Hundreds of people marched outside the London headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Monday over its editorial coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.
At issue is the BBC’s decision not to use the word “terrorist” to describe Hamas militants who crossed over the border between Israel and Gaza and carried out a mass terrorist attack that left hundreds of Israelis dead two weeks ago.
Israel has responded by striking targets inside Gaza and blocking critical utilities to the region, to include electricity, water and fuel. The country declared war on Hamas shortly after the October 7 attack.
The publicly-funded BBC has been neutral in its coverage of the situation in Israel and Gaza, with editors pointing to various broadcast rules that require it to remain impartial in news reports.
The situation has not sat well with activists, who say the BBC should be allowed to call Hamas militants “terrorists” because senior government officials and members of the Royal Family have done so.
Over the weekend, the front of the BBC’s London headquarters was splashed in red paint, which the Metropolitan Police are investigating as a case of vandalism.
“We are aware of criminal damage to a building in Portland Place, W1A,” a spokesperson for the Met said in a statement. “At this stage there is no suggestion this is linked to any protest group.”
Things became clearer Monday evening after 400 demonstrators assembled outside the BBC’s headquarters to protest what they consider to be the broadcaster’s ineffective coverage of the war.
“You call murderers ‘murderers,’ so why not label terrorists as such?” Gideon Falter, the CEO of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said in an interview with Sky News, adding that he felt labeling Hamas as “militants” made them more-palatable to the British public.
On X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, protest organizers said they weren’t demonstrating to “harm anyone, we aren’t here to cause trouble.”
“We are here to defend ourselves,” the National Jewish Assembly said in a statement. “We are here to get the BBC to do fair coverage of the war and call Hamas ‘terrorists’ in their reports.”
Let us make it clear.
We aren’t here to harm anyone. We aren’t here to cause trouble.
— NJA (@NJA_UK) October 16, 2023
Some government officials claim the BBC could call Hamas militants “terrorists” if they truly wanted to, noting that the British government designed Hamas as a terrorist organization two years ago. But officials at the BBC say they’re holding firm in their decision to call Hamas a militant group.
“Careful consideration has been given to all aspects of our coverage to ensure that we report on developments accurately and with due impartiality in line with the BBC editorial guidelines, which are publicly available,” a spokesperson for the BBC said in a statement. “The BBC, along with many other UK and global news organizations, does use the word ‘terrorist’, but attributes it. We have made clear to our audiences that Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist organization by the UK and other governments.”