October 28th saw the publication of a report headlined “Washington Post criticised, and lampooned, over Baghdadi headline” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘US & Canada’ pages.
“The Washington Post faced criticism on Sunday for calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group who had died the day before, an “austere religious scholar”.
The newspaper amended its headline to call him an “extremist leader”.
Vice president of communications Kristine Coratti Kelly said the headline “should never have read that way and we changed it quickly”. […]
The first version of the Washington Post’s headline called Baghdadi “terrorist-in-chief”, before it was changed to “austere religious scholar at the helm of Islamic State”.”
The BBC is of course itself no stranger to problematic portrayals of terrorists and terror attacks. As we have documented on these pages over the years, the corporation has described the terrorist Leila Khaled as “beautiful”, “sultry-eyed”, “iconic” and a “dissident”.
Other Palestinian terrorists have also been portrayed by the BBC as “dissidents” and terms such as “militant”, “guerrilla” and “political prisoner” have been employed in BBC reporting for nearly five decades. In 2014 the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported the death of a Palestinian ‘charity worker’ without mentioning that the PFLP described him as a “fighter commander” in its ranks.
The BBC itself “faced criticism” from multiple sources in 2015 when it reported a fatal double stabbing attack in Jerusalem with the headline “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” and again in 2017 when it reported the murder of an Israeli policewoman with the headline “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem”.
In October 2014 the BBC reported a fatal terror attack with the headline “Nine hurt as car hits pedestrians at Jerusalem station” and the following month a similar attack was covered in an article titled “Driver hits pedestrians in Jerusalem”.
With many more such examples of miserable BBC reporting having been documented, one can but wonder whether or not the BBC will devote any of its attention to the issue of its own record rather than merely highlighting that of other media organisations.