BBC bosses accused of ‘sanitising’ Islamist attacks after it emerges reporters will be told to stop using the word ‘terror’ unless quoting someone else
- BBC journalists will be effectively banned from using the word ‘terror’ in reports
- Their reporters are already advised to steer clear of ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’
- They will refer to terror attacks by naming specific details such as the location
- Yesterday, MPs and experts accused the BBC of ‘failing in its public service duty’
The BBC has been accused of ‘sanitising’ terrorism under plans for an effective ban on journalists using the word ‘terror’.
Reporters will be told to avoid using the word to describe any terror attack, unless they are quoting someone else.
Instead, they will refer to terror attacks by naming specific details, such as the location and the method of slaughter used.
According to well-placed BBC sources, bosses are eager to report terror attacks consistently, regardless of the terrorists’ political ideology. The terrorist attack in Nice, France is pictured above, when an Islamic terrorist drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display in July 2016
The controversial edict means that the BBC will no longer use the phrase ‘terror attack’ to describe the massacres at London Bridge or Manchester Arena, as the corporation did when the atrocities occurred.
Reporters would describe them as the London Bridge van attack or the Manchester Arena bomb attack instead.
But yesterday, MPs and experts accused the broadcaster of ‘failing in its public service duty’.
David Green, a former Home Office adviser and chief executive of the think tank Civitas, said: ‘If they don’t want to use that [the word terror] then they’re failing in their public service duty which is to be clear and accurate.
The new ruling is likely to anger critics who objected to the way the BBC covered the New Zealand terror attack earlier this year. It appeared to avoid using the phrase terror attack by referring to it as the ‘Christchurch shooting’
‘I think there is a common usage, which has some recognition in law, which if you use attempted killing or injury to a political objective, then that’s terrorism.
‘It would be misleading not to say that these are terrorist episodes if they are attempts to advance a political or ideological cause through violence.
‘The Christchurch one [in New Zealand] was someone a bit wacky but he was trying to make a political point, and all the Islamist episodes are aimed at a political outcome.’
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘They are terrorists and these are terror attacks. The BBC should not try to sanitise the behaviour of terrorists by not calling it out.’
According to well-placed BBC sources, bosses are eager to report terror attacks consistently, regardless of the terrorists’ political ideology. But instead of branding them all as terror attacks and risk accusations of bias, it wants to avoid the word altogether.
A senior news source said: ‘It boils down to that phrase, ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’.
Our question is, ‘Is Darren Osborne [who was behind the Finsbury Park terror attack] a terrorist?’ He is being motivated by far-Right thinking, in the same way as the guys in the attack on London Bridge. Consistency will be the key.’
Many BBC reporters are angered by the decision, which will come into force when the BBC’s new editorial guidelines are published this month.
A source said: ‘The end result is a desire to squeeze the word terror out altogether, which many people think is nuts.’
Members of the public are pictured above being evacuated from the arena following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in May 2017. According to The New Oxford Dictionary of English, a ‘terrorist’ is someone who uses ‘violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims’
BBC reporters are already advised to steer clear of ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’, under guidance first drawn up during the IRA bombings.
Guidelines tell staff: ‘Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.’ Presenters use the words ‘militant’ or ‘jihadists’ as substitutes.
The new ruling is likely to anger critics who objected to the way the BBC covered the New Zealand terror attack earlier this year. It appeared to avoid using the phrase terror attack by referring to it as the ‘Christchurch shooting’.
At the time, BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed defended the move, saying there is ‘no agreed definition of what a terrorist is’. However, he said there was no ban on any expression.
According to The New Oxford Dictionary of English, a ‘terrorist’ is someone who uses ‘violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims’.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘People should wait to read the editorial guidelines.’
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