A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

As readers no doubt recall, when a vehicular and stabbing attack took place in London last month, the BBC made appropriate use of the word terror in its reports on the story.

In contrast, the word terror is consistently absent from reports concerning similar acts of terrorism that take place in Israel.

A member of the corporation’s funding public, Mr Neil Turner, wrote to the BBC to ask them to explain that lack of consistency in the use of the term terror. The reply he received includes the following (emphasis added):

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on the attack carried out on Westminster Bridge in London and please accept our apologies for the delay in our response.

The BBC sets out clear parameters on how terms such as “terrorist” might be used:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/terrorism-language/guidance-full

Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.

Thank you again for raising this matter.”

Once again we see that the BBC chooses to deliberately conflate means with ends, putting forward the obviously flawed argument that if a person commits an act of violence against civilians with the purpose of furthering a political or religious agenda in a country in which there is “an ongoing geopolitical conflict”, that is not terrorism but if he does the exact same in a country where there is no such ongoing conflict, it is.

The bottom falls out of that argument when we recall that the BBC did use the term ‘Jewish terrorists’ to describe the perpetrator/s of the arson attack in Duma, despite the existence of an “ongoing geopolitical conflict”.

The corporation’s complaints department also appears to have tried to find a way of dismissing the fact that UK forces are involved in the military campaign against jihadists in Iraq and Syria by means of use of the term “direct physical combat”. Notably, the BBC is apparently not inclined to promote the notion that those actions of a state fighting terrorism might be “considered as terrorist acts”.

While there appears to be no limit to the ‘creativity’ of BBC Complaints when challenged on the issue of the corporation’s double standards and lack of consistency when reporting acts of terror, audiences are of course likely to remain unimpressed by these repeatedly contorted excuses.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

  

 

BBC reports on British student murdered in Jerusalem exclude the word terror

On April 14th a British exchange student was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem.

“The young British woman murdered on Friday in a terror attack in Jerusalem was named as Hannah Bladon, 21, an exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. […]

Bladon died of her wounds after being stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife by a Palestinian terrorist while riding on Jerusalem’s light rail.

An off-duty police officer and a passerby wrestled the terrorist, a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, to the ground before he could harm anyone else. Two other people were lightly injured when the tram made an emergency stop.”

A report on the attack appeared on the BBC News website some two and a half hours after it took place.

Originally titled “Jerusalem stabbing: British woman killed in train attack”, the report was amended numerous times and its headline changed as details emerged and the victim was identified – but the word terror does not appear in any of its thirteen versions.

An additional report on the same story appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘England’ page on April 15th under the title “Hannah Bladon Jerusalem stabbing: Family ‘devastated’ at attack“. The word terror is likewise absent from all versions of that article. 

When British tourists were murdered in Tunisia in 2015, the BBC accurately described the incident as a terror attack. When an attack in which some of the victims were visitors to Britain took place in London in March 2017, the BBC similarly used accurate terminology to describe it to its audiences.

However, when visitors to Israel have been murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, the corporation has consistently refrained from using accurate language to describe those attacks.  

Once again, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism, together with the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’, are glaringly apparent.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

 

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

Just one day after having refrained from describing a car ramming attack against Israelis as terror, BBC News did use that word in its reporting on a vehicular attack in Stockholm on April 7th.  

The BBC News website’s main report on the incident – “Stockholm lorry rams crowds, killing ‘at least four people’” – informed readers that:

“A lorry has smashed into a store in central Stockholm, killing at least four people.

At least a dozen people were also injured in the incident on Drottninggatan (Queen Street), one of the city’s major pedestrian streets, on Friday afternoon.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said it was a terror attack.”

Readers of that report were provided with analysis by the BBC’s security correspondent:

“I was in Stockholm yesterday, ironically at a security conference. I don’t think Sweden was prepared for something like this.

The last big terror incident they had was in 2010 when a failed suicide bomber blew himself up in a car in central Stockholm.”

The article also included an insert now titled “Timeline: Vehicle ramming attacks in Europe and the US” from which the scores of vehicular attacks against Israelis were of course excluded.

As noted here at the time, BBC reporting on those attacks in Nice, Berlin and London did use the term terror.

CNN produced a similar timeline of vehicular attacks in locations around the world but – in contrast to the BBC – it did include on its list the lorry attack in Jerusalem in January in which four people were murdered and sixteen injured.

Since August 2014 forty separate attacks using trucks, tractors, vans or cars have been perpetrated against Israelis, with images encouraging such attacks commonly appearing in incitement posted on social media. The use of vehicles to carry out terror attacks however goes back still further; what Europe has been seeing in the past nine months has been an all too familiar sight to Israelis for many years.

Many of those attackseven fatal ones – have been ignored by the BBC. Those that were reported have – in contrast to similar incidents on European soil – not been described as terror attacks in the corporation’s own words.

The reason for that double standard lies in the BBC’s failure to distinguish between method and aims, with the result being that when somebody deliberately drives a vehicle into a group of people, the corporation’s description of the attack as terror – or not – depends on the perceived aims and affiliations of the perpetrator.

It is high time for the supposedly impartial BBC to explain its now well-documented double standard when reporting vehicular (and other) attacks to its funding public. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

No use of term ‘terror’ in BBC News report of vehicular attack on Israelis

 

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’ instruct its journalists to avoid unattributed use of the term terrorist and urge consistency of terminology regardless of the story’s location.

“We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.

The word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

The corporation’s accompanying guide on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ similarly states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.”

Under the sub-heading ‘Value Judgements’ the same guidance states:

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, 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”. […]

Some will argue that certain events are so evidently acts of terror (and, therefore, perpetrated by “terrorists”) that those descriptions are reasonable, and non-judgemental. However, the language we choose to use in reporting one incident cannot be considered in isolation from our reporting of other stories. So to use the word in incidents which we may consider obvious creates difficulties for less clear-cut incidents.”

Fortunately, the BBC’s reporting of the terror attack in London on March 22nd did not comply with those guidelines; in multi-platform reports and on social media audiences were told in clear language what the story was about.

As was noted here (Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel) when a vehicular terror attack took place in Nice in July 2016, terror attacks using vehicles have not been afforded the same clarity of description by the BBC when perpetrated against Israelis.

When four people were murdered in a vehicular attack in Jerusalem in January 2017, the BBC did stick to its guideline of only using the word terror with attribution and avoiding the term itself.

Likewise, the BBC consistently refrains from using the word terror to describe stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians or members of the security forces.

When the BBC does manage to report terror attacks in London, Nice, Berlin, Brussels or Paris using appropriate language, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology in coverage of Palestinian attacks on Israelis becomes even more discordant and the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines and guidance is highlighted all the more.

Those guidelines are clearly in need of serious review if the BBC wants its audiences to believe that its reporting is impartial.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe  

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe