The BBC was criticised for its political correctness last night after continually referring to the yobs rioting across London as “protesters”.
6:30AM BST 09 Aug 2011
That was despite the fact that hundreds of youths, with no connection to events in Tottenham, had since run riot across the capital.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and police have all condemned the youths as “criminals” whose behaviour is “utterly appalling”. Yet senior BBC presenters and reporters on the ground yesterday continued to describe those behind the violence as “protesters”.
The move sparked a wave of anger from members of the public on Twitter.
Duncan Barkes wrote on the micro-blogging website: “Hello BBC. They are not protesters, are they? Rioters better description. I mean, what’s the cause for the protest?”
Dee Modha said: “This hackney BBC reporter needs to stop calling them protesters. Thugs, hooligans and opportunists are better words.”
Jo Suherman added: “Wish the BBC would stop referring to rioters as ‘protesters’. For BBC protest synonymous with violence and looting.” User Soneni Nkomo accused the corporation of “political correctness”, while a user called Craig added: “The BBC are still calling these thugs protesters! The liberal elite cannot see that it’s pure criminality.”
The BBC was criticised in 2005 when it emerged that an edict was sent around to staff in the wake of the 7/7 terror attacks ordering them not to use the word “terrorist”. The guidelines on language said “the word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding”. The memo was sent within hours of the atrocities, which left 52 innocent people dead, by Helen Boaden, the head of news.
A spokesman for the corporation insisted last night that no guidance had been issued over what language should be used for coverage of the London riots. He said terms such as “riot” and “rioters” were also used.