The BBC will no longer use the phrase “terror attack” in new editorial guidelines.
BBC journalists will now refer to terror attacks by location and the methods used when atrocities were carried out. The only exception is when quoting a source or someone else using the word.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a “terrorist” is “someone that uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”.
It means that terror attacks, such as Hamas terror that has targeted Israel in the past, would in future avoid any suggestion that the violence was political or ideological. Journalists would also avoid using the term to describe the appalling events that took place at locations such as London Bridge or the Manchester Arena – despite the corporation using the phrase at the time of the attack.
But the news hasn’t been welcomed by all.
Former Home Office advisor and head of think tank Civitas, told the Daily Express: “If they don’t want to use that then they’re failing in their public service duty which is to be clear and accurate.
“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 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.”
The planned editorial guidance formalises a reluctance by the BBC to use the phrase. For example in June 2016, CUFI reported how BBC was among the UK’s main news channels that dropped the word “terror” to describe an attack in which Palestinian terrorists killed four people and wounded six others after opening fire at a restaurant area in central Tel Aviv.
The inconsistency, which the BBC would claim is the reason for the changes, often lead to subsequent reporting errors such as placing the perpetrator as the victim or omitting to mention “terror attacks” in Israel. For example, CUFI reported in August 2017 how BBC and Sky listed all car-ramming attacks that year throughout the world, except those in Israel – where in fact car-ramming terror attacks were first used as a chosen method for attack.
Reiterating opposition to the new rule, Tory 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.”
But according to the Daily Mail, many BBC reporters are angered by the decision to ban the phrase, which comes into force when new editorial guidelines are published this month.