BBC director-general urges staff to ‘speak up’ amid pressure to call Hamas ‘terrorists’
LONDON: Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, told editorial staff on Thursday to voice their concerns “whenever they need to” following the backlash directed at the broadcaster over its refusal to refer to Hamas as a “terrorist organization.”
Describing the events in Israel and Gaza as “horrific,” Davie wrote in an email message to staff: “This is an incredibly difficult and complex story, and our coverage has not shied away from reporting the nature of the atrocities and the impact they have had on the ground around the world.
“The team has put in place a number of resources to help,” the email, which was shared by The Daily Telegraph, read.
“As ever, we want everyone to feel supported and safe at the BBC, and for you to feel able to speak up whenever you need to.”
Davie attached a letter from Deborah Turness, chief of BBC News, in which she defended the network’s decision to not “declare any group as terrorists.”
Turness wrote: “This is standard practice for many of the world’s most reputable news organizations — including some that I have led in the UK, in Europe and in the United States.
“That’s because the term terrorist is politicized and used as a weapon in wars.”
She added: “If we are perceived to take sides in any war, it will no longer be safe for us to operate in hostile environments and to witness firsthand what is happening.”
The correspondence came after a week of mounting pressure on the BBC over its refusal to call Hamas a “terrorist organization” in light of the attack on Israel. The armed group has been proscribed as a “terrorist organization” in the UK since November 2021.
Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, confirmed on Friday that it was up to the BBC to decide whether to describe Hamas as “terrorists.”
Mishal Husain, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” show, told UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps the BBC was following the Ofcom code by not referring to Hamas as “terrorists.” But Shapps insisted that the broadcaster should refer to Hamas as a “terrorist group” as it had been proscribed by law.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also urged the BBC to “call (the action) out for what it is,” while Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent live on air to call Hamas “terrorists.”