BBC won’t call Hamas terrorists because it fears losing access to Gaza, Kirsty Young claims

The broadcaster has been mired in controversy over its characterisation of Hamas


LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: Kirsty Young arrives for The Royal Television Society Programme Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel on March 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)

The BBC is refusing to call Hamas terrorists because it fears being banned from reporting in Gaza if it uses the term, Kirsty Young has suggested. 

The corporation has so far refused to label Hamas terrorists, but recently said it would no longer use the term "militants" to describe the terrorist group.

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

Speaking about the corporation's stance on the terror group, Young told The Adam Buxton Podcast: “It’s not necessarily the BBC that is talking about the use of the word terrorism.

"They’re answering criticism from the outside and I guess as long as - especially when it comes to something in the Middle East - if you’re getting roughly the same amount of complaints from both sides, which they are, then you kind of know you’re doing an OK job.

“And I think this whole reporting that it is a proscribed terror organisation with reference to Hamas then that is a legitimate stance if you want to continue to have access and to report what is happening in those places.

“Because what you don’t want to do is get thrown out of places because you’re not allowed to report any more.

“You want to have access. You know the whole point of the BBC in news terms is to show people the evidence as fairly as they possibly can.”

Young added that BBC journalists had to be “very mindful with language” if the corporation wanted access to Gaza. 

She said: “I think it's understandable they're doing that. It's a very, very difficult job to get around.

“You look at somebody like Jeremy Bowen, I don't think there's a single person that I've heard speak about or write about the Middle East that explains it as concisely and in terms that I can understand and as fairly as he does.”

She concluded: “There’s a reason that people trust the BBC news site, and it’s because it was verified by three sources, and it’s because they’re the biggest news organisation in the world.”

Young has previously presented news for Channel 5 and ITV and fronted the later part of the BBC's television coverage of the state funeral of Elizabeth II last September.

She also presented BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs from 2006 to 2018 and Crimewatch on BBC One from 2008 to 2015. 

Asked about Young’s comments, the BBC referred to a previous statement on it's reporting of the ongoing conflict.

It said: “Our coverage of the unprecedented assault on Israel by Hamas has made clear the nature of the atrocities committed and the impact this has had on civilians.

“Across our reporting we have explained that Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by many Western governments, including the UK.

“We have reflected the response from the international community to Hamas’ actions, and featured contributors who have described them as terrorists.

“We have given careful consideration to all aspects of our reporting of the Israel-Gaza conflict, both in terms of Hamas’ attacks and Israel’s response – this includes the language that we use.

“The BBC is editorially independent; our role is to explain precisely what is happening so that the public can make their own judgements.

“Our longstanding position, including during previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, has been that we do not use the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution, in line with the BBC’s editorial guidelines.”

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