The latest BBC reporting on the Munich Olympics terror attack

Five years ago we documented the BBC’s failure, for the most part, to describe the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre as a terror attack and its Black September group perpetrators as terrorists:

REVIEWING THE LANGUAGE USED IN BBC REPORTS ON THE MUNICH OLYMPICS MASSACRE

On July 31st news of an agreement concerning compensation to remaining relatives of the victims of that attack half a century ago prompted several BBC reports.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard several reports from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman in news bulletins. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

‘PM’ (from 03:42 here):

Newsreader: “Germany has reached a compensation deal with family members of the Israelis killed during an attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics. The relatives have been threatening to boycott a memorial ceremony next week to mark the 50th anniversary of the atrocity. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “On September the fifth 1972, eleven Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinians from the Black September group. The hostage taking killing [sic] took place amid a botched German security operation which also led to the death of a local police officer and the Israeli families have long sought more than the initial compensation sum they were given. Under the agreement twenty-three relatives will share a total of 24 million pounds. A joint statement by the German and Israeli presidents welcomed the move. They said it could not heal wounds but showed Germany accepted responsibility for the security flaws and recognised the terrible suffering of the victims.”

‘Six O’Clock News’ (from 19:40 here):

Newsreader: “Germany has reached a compensation deal with the families of the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The announcement comes days before the 50th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian militants. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Bateman: “On the 5th of September 1972, Palestinians from the Black September group broke into the Olympic village in Munich. They were disguised as athletes and hid guns and grenades in duffle bags. They murdered two members of the Israeli team and took nine more hostage. They were killed during the botched German security operation that followed. Ever since, the event has been the subject of deep friction between the Israeli and German governments. The victims’ families felt betrayed by the woeful security arrangements of the time and have long felt there was indifference and insensitivity towards them afterwards. They received some compensation from the German authorities in the following years but have long sought more, this year threatening to boycott a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Olympics [sic]. The new agreement will see 23 relatives receive around a million pounds each. A joint statement by the German and Israeli presidents welcomed the move. They said it couldn’t heal wounds but showed Germany accepted responsibility and recognised the terrible suffering of the victims.”

‘The World Tonight’ (from 04:46 here):

Newsreader: “Germany has reached a compensation deal with the families of the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the Munich Olympics in 1972, days before the 50th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian militants. The new agreement will see 23 relatives receive around a million pounds each. A joint statement…in a joint statement the German and Israeli presidents said they were happy and relieved that an agreement had been reached. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Bateman: “On the 5th of September 1972, Palestinians from the Black September group broke into the Olympic village in Munich. They were disguised as athletes and hid guns and grenades in duffle bags. They murdered two members of the Israeli team and took nine more hostage. They were killed during the botched German security operation that followed. Ever since, the event has been the subject of deep friction between the Israeli and German governments. The victims’ families felt betrayed by the woeful security arrangements of the time and have long felt there was indifference and insensitivity towards them afterwards. They received some compensation from the German authorities in the following years but have long sought more, this year threatening to boycott a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Olympics [sic].”

The upcoming ceremony described twice by Bateman as “marking the 50th anniversary of the Olympics” is in fact a memorial ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the terror attack.

Listeners to BBC World Service radio heard a longer item on the topic in the August 31st evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 18:48 here) which included one mention of the phrase ‘terror attack’.

Menendez: “Next week a ceremony will be held to mark 50 years since the terror attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian militants belonging to the group Black September. The families of those killed had threatened to boycott the event because even after half a century, no agreement had been reached with the German government over compensation for their disastrous handling of the incident. Today though, an eleventh-hour deal was finally struck and the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has been telling me more.”

Throughout the rest of the item the terrorists are described by Bateman as “Palestinians, members of the Black September group” and “hostage takers”. Listeners were told that the perpetrators were “demanding release of hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails” but were not informed why those Palestinians were imprisoned or that the list also included two prominent members of the Red Army Faction held in German prisons.  

The report on this story which will remain as ‘permanent public record’ appeared on the BBC News website on August 31st under the headline ‘Munich Olympics massacre compensation deal struck’.

Credited to Malu Cursino, that report follows the usual BBC practice of avoiding the words ‘terrorists’ and ‘terror attack’. [emphasis added]

“Germany has agreed a compensation deal with the relatives of Israelis killed during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Eleven Israeli athletes were killed after being taken hostage by members of a Palestinian militant group.

The €28m (£24m) deal was struck days before the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. […]

Members of the Israeli team were taken hostage inside the Olympic village by Palestinian gunmen from the Black September group.

Two were shot dead almost immediately, while the others were killed during a gun battle with West German police at a nearby airfield, as the militants tried to take them out of the country.”

As is well known, the BBC’s editorial guidelines dictate the use of euphemisms such as ‘gunman’ and ‘militant’, claiming that “[t]he word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding”. 

Half a century after the Munich Olympics terror attack, only one of these five BBC reports referred to it as such and all refrained from describing the perpetrators as terrorists. None of the five reports noted the links between Black September and Fatah and the PLO and none addressed the still relevant issue of Palestinian Authority glorification of that terror attack. One can therefore only wonder what kind of “understanding” the BBC believes it is aiding with its continued use of euphemisms fifty years on. 

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1 Comment

  1. says: Grimey

    The Jewish Chronicle printed Baroness Deech’s letter to the BBC criticising its featuring of Abdel Atwan on “Dateline London” without a counter to his known anti-Israel bias – and she accuses them of “glorifying terrorism” by so doing.
    The BBC’s refusal to call terrorists what they are – describing them only as “militants” – also glorifies terrorism by implication that they are some sortof heros.

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