BBC will no longer use the term 'militants' to describe Hamas

The BBC has been mired in controversy over its coverage of the war in Israel and characterisation of Hamas


The BBC has told the Board of Deputies it will no longer use the term "militants" to describe Hamas.

At a meeting today, top brass at the corporation confirmed to the Board it is no longer BBC practice to call Hamas militants.

Instead, it said will characterise the group as "a proscribed terrorist organisation by the UK government and others", or simply as "Hamas".

Commenting on the meeting with BBC director general Tim Davie, Board president Marie van der Zyl said: “We emphasised our outrage at the refusal of the BBC to describe Hamas’s barbaric actions as terrorism and the damaging, false report of the rocket which killed innocent civilians. We will both continue dialogue as well as pursuing legal avenues.”

Tim Davie said: “I would like to thank Marie van der Zyl and Michael Wegier for the meeting today. The BBC is committed to continuing dialogue through this period.”

A BBC spokesperson added: “The BBC regularly meets a range of groups and today met the Board of Deputies of British Jews. During the meeting we confirmed that we will continue to refer to Hamas as a proscribed terror organisation by the UK Government and others.

"What the BBC does not do is use the word terrorist without attributing it, nor do we ban words. We also confirmed that for some days we had not been using ‘militant’ as a default description for Hamas, as we have been finding this a less accurate description for our audiences as the situation evolves.”

Earlier this morning, Jonathan Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the Today programme on Radio 4: "There are no exemptions for violence just because there is a historically complicated background in Israel and Palestine.

"If there is a terrorist attack - and the attack on the kibbutz in Be'eri undoubtedly was - everyone should know there are no special exemptions."

The meeting between Davie and the Board came after lawyers acting for the jewish organisation wrote to the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit calling for an “urgent review” into the organisations editorial processes. 

“The BBC's failure to take due care with the words used, the sources relied upon, and the facts... needs urgent review and correction,” the letter stated.

It went on to say that the Board’s complaint was based on the “unwillingness of the BBC to call Hamas terrorists” and the “willingness of the BBC to accept as facts information provided to it by Hamas, and to question information provided to it by Israel.”

Addressing the events of October 7, the letter noted that when Hamas terrorists attacked southern Israel in the early hours of the day, the BBC consistently referred to them as "militants".

It said: “Instead of referring to Hamas as a terrorist organisation, the BBC output consistently referred to the terrorist organisation as "militants". 

“The news bulletins on 7 October are just one of many that next week, and ongoing.”

Commenting on the events of October 17 when a BBC reporter blamed Israeli forces for the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital rocket blast, the letter said: “There was no attempt to achieve due accuracy. Full credence was given to the Hamas line, and the Israeli line was treated dismissively. 

“In hindsight, it seems clear that there was no actual evidence to support the claims made in that broadcast, and no attempt was made to seek to recognise this failure as the story unfolded.”

On both of these occasions, it was argued that the BBC had failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines.   

The Board wrote to the BBC on the advice of Ofcom’s director of standards and audience protection on Thursday, after the communications regulator received an initial complaint from the organisation on Tuesday

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