Newsreader Kirsty Young suggests why BBC doesn't call Hamas terrorists

BBC newsreader Kirsty Young suggests the reason why channel does not refer to Hamas as terrorists is to keep access to Gaza for its coverage

  • Scottish presenter praised the broadcaster’s coverage of the Middle East war

BBC broadcaster Kirsty Young has suggested a reason for the corporation’s decision not to call Hamas terrorists is that it can’t upset the Gaza authority because it wants access for its coverage.

Young previously presented news for Channel 5 and ITV, but last year she was working for the BBC fronting Platinum Beacons: Lighting up the Jubilee, the live coverage of the celebration of the Queen’s 70-year reign, and then three months later Elizabeth II’s state funeral at Windsor Castle.

The Scottish presenter, who was also a Desert Island Discs and Crimewatch presenter for the BBC, praised its coverage of the Middle East war.

She said she understood the difficult position it faces, including the criticism for not calling Hamas terrorists after the mass murders of October 7.

Following a storm of criticism the BBC now refers to the group running Gaza as a ‘proscribed terrorist organisation’.

The Scottish presenter, who was also a Desert Island Discs and Crimewatch presenter for the BBC, praised its coverage of the Middle East war

Following a storm of criticism the BBC now refers to the group running Gaza as a ‘proscribed terrorist organisation’

Young said: ‘It’s not necessarily the BBC that is talking about the use of the word terrorism. They’re answering criticism from the outside and I guess as long as – especially when it comes to something in the Middle East – if you’re getting roughly the same amount of complaints from both sides, which they are, then you kind of know you’re doing an OK job.

‘And I think this whole reporting that it is a proscribed terror organisation with reference to Hamas, then that is a legitimate stance if you want to continue to have access and to report what is happening in those places.

‘Because what you don’t want to do is get thrown out of places because you’re not allowed to report any more.

‘You want to have access. You know the whole point of the BBC in news terms is to show people the evidence as fairly as they possibly can.

‘And you look at somebody like Jeremy Bowen, I don’t think there’s a single person that I’ve heard speak about or write about the Middle East that explains it as concisely and in terms that I can understand and as fairly as he does.

‘If you want those people to have access, you have to be very mindful with your language.

‘I think it’s understandable they’re doing that. It’s a very, very difficult job to get round.’

Speaking on today’sAdam Buxton podcast in an interview recorded last month, she said: ‘There’s a reason that people trust the BBC news site, and it’s because it was verified by three sources, and it’s because they’re the biggest news organisation in the world.’

Asked if she’s ever had a conversation with someone who is strongly anti-BBC and feels it’s awash with bias, she replied: ‘Oh yeah. The worst one, I think my most intense experience of that was probably about five years ago when a young person who I was sitting next to at dinner – I think they must have been about 19 – just sort of said as though it was a fact ‘well I mean everything on the BBC’s lies, you can’t trust a thing that they say’.

Smoke billows following an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023

‘And I was sort of physically winded by that, not because the BBC is definitely an imperfect organisation and they have problems, of course they do, but it was shocking to me that a young woman would have that view.

‘And I had to ask my kids about it, I said ‘where is that coming from?’

‘And I was completely behind the curve on that. So yes I have, and I get it. The BBC is doing its best, isn’t it, in very difficult circumstances.

‘I happen to think it does a pretty good job and I believe in the integrity of the people who work in the news arm. I think they do extraordinary things.’

Young, 54, said she agreed with Buxton’s view that a lot of the BBC’s problems ‘come from tying themselves up in knots trying to do the right thing’.

When asked about Young’s comments, the BBC responded by referring to its previous statement saying: ‘We’ve set out our position on the use of language.’

In that, it had said: ‘Our coverage of the unprecedented assault on Israel by Hamas has made clear the nature of the atrocities committed and the impact this has had on civilians.

‘Across our reporting we have explained that Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by many Western governments, including the UK.

Young previously presented on the BBC during Elizabeth II’s state funeral at Windsor Castle

‘We have reflected the response from the international community to Hamas’ actions, and featured contributors who have described them as terrorists.

‘We have given careful consideration to all aspects of our reporting of the Israel-Gaza conflict, both in terms of Hamas’ attacks and Israel’s response – this includes the language that we use.

‘The BBC is editorially independent; our role is to explain precisely what is happening so that the public can make their own judgements.

‘Our longstanding position, including during previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, has been that we do not use the term ‘terrorist’ without attribution, in line with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.’

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