A recent report which appeared in the BBC News website’s ‘London’ section provides an opportunity to take a closer look at the markedly different styles of reporting employed by the BBC when dealing with the issues of terrorism and the glorification of terrorism on its own home turf compared to its reporting of the same issues in the Middle East.
Readers will no doubt recall that the BBC’s coverage of the release of convicted Palestinian terrorists last August included two filmed reports by Yolande Knell – here and here – from the lavish reception laid on by the Palestinian Authority at the time.
In the party-like atmosphere of Knell’s reports, viewers were kept in the dark with regard to the crimes committed by the released convicts, who were described on multiple occasions as “heroes of the Palestinian cause”. Audiences were also encouraged to question the categorization of the released men as terrorists, with that terminology clearly signposted as an “Israeli view”.
As readers are no doubt aware, the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorism is not one which receives BBC coverage and so, unsurprisingly, neither Knell nor any other BBC journalists reporting on this event (or the similar later one) had any comment to make with regard to the fact that the PA organized reception focused on the glorification of the men and their terrorist acts.
In contrast, the February 12th report appearing on the BBC website’s ‘London’ page – titled “Woolwich murder: Man pleads guilty to Rigby videos” – is factual in tone and includes ample use of various forms of the word ‘terrorism’, as do the three “related stories” (which, like Knell’s reports, date from August 2013) promoted by the BBC at the side of the report.
The act of terrorism related to the charges against the man who is the focus of this article is clearly described.
“Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, will be sentenced later this month after they were found guilty of murdering Fusilier Rigby.
The British Muslim converts ran the soldier down in a car before hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives in a frenzied attack.”
Likewise, the man’s own actions are extensively detailed.
Readers are at no point in this article or the related ones prompted to question definitions of terrorism or to regard them as a “view” held by one party or another.
“Commander Richard Walton, head of the Counter Terrorism Command at the Met Police, said the murder had “shocked the nation”.
“We will target and prosecute anyone who glorifies and encourages terrorism in this way; to do so is an act of terrorism itself,” he said.”
And of course at no point are readers encouraged to entertain the idea that the accused man might be “a hero” of a particular “cause”.
The cultural relativism which lies behind the different styles of reporting of these two stories is all too apparent and it of course leads to the adoption of double standards which clearly compromise the BBC’s reputation as an impartial provider of news.