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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Trouble with the T-word?
Grab of BBC News 24
Early BBC reports used the word terrorist on TV, radio and online

The BBC has been accused of confusion, political correctness and double standards over its policy on the word "terrorist" by some audience members.

When news of the London bombings first broke last Thursday, the word "terrorists" was used to describe the perpetrators across TV, radio and the BBC News website.

That sparked complaints from audience members who argued that since the BBC does not use the word to describe many other acts of violence around the world - such as the Middle East, Spain and Northern Ireland - why had it used it in this instance?

Others have since argued that there has been a shift in BBC policy and the word has now been banned - a claim fuelled by reports in the national media - in favour of the word "bombers".

Website user Bill Carter, from the US, said: "Terrorists do exist. Call them what they are."

And Steve Barber, from Andorra, asked: "Persons unknown put bombs in at least four places, randomly killing an unknown number of innocent civilians and you just can't bring yourselves to call them terrorists? Do you have a dictionary?"

The BBC has issued the following statement on the issue to clarify its policy:

It is not the case that the BBC has stopped using the word 'terrorist'.

The word terrorist is not banned from the BBC. We try to be as precise as possible in our language and the word 'bomber' is a more precise description, but we also use the word 'terrorist'.

BBC Editorial Guidelines are advisory but editors will exercise their own judgement on a case- by-case basis.

The guidelines are aimed to support the BBC's journalism not only in the UK but around the world and to cover a wide spectrum of global and political scenarios.


They advise that we should report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly but that we should take care in the use of language that we use in our own scripts and reports.

Please follow the link to BBC Editorial Guidelines in Related links on this page.

In fact, we've used the word terrorist on our main news bulletins, and the perpetrators have been described as such on numerous occasions in recent days by BBC reporters and independent commentators.

No one who has followed the BBC coverage of the London bombings could be in any doubt of the full horror of the atrocity.


The following is a reflection of the views NewsWatch has received about the BBC's policy.

A horse is a horse, and a terrorist is a terrorist. Only a news organisation such as BBC... could apply political correctness to terrorist mass murderers. Is there nobody left at BBC with British common sense?
Cyber Pro, Switzerland

I'd just like to offer my words of support on the BBC's decision to stop using the word terrorist in the coverage of the London bombings. It shows that the BBC is acting responsibly and not responding to temptation for media hysteria that has plagued both sides of the Atlantic regarding veiled threats ever since 9/11. Please keep it up. It is about time the media separated the word terror - which essentially means fear - with bombings. For bombings is what they are - it is not a phantom enemy of fear.
Mark Seaden, England

Terrorists do exist. Call them what they are.
Bill Carter, USA

It's a shame on England that the BBC has idiots in charge that are afraid to call a real terrorist what they are. The guys who blew up your London subway and bus were terrorists. How stupid are you not to see this?
Nate Smith, US

Why don't you just say it like it is? These bombers of yours are terrorists, plain and simple.
Brian O'Hare, New York

Persons unknown put bombs in at least four places, randomly killing an unknown number of innocent civilians and you just can't bring yourselves to call them terrorists? Do you have a dictionary? What ideological or political purpose do you serve by refusing to call a spade a spade?
Steve Barber, Andorra

I am disappointed and saddened that the BBC are no longer referring to the perpetrators of the London bombings as terrorists. The desire of the perpetrators was quite obviously an attempt to instil fear and terror in an innocent population. Referring to the terrorists with such sanitary and politically correct terms such as 'bombers' really does not do them justice. I lobby the BBC to please review your company policy on this matter.
Julian Shutt, UK

I think your PC attitude to not calling terrorists terrorists after they murdered 52 innocent human beings is pathetic.
W Cargill, New Zealand

This morning, a car bomber killed a dozen children. Yet you persist in calling these people "militants". Isn't it time to develop some moral courage and use the word "terrorist" for terrorists?
Don Cox, UK

After treading such a careful line in the last few years of refusing to use the brand name terrorist when innocent civilians are blown up on buses abroad, its noticeable how things suddenly change when the cities, buses and people being killed are closer to home. After the horrific attacks in London last week, the network appeared to throw away its own guidelines. The word terror and terrorist were repeatedly banded about across the BBC spectrum, on television news, radio and BBC online. I, like most people, would agree that the bombings in London were terrorist attacks, but why the double standards?
Adam Greene, Cambridge

While reporting the horrendous bomb attacks in London, you repeatedly used the term "terror" and "terrorist attack" etc. in order to describe the events, perpetrators etc. However in other similar past events around the world, you tend to use terms such as "militants" etc. while specifically avoiding any term related to "terrorism". I understand that this is part of a stated policy of the BBC. Would you please clarify your policy in a clear and unambiguous way to people like myself who are confused about the apparent double standards.
Mike, London

Please immediately cease and desist using the racist and judgmental term "bombers" to describe the young men who detonated themselves in London on July 7. Instead, please use the term "members of the explosives-based community". Thank you.
Thomas Wictor, USA

I hear that the BBC will not be calling the people who bombed the London tubes and bus terrorists anymore. If they are not terrorists, what are they? Let's call a spade a spade and stop being so PC!!
Nadia Casey, New Zealand

The term is terrorist, not bomber. If you had a loved one that was killed or injured, you would probably understand.
Richard Alexander, USA

I'm an Arab living in France. Al Jazeera are discussing your decision to not use "terrorist" about the London bombings. I thank you for your choice, because it shows that you are an objective channel. With British reactions (goverment and media), you have showed to the world that you are a very civilised people, and the world must respect you for that.
Amir, France




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