On September 8th 2013 the BBC News website’s Middle East page offered visitors the opportunity to read a story headlined “Egypt army attacks Sinai militants”.
The link leads to a report now titled “Egypt army launches offensive against Sinai militants” but which originally ran under the same title as that homepage headline. Over the weekend that article was the most read of all the reports on the Middle East page.
Confusingly, readers may also have come across another article at a different URL titled “Egyptian army bombards Sinai militants” which, despite having been last updated some five hours after the initial publication of the other article on the same subject, appears to have run alongside it for some time.
Whilst the BBC’s usual practice of using the euphemism ‘militants’ to describe armed terrorists continues in the version of the report now appearing on the Middle East homepage, we also see some interesting additions to the terminology employed.
“A security official said “dozens” of insurgent suspects had been wounded in the attack.”
“Rebel fighters in the region can threaten Israeli cities with long-range rockets. Weapons are being trafficked across the desert from Sudan and Libya into the Hamas-run Gaza.” [emphasis added]
The Oxford Dictionary defines the noun ‘rebel’ as:
“a person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or leader”
And it defines ‘insurgent’ as:
“a person fighting against a government or invading force; a rebel or revolutionary”
Of course terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula has been going on whilst three different ruling bodies were in power in Egypt – the Mubarak regime, the Morsi government and most recently the current Egyptian army-led administration. The terrorists operating in Sinai are therefore ill-defined as ‘rebels’ or ‘insurgents’: their activity is obviously not dependent upon a specific Egyptian government or leader being in power and the religious dimension to their ideology is not adequately reflected by the use of those terms.
Interestingly, the BBC’s version of the story completely neglects to reflect the links or affiliations of what it at best terms “Islamist militants” in Sinai to Al Qaeda or to mention the presence of foreign terrorists in Sinai and once again the connection between terrorism in Sinai and the Gaza Strip is erased from the picture presented to BBC audiences.