MP reports BBC to Ofcom for Today programme's 'false' Hamas claims: 'It CAN and MUST call them terrorists'

Michael Fabricant

Michael Fabricant MP has demanded the BBC apologise for misleading listeners

Emily Fox

By Emily Fox

Published: 14/10/2023

- 20:22

Updated: 15/10/2023

- 13:07

Michael Fabricant demands Ofcom take action in wake of misleading Today programme interview - 'When dealing with events this serious, words and facts matter'

A top Tory MP has demanded Ofcom intervene after a misleading BBC broadcast in which a host falsely claimed she could not refer to Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Michael Fabricant took action after Today programme presenter Mishal Husain incorrectly said "Ofcom rules" meant the broadcaster couldn't use the word "terrorist". She also wrongly claimed other UK broadcasters were avoiding using the term.

The MP for Lichfield has now written to Dame Melanie Dawes, the boss of the broadcast regulator, over the "inappropriate questioning" of Defence Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday, which led to the multiple factual errors.

In his letter he writes: "After the Defence Secretary called out the BBC for refusing to label Hamas as a terrorist organisation, the presenter falsely claimed that the Ofcom broadcasting code prevented the BBC from naming Hamas as 'terrorists' due to the requirement for accuracy and due impartiality.

"This is inherently incorrect. As a former BBC employee and former DCMS select committee member I am fully confident that the Ofcom guidelines do not forbid the use of the word 'terrorist' when they have committed an act of terror."

Mishal Husain

Mishal Husain incorrectly claimed all other broadcasters were avoiding calling Hamas terrorists


He adds: "Given the clear misstating of the Ofcom broadcasting rules, it is my strong belief that Ofcom should advise the Today programme to correct the record as a matter of urgency and apologise to their listeners.

"When dealing with events as serious as this, words and facts matter. And the only word that can possibly be used to correctly describe Hamas and their actions: terrorist."

The row comes after Mr Shapps hit out at the BBC, suggesting it is not “particularly interested” in the “Hamas terrorists”.


In a tense interview with Ms Husain, Mr Shapps was asked a number of times if the UK supported the Israeli order to evacuate the north of Gaza and was asked about the feasibility of such a move.

Mr Shapps said: “It is good that they provided information in advance…Hamas certainly didn’t do that before they went and slaughtered people.

“But secondly, we don’t know the detail of the Israeli plan. We do know, and President Biden downwards have made it clear that Israel will need to comply with international law.

Michael Fabricant letter

Michael Fabricant's letter to Ofcom

Michael Fabricant MP

“And I would have thought a good start is to warn people in advance that the area that they are in is likely to be part of an attack where the Israelis are trying to get hold of the Hamas terrorists, who you don’t seem to be particularly interested in, and the BBC seems to refuse to call terrorists even though the British Parliament has legislated that they are terrorists.”

Husain, replied to Shapps and referred to BBC reporting of the events and victims, and referred to the Ofcom code, saying: “Broadcasters are not the same as newspapers and indeed all UK broadcasters stick to the same language around terrorism and these groups that the BBC is. We are not unique in this.”

Most UK broadcasters refer to Hamas - who slaughtered 1300 innocent people last weekend, including babies - as a terrorist organisation.

Mr Shapps insisted Israel has a right to “go after” Hamas when he was challenged over the situation in Gaza.

Asked about Israel’s tactics, including cutting off electricity and issuing an evacuation order reported to cover the north of the Gaza Strip, Mr Shapps said: “The question is, what is Israel to do?

“Leave these Hamas terrorists to come in and slaughter people again? Or deal with them once and for all?

“And the fact that Israel gives notice… is in stark contrast.

“I think Israel finds itself in a very difficult situation, and to be clear: Israel needs to act within international law just like any other nation… But Israel will also obviously need to deal with these Hamas terrorists.”

He added: “Israel is giving due warning, but they are going after those terrorists, and we absolutely respect Israel’s right to do that.”

The BBC not referring to Hamas as terrorists was a “shame”, particularly for the Jewish community, the Defence Secretary added.

Asked what his message is to Jewish people in the UK that do not feel safe and fear hate is being stirred up, Mr Shapps said: “People are very worried, and they’re very concerned.

“And I have to say, the way to start with this is to actually deal with the situation as it is.

Grant Shapps Grant Shapps blasted the BBC for refusing to call Hamas terroristsGB News

“These are terrorists who, as I mentioned before, don’t just want to eradicate Israel, they want to eradicate all Jews. That is in their plan, that’s in their charter.

“And I think it would be helpful if news organisations started by recognising that British law calls and recognises them as terrorists and proscribes that organisation (Hamas), which is something the BBC is yet to formally do, which I think is a shame, particularly for that community, for the Jewish community, who are very worried.

“The Government has provided more funds for their assistance.”

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