Four of Britain's top lawyers have complained to Ofcom over the BBC's refusal to label Hamas 'terrorists' after its attacks on Israel.The corpora
The corporation last night defended its decision not to describe Hamas militants as ‘terrorists’ in its coverage of the deadly attacks in Israel, despite receiving a huge backlash from politicians and those within the Jewish community.
The broadcaster’s refusal continues despite King Charles condemning the ‘barbaric acts of terrorism’ while the Prince and Princess of Wales spoke of their distress following ‘Hamas’s terrorist attack’.
Instead, the BBC refers to Hamas as a ‘militant’ group and described the slaughter of civilians as a ‘militant’ attack.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis accused broadcasters of trying to ‘wilfully mislead’ by not using the word terrorist, while Defence Secretary Grant Shapps called on the corporation to ‘get the moral compass out’ and Labour leader Keir Starmer urged the broadcaster to ‘explain’ its reasoning.
Lord Wolfson KC, Lord Pannick KC, Lord Grabiner KC and Jeremy Brier KC have now accused the BBC of failing to show impartiality ‘beyond doubt’ by describing Hamas in ‘more sympathetic terms’ as ‘militants’.
The four senior lawyers signed a letter calling on Ofcom to investigate. In a letter shared on X, they said: ‘On 7th October 2023, Hamas launched a large invasion of the State of Israel which resulted variously in the slaughter, rape and abduction of over a thousand Israeli citizens. There is nothing controversial about that. It is a fact.
Israeli soldiers patrol near burned and destroyed houses near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers patrol near burned houses after an attack by Hamas terrorists on this kibbutz near the border with Gaza
Lord Wolfson KC, Lord Pannick KC, Lord Grabiner KC and Jeremy Brier KC have now accused the BBC of failing to show impartiality ‘beyond doubt’ by describing Hamas in ‘more sympathetic terms’ as ‘militants’
Last night Mr Simpson took to X to defend his employer’s decision
‘The BBC has fallen well below the standards expressed in its Editorial Values in reporting of that invasion and the consequences therefrom.’
They added that Hamas being a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK ‘is not a matter of debate or discussion. It is a matter of legal fact’.
The lawyers accused the BBC of ‘watering down’ the way Hamas is described. They signed the letter alongside Lord Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel.
The broadcaster justified its language use in the name of impartiality, adding its job is to explain ‘precisely what is happening on the ground so audiences can make their own judgement’.
BBC director of editorial policy David Jordan said not using the word terrorist was a ‘very long-standing policy’ which had ‘stood the test of time’. He added: ‘We’ve called them massacres, we’ve called [them] murders, we’ve called them out for what things are and that doesn’t in any way devalue the awfulness of what is going on.’
The spokesperson for the BBC said: ‘We always take our use of language very seriously. Anyone watching or listening to our coverage will hear the word ‘terrorist’ used many times – we attribute it to those who are using it, for example, the UK Government.
‘This is an approach that has been used for decades, and is in line with that of other broadcasters.
Four of Britain’s top lawyers have complained to Ofcom over the BBC ‘s refusal to label Hamas ‘terrorists’ after its attacks on Israel. They signed a letter alongside Lord Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel
Houses are left in ruins in southern Israel after Hamas militants shot at and killed civilians in homes days earlier near the border with Gaza
A boy walks past buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Wednesday
‘The BBC is an editorially independent broadcaster whose job is to explain precisely what is happening ‘on the ground’ so our audiences can make their own judgement.’
BBC editorial guidelines say terrorism is an ’emotive subject with significant political overtones’ and ‘terrorist’ can be a ‘barrier rather than an aid to understanding’.
Nick Robinson, a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said on social media: ‘I understand entirely why some want the word ‘terrorism’ used. It is, though, the long-standing practice of BBC, ITV and Sky to report others using that language rather than using it ourselves.’
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has raised the issue with BBC director-general Tim Davie and made clear her view that these were ‘acts of terror carried out by a terrorist organisation’.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that by calling Hamas ‘militants’, the BBC ‘not only offers legitimacy to their government, but also denies the fact that they commit atrocities’.
Former BBC journalist Jon Sopel said the corporation’s editorial guidelines were ‘no longer fit for purpose’.
The King unequivocally condemned the ‘barbaric acts of terrorism’ inflicted on Israel
William and Kate were described as being ‘profoundly distressed’ at the ‘devastating’ events.
But the decision has seen a number of BBC stars rally around their employer, including the corporation’s veteran foreign correspondent John Simpson defended the coverage claiming ‘calling someone a terrorist means you’re taking sides’.
Mr Simpson took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to defend his employer’s decision, claiming ‘British politicians know full well’ why it avoids using the word terrorist.
He wrote: ‘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.
‘The BBC’s job is to place the facts before its audience and let them decide what they think, honestly and without ranting.
‘That’s why, in Britain and throughout the world, nearly half a billion people watch, listen to and read us. There’s always someone who would like us to rant. Sorry, it’s not what we do.’
MailOnline has contacted the BBC for further comment.