BBC apologises for 'misleading' coverage of pro-Palestine protesters in UK

  • Hundreds of people gather outside the BBC to protest against its coverage of Hamas

  • The BBC apologises after it said pro-Palestine supporters 'backed Hamas'

  • Apology comes amid calls from Rishi Sunak that BBC should refer to Hamas as 'terrorists'

Watch: BBC apologises for saying pro-Palestine demonstrators were 'backing Hamas'

The BBC has been forced to apologise after it said pro-Palestine protesters across the UK were supporters of Hamas.

In a broadcast on the BBC News channel on Monday, a presenter spoke of how there had been "several demonstrations across Britain during which people voiced their backing for Hamas".


BBC News later issued an apology on air and on X, formerly known as Twitter.

There, Maryam Moshiri, chief presenter at BBC News, posted: "Earlier we reported on some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the weekend.

"We spoke about 'several demonstrations across Britain during which people voiced their backing for Hamas'.

"We accept this was poorly phrased and was a misleading description of the demonstrations."

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators rally outside Downing Street in support of the Palestinian population of Gaza on 14th October 2023 in London, United Kingdom. Large Palestinian solidarity rallies have been held throughout the UK following Israel's retaliatory attacks on Gaza despite a warning from UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman that waving Palestinian flags or chanting popular slogans in support of Palestine may constitute public order offences. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
The BBC apologised after it said pro-Palestinian demonstrators were 'backing Hamas'. (Getty Images)

One social media user responded: "I’ve made a formal complaint to BBC News for this misrepresentation and propaganda and I’d suggest others to do likewise.

"The suggestion that those that support an end to the siege of Gaza are pro-Hamas is way beyond acceptable."

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Protesters: 'BBC, Shame on you'

The BBC has already faced criticism for its refusal to label Hamas as "terrorists", even though it is designated as a terrorist group by the UK, the US, the EU and Israel.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel by Hamas militants since they launched a wave of attacks along the border with the Gaza Strip on 7 October. Israel says Hamas is holding 199 hostages in Gaza.

More than 2,700 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli air strikes, Palestinian officials have said, and more than 1,000 are missing under the rubble.

On Monday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the BBC in London and demanded the corporation label Hamas as "terrorists".

Watch: Protesters gather outside BBC over its refusal to call Hamas 'terrorists'

Demonstrators chanted “BBC, Shame on you” and “don’t pay the licence” outside Broadcasting House.

The National Jewish Assembly hosted the rally alongside the UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the European Jewish Association.

Protesters placed posters of kidnapped Israelis on a wall opposite the BBC building while others chanted, prayed and waved Israeli flags for about 90 minutes.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We always take our use of language very seriously. Anyone watching or listening to our coverage will hear the word ‘terrorist’ used many times – we attribute it to those who are using it, for example, the UK government.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Members of the Jewish community gather outside BBC Broadcasting House to demonstrate against the BBC's ongoing refusal to label Hamas as terrorists, on October 16, 2023 in London, England. The National Jewish Assembly is protesting at the BBC's refusal to label Hamas as terrorists and comes after the militant group's recent attacks on Israel. Hamas was prescribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK in March 2021 (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Members of the Jewish community gather outside BBC Broadcasting House to demonstrate against its refusal to label Hamas as 'terrorists'. (Getty Images)

“This is an approach that has been used for decades, and is in line with that of other broadcasters.

“The BBC is an editorially independent broadcaster whose job is to explain precisely what is happening ‘on the ground’ so our audiences can make their own judgment.”

It has been reported that the BBC has so far received hundreds of complaints about its coverage of the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The make up of the Gaza Strip (Yahoo)
The make up of the Gaza Strip (Yahoo)

The number of complaints is believed to be in the high hundreds, not in the thousands, with only a slight difference between complaints totals for perceived Israeli and Palestinian bias.

In a statement responding to the complaints, the BBC said: “Careful consideration has been given to all aspects of our coverage to ensure that we report on developments accurately and with due impartiality.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2023/10/14: Crowds of protesters march during the National Demonstration - March For Palestine. Protesters took to the streets to demand Israel end its violent imposition of a system of occupation, apartheid and colonisation over the Palestinian people. (Photo by Loredana Sangiuliano/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Thousands of pro-Palestine protesters have marched through London. (Getty Images)

“BBC News has provided our global audiences with coverage and first-hand testimony of the atrocities committed by Hamas and the suffering in Gaza.

“We have made clear the devastating human cost to civilians living in Israel and Gaza, and the unprecedented nature of what has happened.

“The huge loss of civilian life on both sides makes this a shocking and difficult story to cover.”

PM wants BBC to call Hamas 'terrorists'

There is mounting political pressure, including from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for the BBC to call Hamas "terrorists" in its reporting.

In the House of Commons on Monday, Conservative MP Chris Clarkson said: “When faced with child murder, rape and torture (the BBC) decided that Hamas should be called militants rather than terrorists.

“The political leaders of this country and our royal family can decide that they’re terrorists – why can’t our national broadcaster?”

Israel with Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights highlighted in dark purple. (Yahoo)
Israel with Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights highlighted in dark purple. (Yahoo)

Sunak replied: “I agree. I absolutely endorse those describing these attacks calling them what they are – attacks of terror by a terrorist organisation."

Sunak said culture secretary Lucy Frazer has raised the issue with BBC director-general Tim Davie.