The introduction to the BBC’s guidance document on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ states:
“Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. 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.”
As documented here extensively, the BBC adheres to that guidance when reporting on terror attacks against Israelis. However when reporting on terrorism in some other locations, the BBC displays markedly less commitment to avoiding “value judgements” and maintaining “consistency”.
The following headline appeared in a report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Africa’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on February 9th:
“Tunisia attacks: Militants jailed over 2015 terror”
As readers may recall, the BBC made appropriate use of the word terror in its 2015 reporting on the second of those attacks. However when BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the inconsistency between that reporting and previous coverage of a terror attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem, the BBC claimed that the two attacks were not comparable and described them as “very different” stories.
When BBC Watch submitted a follow-up complaint we were informed that the BBC was not prepared to engage in any further correspondence on the matter.
This latest headline once again demonstrates that the BBC does not apply its own editorial principles in a uniform and consistent manner. When the corporation wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it claims to try to avoid.