‘Call a spade a spade!’ -Grant Shapps slams BBC to its face over Hamas language

Grant Shapps rows with BBC over refusal to call Hamas terrorists

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps tackled the BBC head-on this morning over the ongoing row about them refusing to label Hamas fighters as ‘terrorists’.

Mr Shapps’s tense confrontation is just the latest example of mass public pressure, following seven former Culture secretaries signing a joint letter to the corporation last night demanding a change of their reporting policy.

The Defence Secretary said the BBC “aren’t particularly interested” in covering Hamas as terrorists.

He told Radio 4: “It is good that Israel provided information in advance… Hamas certainly didn’t do that before they went and slaughtered people.

“And I would have thought a good start is to warn people in advance that the area that they are in is likely to be part of an attack where the Israelis are trying to get hold of the Hamas terrorists, who you don’t seem to be particularly interested in.”

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He added: “The BBC seems to refuse to call them terrorists even though the British Parliament has legislated that they are terrorists.”

BBC presenter Mishal Husain could barely disguise her fury at being called out, blankly demanding to know how Mr Shapps could make the claim if he’d seen any of the BBC’s coverage of the “atrocities, the dead, the injured the survivors”.

She demanded to know whether Mr Shapps is “aware of the OFCOM code and the rules for all broadcasters?”

“You’ll know that the OFCOM broadcasting code requires that news in whatever form is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. Broadcasters are not the same as newspapers and indeed all UK broadcasters stick to the same language around terrorism and these groups that the BBC is, we are not unique in this.”

Mr Shapps said it would be “helpful if the national broadcaster stuck by what Parliament has legislated”, given Hamas is on the official list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

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Ms Husain demanded to know whether the Government is “singling out the BBC and singling out Hamas, or whether you are calling for a change in the OFCOM broadcasting code?”

He replied: “I am simply pointing out that I’ve read articles on the BBC explaining why they don’t think they need to refer to an organisation that carried out extraordinary animal-like acts at the weekend as terrorists, which is what they are”.

The Today presenter tried arguing that the Government only added Hamas to the proscribed list of terrorist organisations two years ago, despite the group carrying out attacks for many years prior.

“So the UK Government’s language should be mirrored by all UK broadcasters?”

Mr Shapps pointed out that when Parliament makes a law that is then a law. We’re disappearing down a bit of a rabbit hole here, I simply make the point that many other broadcasters have been asking me about the concerns within the British Jewish community that it would be reassuring, I would have thought, if the BBC called a spade a spade.

“When terrorists act in this way there needs to be an understanding that there isn’t an equivalence between going after those terrorists and trying to protect the civilian population by providing warnings – which has been the subject of the majority of our interview – and the way that terrorist organisation themselves act.

“I think there’s an over tendency to try and make an equivalence between the two and say ‘on the one hand this but on the other hand it’s that’. The two are not equivalent in any shape or form.”

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