The BBC has publicly defended its decision not to directly call Hamas militants “terrorists”, despite harsh criticism received even from prominent members of the British Government. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps described public television’s policy as “bordering on the shameful” and said the BBC needs “a moral compass.”

Culture Minister Lucy Frazer personally reminded CEO Tim Davie that we are facing “acts of terror perpetrated by a terrorist organization.” And The Daily Mail, the tabloid that sets the agenda of Rishi Sunak’s Government, openly headlined on its front page: “The King calls them terrorists, why can’t the BBC do it?”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, while visiting Israel, urged the public broadcaster to review its policy. And even Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer warned that the BBC must explain why it is not using the word: “I have said terrorism and terrorists, and to me it is obvious that is what we are seeing.”

The BBC uses the term “militants” in its news and information, but insistently reminds us that Hamas “is classified as a terrorist organization by several countries, including the United Kingdom” (presenter Clive Myrie, special envoy to Jerusalem, recalled this four times on the main news program at ten o’clock on Wednesday night).

“We always take the use of language very seriously,” explained a BBC spokesperson. “Anyone listening to our coverage will hear the word ‘terrorists’ many times, attributed to whoever uses it, for example the British Government.”

“It is an approach that has been used for decades and is aligned with what other television stations do,” the aforementioned spokesperson clarified. “The BBC is editorially independent and its job is to explain what is happening on the ground, so that the audience can make their own judgments.”

Veteran war correspondent John Simpson waded into the controversy, recalling how “British politicians know perfectly well why the BBC avoids the word ‘terrorist'” and how “many of them have privately acknowledged that they agree with that decision.” .

“Calling someone a terrorist means taking sides and failing to treat a situation impartially,” Simpson warned. “The BBC’s job is to put the facts in front of the audience, without shouting, and let people decide what they think honestly.”

The director of editorial policy of public television David Jordan has recalled for his part how the decision not to directly use the word “terrorist” has stood the test of time: “We call it massacres, we call it murders, we use terms that do not devalue in absolutely the atrocities we are seeing.

Nick Robinson, BBC4 radio presenter, also defended the policy of directly avoiding the use of “terrorism” and recalled that it is something that channels such as ITV and Sky News also do. Jon Sopel, a former public television presenter, however warned this week that the BBC needs to update its guidelines “because they are no longer fit for purpose”.

Five well-known lawyers led by Lord David Pannick and Lord Stuart Polak (honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel) have meanwhile written a letter to Ofcom, the communications regulator, demanding that the BBC be investigated for having taken part in the conflict and to have given Hamas “more sympathetic treatment.”

“On October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a full-scale invasion of the state of Israel resulting in several episodes of killings, rapes and kidnappings of more than a thousand Israeli citizens,” the letter reads. “This is not at all controversial; it is a fact. The BBC has fallen below its standards expressed in its editorial values ​​in reporting on this invasion and its consequences. There is no doubt that it has failed in its impartiality in “It’s time to refer to Hamas members as ‘militants.'”