BBC bosses: we still use the term 'terror'

By Caitlin Pike

BBC Interactive journalists were sent an internal e-mail telling
them not to describe the London bombings as “terrorist attacks” as it
would “contravene” the BBC’s editorial guidelines.

Language in stories on the BBC website about the attacks was altered after the first reports of the disaster went online.

news interactive sub editor sent the e-mail to the editorial team
saying: “Please can we steer clear of referring to yesterday’s bombings
as ‘terror attacks’

or ‘terrorist attacks’, which contravenes our
guidance. You can usually use another form of words such as ‘bombings’,
‘bomb attacks’ etc.”

The BBC has confirmed stories were changed
and that the e-mail was sent out but said that the sub editor was wrong
to say the use of the words “terrorist attacks” or “terror
attacks” would contravene their guidelines.

BBC head of
television news, Roger Mosey said: “There has been a controversy about
our use of language – particularly the question of whether the BBC
banned the word ‘terrorist’.

“There is no ban. It’s true the word
is contentious in some contexts on our international services, hence
the recommendation that it be employed with care. But we have used and
will continue to use the words terror, terrorism and terrorist when
they’re accurate – as we did in all our flagship bulletins from

The BBC’s new editorial guidelines which come into
force on 25 July state: “We must report acts of terror quickly,
accurately, fully and responsibly. Our credibility is undermined by the
careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements.

word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to
understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution. We
should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we
know them.”

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