The Bean Laden Broadcasting Corporation has come up with a check list on how it maintains “objectivity” in its reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The BBC Governors’ independent panel report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict recommended that the BBC should make public an abbreviated version of its journalists’ guide to facts and terminology.
The BBC’s responsibility is to remain “impartial” and report in ways that “enable” our audiences to make their own assessments.
Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements.If an event falls within the dictionary definition of assassination, then we can use the term but the word “killed” or “killing” may be perfectly adequate.
Plain simple language is preferable to more complex or emotive language. If we have more precise details of exactly why or how the killing took place, we should communicate that in an equally straightforward way. The phrase “targeted killing” is sometimes used by Israel and should be attributed.
BBC journalists should try to avoid using terminology favoured by one side or another in any dispute.
The BBC uses the terms “barrier”, “separation barrier” or “West Bank barrier” as acceptable generic descriptions to avoid the political connotations of “security fence” (preferred by the Israeli government) or “apartheid wall” (preferred by the Palestinians).
The United Nations also uses the term “barrier”.
Of course, a reporter standing in front of a concrete section of the barrier might choose to say “this wall” or use a more exact description in the light of what he or she is looking at.
Note the BBC producer guidelines which state: “we must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own. Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements. The word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution. It is also usually inappropriate to use words like “liberate”, “court martial” or “execute” in the absence of a clear judicial process. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as “bomber”, “attacker”, “gunmen”, “kidnapper”, “insurgent” or “militant.””
Our responsibility is to remain impartial and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.