Saturday, December 05, 2015

Sometimes I despair of the BBC ...

It is a common failing of many people involved in politics to be far too ready to decide that press and broadcast media are biased against them.

I always try to keep reminding myself that any impartial news media will sometimes consider they have to report things which I don't believe to be fair, that all news media will make honest mistakes some of which are bound to be against my side of  he argument, and that a political activist who detests the media is like a sailor who detests the sea.

So I try to resist the temptation to think of the BBC as the "Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation" or by any other insulting names.

But my word, sometimes they make it difficult, especially when they do things which politicians of all the major parties agree are wrong.

There are two equally acceptable ways for English speakers to refer to the movement headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi without giving them the propaganda benefit of appearing to recognise their self-description as either "Islamic" or as a state.

One is to refer to in inverted commas and with a prefix such as "So-called"  so as, for example, to refer to them as "the so-called Islamic State."

The other is to use the expression by which they are commonly known in the Arab world, a contraction of the Arabic version of one of their former names, which is "DA'ESH."

(This is a shortened form for the Arabic for one of their former names, e.g. "Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant.)

Most mainstream politicians seem to be moving towards using "DA'ESH" which is the term I have mainly been using for months. But I'm not too upset if the BBC uses "Islamic State" as long as they make liberal use of prefixes such as "so-called" which they do seem to be doing.

However, I am one of those who is very disappointed that the BBC is refusing to apply the word "terrorist" to DA'ESH/ISIL butchers.

If these killers do not count as terrorists, who on earth does?

The BBC has upset more people by trying to justify their policy on the grounds that the word terrorist is too loaded with ‘value judgements’ – something it says it is desperate to avoid. It tells staff:

‘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…We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as “bomber”, “attacker”, “gunman”, “kidnapper”, “insurgent”, and “militant”.’

MPs from several parties, and BBC journalists speaking off the record, have expressed frustration at the corporation's guidelines. A number of BBC reporters have privately expressed frustration that they were not able to describe the perpetrators of the recent Paris attacks accurately.
 
One insider said: ‘It’s inappropriate. Of course we should be allowed to call them terrorists. We just appear out of step with the public.’

Another BBC journalist told the Daily Mail that although the rules ‘made a lot of sense’ during the IRA bombings, when they were originally drawn up, they urgently need to be redrawn for the current era.
 
‘I accept that in Northern Ireland, where there are licence fee payers who might not regard Gerry Adams as a terrorist, it was a difficult issue. But I also think it is pretty clear to everyone that IS are terrorists. The guidelines are just silly,’ said a BBC news source.

It's past time for the BBC to listen to what both MPs throughout the political spectrum, and their own journalists, are saying; time to call a spade a spade and a terrorist a terrorist.

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