"Accepting that there are some actions which most people would recognise as a terrorist act - the hand grenade thrown into a crèche, the airport queue machine-gunned - we should still avoid the word. In the first place, our audience is as perceptive as we are, and can make up their own minds...in the second place, there are actions which are not quite so clearly terrorism and we should not be forced into the position of having to make value judgements on each event...'Militants in Gaza launch a rocket attack- terrorists plant bombs in London'...."

After tipping the hat to Hamas, we now come to the grand finale - letting Irish republican terrorists off the hook by focussing on the Omagh bombing's foreign victims, and not the Ulster loyalist ones.

"'It killed fourteen women and three young girls... It killed five men and four young boys...three of them came from County Donegal, another was a 12 year old boy from Madrid.....It killed three generations of one family.....A litany of the dead of the slaughtered innocents' (BBC One News, 16 August 1998). It is worth asking yourself what the use of the word 'terrorist' would have added to that simple but powerful statement of what had happened."


1 comment:

  1. Terrorism is coercion of others for ideological reasons.

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