By Charlotte Tobitt, PressGazette, Oct. 11, 2023

The BBC has defended its decision not to refer to Gaza-headquartered Hamas as “terrorists” in its reporting of attacks which have cost more than 1,000 lives in Israel this week.

The broadcaster has frequently referred to Hamas as “militants” rather than “terrorists” in its coverage since the group launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

For example, one headline read: “Watch: Israeli festivalgoer kidnapped by Hamas militants.” Another story, written by international editor Jeremy Bowen reporting from Israel, was headlined: “Inside Kfar Aza where Hamas militants killed families in their homes.”

Some news organisations may try to avoid using either word in a headline where nuance is harder to include. But ITV News has referred, without attributing the phrase to a witness or expert, to “terror attacks by Hamas fighters” in its reporting this week.

Longtime BBC correspondent John Simpson defended the broadcaster’s position. He wrote on X/Twitter: “British politicians know perfectly well why the BBC avoids the word ‘terrorist’, and over the years plenty of them have privately agreed with it.  Calling someone a terrorist means you’re taking sides and ceasing to treat the situation with due impartiality.

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Also see: How CBC News uses the words ‘terrorist,’ ‘terrorism’