Every terrorist is a terrorist

By not explaining terrorist acts as terrorism, the BBC actually does a disservice to its audience and goes against its obligation to inform the public with accurate, unbiased facts.

July 6, 2019 18:32
2 minute read.
Every terrorist is a terrorist

The Report, “Terrorists In Suits,” exposes over 100 connections between socalled human rights NGOs and designated terror organizations. (photo credit: MINISTRY OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS)


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On June 9, it was reported that the BBC (The British Broadcasting Corporation), the world’s largest broadcast news operation, would stop using the word “terror” in its reporting of events of terrorism. This is an egregious move that has the ability to legitimize terrorists and their actions, sterilize the public from the psychological effects of terrorism, and shield the BBC from potential backlash about “biased” reporting. While the BBC claims to do this to reduce bias, in actuality, it shows bias and contempt toward the innocent victims and society affected by terrorism.

According to the Daily Mail, which was the first to report the changes to the editorial guidelines for BBC reporters, a senior source stated that the decision “boils down to the phrase, ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’” This is a complete fallacy that needs to be debunked and goes to further the argument that a working agreed-upon international definition of terrorism is desperately needed. Having said this, academics, counter-terror practitioners and elected officials all have definitions of terrorism that all include one main principal, which is: the use of violence to achieve political goals. The BBC could apply this basic loose definition to its guidelines when reporting about terror so as to avoid any potential bias.  
Dr. Boaz Ganor, in is his book The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle: A Guide for Decision Makers, takes this a step further which would help the BBC even more, by narrowing the definition. 

“Terrorism is a form of violent struggle in which violence is deliberately used against civilians in order to achieve political goals (nationalistic, socioeconomic, ideological, religious, etc.).”

This definition truly refutes the idea of “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” by showing that it doesn’t matter what the rational is (nationalistic, socioeconomic, ideological, religious, etc.); it is the act of violence against civilians for political goals that makes an event a terrorist attack. There is no room for any form of bias when using this definition.

The media are the fourth pillar of a democracy. Its role is to ensure that the public is aware of all the different social, political and economic undertakings that go on around us. The media are meant to hold the government accountable to the voting public and to report unbiased facts to educate and inform the public. Terrorists aim to use the media to their advantage and to create an irrational fear within the attacked society in order to pressure their governments in hopes of changes favorable to their cause. By banning the terms terrorist, terror and terrorism, they play into the hands of the terrorists who don’t view themselves as terrorists, and that the terror they have inflicted thus far has affected the people so gravely that they are afraid to use the term. The terrorist view this as a success in changing the narrative and legitimizing them and their cause.

By not explaining terrorist acts as terrorism, the BBC actually does a disservice to its audience and goes against its obligation to inform the public with accurate, unbiased facts.

To find the solution to any problem one must first admit there is a problem. By not using the word “terror” the BBC is denying the act of terror as a phenomenon in our day and age and this will have grave ramifications on their credibility as well as their audience’s ability to understand the events that are unfolding around them.

The writer is a researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and host of the Counter-Terrorism Today podcast.

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