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Closed petition Require broadcasters to call proscribed terrorist organisations terrorists

Terrorism legislation should be amended to require all broadcasters regulated by Ofcom to describe all terrorist organisations proscribed in the UK and their operatives as “terrorists” and not by any descriptor, such as “militants”, which does not make their terrorist nature clear.

More details

A number of broadcasters, including public service broadcasters and other broadcasters, describe proscribed terrorist organisations by descriptors such as “militants”. This fails to clearly convey to audiences that these organisations are proscribed under terrorism legislation, and that their operatives are criminals carrying out illegal activities. Such descriptors can be seen as an indication that the broadcaster considers their proscription to be trivial or even wrong, thereby potentially assisting those who advocate terrorism.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 18 April 2024

Ofcom rules ensure broadcast news must be reported with due accuracy and impartiality. The Government is committed to a free media. It would not be right to dictate the language that journalists use.

Read the response in full

The UK has a robust regulatory regime covering broadcast TV and radio. Ofcom, the UK’s independent broadcasting regulator, is required by legislation, and accountable to Parliament, to draw up and enforce a Broadcasting Code for television and radio to ensure that audiences are adequately protected from harm. Within the Broadcasting Code, there are rules in place to ensure that broadcast news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. Ofcom’s guidance also sets out that broadcasters should have regard to the list of proscribed terror groups or organisations in the UK when considering audience harm. However, Ofcom has been clear that responsibility lies with broadcasters to decide the vocabulary they use to describe unfolding events.

By law, Ofcom carries out its duties independently of the Government to preserve the independence of the media from political interference. The Government endorses broadcasters describing proscribed terrorist organisations as such, and their members as terrorists. However, the Government is committed to a free and independent media and it would not be right to dictate in law the language that journalists must use in describing events.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport