BBC to review use of 'Islamic State' after David Cameron rebuke

Move comes after group of cross-party MPs wrote to the BBC calling for it to stop using the term in its broadcasts

Matt Dathan
Tuesday 30 June 2015 12:30
David Cameron gives a statement over the situation in Tunisia to the House of Commons in London
David Cameron gives a statement over the situation in Tunisia to the House of Commons in London

The BBC is reviewing its use of the term 'Islamic State' after David Cameron rebuked the broadcaster over its use of the name.

The Prime Minister said the BBC's reference to the terrorist group as 'Islamic State' gave undue credibility to the "poisonous death cult" that is “seducing” young Britons to go and fight for the terrorist organisation in Syria and Iraq.

David Cameron took the BBC to task over its use of the term 'Islamic State' to refer to the terrorist organisation occupying parts of Syria and Iraq

He urged the broadcaster to refer to the terrorist group as “Isil” – the abbreviation of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. However there have been calls for media outlets to go further and start using the Arabic name for the group - Daesh, but Mr Cameron said such a radical move away from 'Islamic State' would make any change less likely.

A letter signed by 120 MPs, backed by Mr Cameron, was sent to the BBC director general, Tony Hall, last week to call for a change of policy.

In response, a BBC spokesman said: “No one listening to our reporting could be in any doubt what kind of organisation this is.

“We call the group by the name it uses itself, and regularly review our approach. We also use additional descriptions to help make it clear we are referring to the group as they refer to themselves, such as ‘so-called Islamic State’.”

The SNP’s Angus Robertson called for the Arab name of the group - Daesh - to be used instead of 'Islamic State'

It comes after Mr Cameron expressed frustration at the BBC when speaking on the Today programme yesterday, in the wake of the horrifying scenes on a Tunisian beach resort, where an Islamist gunman killed 38 people, with the majority of victims believed to be British.

The Prime Minister said: "I wish the BBC would stop calling it 'Islamic State' because it is not an Islamic state.

"What it is is an appalling barbarous regime that is a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words. 'So-called' or Isil is better,” he added.

In the House of Commons later in the day Mr Cameron was asked by the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson to adopt the Arab name for the terrorist organisation.

"You have pointed out the importance of getting terminology right and not using the name Islamic State," Mr Robertson said. "Will you join parliamentarians across this house, the US secretary of state and the French foreign minister in using the appropriate term?

“Do you agree the time has come in the English-speaking world to stop using Islamic State, Isis or Isil and instead we and our media should use Daesh – the commonly used phrase across the Middle East?”

Mr Cameron replied: “I agree with you in terms of the use of Islamic State.

“I think this is seen as particularly offensive to many Muslims who see, as I see, not a state but a barbaric regime of terrorism and oppression that takes delight in murder and oppressing women, and murdering people because they’re gay. I raised this with the BBC this morning.

“I personally think that using the term Isil or so-called would be better than what they currently do.

“I don’t think we’ll move them all the way to Daesh so I think saying Isil is probably better than Islamic State because it is neither in my view Islamic nor a state.”

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