Section 11: War, Terror and Emergencies - Introduction

Section 11.1

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The BBC has a special responsibility to its UK and international audiences when reporting conflict including wars, acts of terror, sieges and other emergencies. People across the world access our services for trustworthy news and information. They expect us to provide context and analysis and to offer a wide range of views and opinions. We need to be scrupulous in applying due accuracy and impartiality [1]

We must take care that our journalism does not put individuals at risk of additional harm or cause unnecessary distress.

We must consider our tone and language when reporting matters involving loss of life and human suffering. Some of our audience will have relatives or friends directly involved. We should avoid causing unnecessary offence whilst also ensuring that we continue to convey the reality of events and do not unduly sanitise our reporting. We will ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that next of kin do not learn of a relative’s death or injury from any of our content. There must be strong editorial justification for the use of very graphic pictures.

In addition to editorial and ethical considerations, the Terrorism Acts place legal obligations on individuals – including journalists – to disclose certain information to the police as soon as reasonably practicable.

Specific guidance on reporting war is issued, as required, on the Editorial Guidelines website.

At times of war, terror, emergency or disaster, we should keep all of our output under review, particularly scheduled programmes (including films, drama, comedy and music) and trails, to identify anything which might be thought inappropriate in the light of events.

(See Section 3 Accuracy: 3.1, Section 4 Impartiality: 4.1, Section 7 Privacy: 7.3.41-7.3.45 and Section 5 Harm and Offence: 5.3.11 and 5.3.54)

[1] The sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relate to this are 3: Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse and 8: Privacy. 

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