Monday, December 15, 2008

BBC's double standards

Journalist MJ Akbar has lambasted the BBC for its coverage of the Mumbai riots. The BBC is said to have referred to the attackers as "gunmen" or "militants" and shied away from using the expression, "terrorists". BBC had no compunction in referring to the attackers in the 7/11 attack on London as "terrorists", reports. Akbar wrote:

When Britain finds a group of men plotting in a home laboratory your government has no hesitation in creating an international storm, and the BBC has no hesitation in calling them terrorists. When nearly two hundred Indian lives are lost, you cannot find a word in your dictionary more persuasive than 'gunmen'.

....You are not only pathetic, but you have become utterly biased in your reporting. Since we in India believe in freedom of the press, we can do no more than protest, but let me tell you that your credibility, created over long years by fearless and independent journalists like Mark Tully (I am privileged to describe him as a friend), is in tatters and those tatters will not be patched as long as biased non-journalists like you and your superiors are in charge of decisions. Shame on you and your kind."

The BBC wrote back defending its position:
The guidelines we issue to staff are very clear-we do not ban the use of the word terrorist, but our preference is to use an alternative form of words. There is a judgement inherent in the use of the word, which is not there when we are more precise with our language. "Gunman", or "killer", or "bomber", is an accurate description which does not come with any form of judgement. However, the word is not banned, and is frequently used on our output-usually when attributed to people. I heard it being used on numerous occasions during our coverage from Mumbai

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