There is a disease that has infected the British media in the name of elitism, so called impartiality and editorial guidelines. Many such policies were adopted some years ago and are now clearly out of date and it is questionable whether they remain fit for purpose.
Sadly, the world we live in has moved on from then and no one would have conceived the level and ferocity of the atrocities that we witnessed last year and currently in Ukraine; and now been repeated on a worse scale in Israel. The unimaginable brutal slaughter / decapitation, point blank indiscriminate shooting, use of hand grenades against sheltering civilians, rape and burning alive of innocent civilians, men, women, fathers, mothers, grandparents, teenagers, toddlers and babies (in their cots), abducting civilians, some are holocaust survivors, taking them hostages and threatening the world with their public executions. All these atrocities need to be called out for what they are, Evil Terrorism perpetrated by heartless and inhumane terrorists. The above barbaric behaviour pale in insignificance with “wild animal behaviour”. For in the wild animals hunt a prey and kill it to survive and then leave the rest of the herd alone.
Yes, there is no denying that editorial policies and procedures have a place and need to be used as guidelines to ensure consistency in reporting. But there is no place for procedures and guidelines to be followed blindly irrespective of evolving situations and level of unimaginable atrocities not thought of some 4/5 years ago. To be effective these guidelines need to be flexible and adaptable to truly reflect and represent today’s reality and potential future realities. More so, there is absolutely no place for these editorial policies to be applied on a selective basis.
It is interesting to note that the bbc (deliberate lower case) senior management has obviously been rattled by the public outcry of the manner and their selective style of reporting of the heinous crimes committed by the terrorist Hamas organisation against Israel, that they felt obliged to bring out their big guns in the shape of John Simpson to defend their indefensible position. I say indefensible position because quick search on the bbc news website reveal interesting double standards being applied and goes completely against bbc stated position of reporting factual impartial news without providing commentary and leaving it up to its audience to make their own interpretations.
During the period from 2015 to March 2023, the search revealed several instances the bbc used the terms “terror” and “terrorist” in their reporting, either the article headline or the body of the article. I refer in particular the atrocities that took place at Bataclan theatre massacre, the Manchester suicide bombing (see website links below), Charlie Hebdo, Westminster and London Bridge attacks among other instances.
The bbc had no qualms calling the Manchester suicide bombing as an act of terror. In fact the bbc article in the aftermath of the above atrocity stated “… It is the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the 7 July bombings in 2005…”. Shouldn’t equivalency, impartiality and consistency also mean that all acts of suicide bombing are also referred to as acts of terror regardless where they occurred?
In a related TV programme broadcast several years later, it referred to the perpetrator of the above atrocity as a terrorist. Shouldn’t the above also apply to all suicide bombers?
If a massacre of civilians at music concert, Paris Bataclan theatre, is considered as an act of terror. Shouldn’t equivalency, impartiality and consistency mean that all of acts of mass killing, mass raping, and use of hand grenades against sheltering civilians in open air concert also referred to as an act of terror.
It should be noted that the bbc has the option of referring to the Supernova concert massacre; the deliberate targeting, indiscriminate killing, point blank shooting and heinous crimes against unarmed civilian as acts of terror only without extending the same label against the organisation behind the perpetrators.
In the same token, the bbc also has the option of referring to the slaughter, burning and decapitation of innocent children and babies in Israeli kibbutzim as acts of terror without extending the same label to the organisation behind the perpetrators, but yet again chose not to do so.
Should impartial editorial policy and reporting be allowed to be influenced and sacrificed because of a perceived threat to the life of reporters? Should news outlet shy from calling atrocities as acts of terror because their concern of reprisal terror attacks on their staff?
It is very clear that the so called bbc editorial policies allows it to refer to atrocities similar to those committed in Israel as acts of terror committed by terrorists. So why and why in the case of acts of terror committed in Israel, and especially the atrocities committed on the 7th of October 2023, the bbc continues to shy away from using the words “terror” and “terrorist” and hide behind the so-called editorial procedures and policies. Is it because “Jews don’t Count”, “Jewish life doesn’t matter” or the nightmare scenario that just because acts of violence and heinous crimes committed against Jews then these acts do not merit the label “terror” and/ or “terrorism”.
It may be too late for the cancerous decease, aptly represented by bbc that inflicted the British media and for the above behemoth to update their antiquated guidelines. But it is not too late for the news presenters and reporters to examine their conscience and decide for themselves whether the so-called guidelines and editorial policies are appropriate or not. Whether it is about time Hamas is called out for what they are a terrorist, coward and criminal organisation (already proscribed as such by western world) or still hide behind past sell by date editorial guidelines and policies. Surely, they have access and seen explicit graphic videos of the atrocities and are aware of previous instances of the bbc references to atrocities as acts of “terror”; doesn’t their conscience tell them there is something fundamentally wrong.
Or and quoting the words of an infamous middle east bbc reporter – how do they sleep at night knowing that they are on wrong side of decency and humanity?
Footnote – since the writing of the above blog it has been reported that the bbc has changed its policy and reference to Hamas will be accompanied by the fact that the organisation has been proscribed as terror organisation by the UK and other countries. A description that falls significantly short on the organisation position on other similar atrocities carried outside Israel. However there is hardly any evidence that description has been actually adopted and used in the bbc output in its radio and TV broadcast in the past couple of days.
Bataclan massacre, the bbc used the word “terror” in two articles’ headlines (see below). Paris terror attacks: ‘I refuse to hate my brother’s killers’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-62013212) and Paris attacks: Survivors who found friendship in marathon terror trial (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-61967284). The above two articles were published in June and July 2022.
Charlie Hebdo attack, the bbc used the word “terror” in the headline of its article. Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30708237). The article was published January 2015.
Manchester Suicide bombing, the bbc article published in May 2017 refers to the attack as “… It is the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the 7 July bombings in 2005…” Manchester attack: 22 dead and 59 hurt in suicide bombing https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-40010124. While in a TV documentary series “The big Cases” shown in March 2023 the bbc chose the title “The Big Cases: Homegrown Terrorist – How was Salman Abedi radicalised?” https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0f5vtly/the-big-cases-homegrown-terrorist