Leaders: Terrorist labelling is a mere distraction

A hooded Tunisian police officer stands guard. Picture: AP

A hooded Tunisian police officer stands guard. Picture: AP

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THE sight of armed soldiers patrolling the beaches at Sousse is further evidence of how terrorism has changed our way of life.

Where once lifeguards protected bathers from the dangers of the sea, now troops carrying machine guns are required to protect them from murderers.

Last week’s attacks have prompted a range of reactions. For some, there is fear of further attacks and from others, there is a demand for retribution. There is also frustration over playing into the enemy’s hands. Terrorist feed off the publicity their barbaric acts receive, such as the beheadings of hostages in the desert. There is an argument that the media should not report these atrocities, but that is not a realistic prospect. The reach and accessibility of the media cannot be controlled in the way it was previously, when governments could suppress reports of wartime casualties in a bid to win the propaganda war.

Frustration is also evident in objections to the use of the term Islamic State. Those who would like to see the term banished say that the terrorist group for which it is used as a label are neither Islamic nor a state, and is offensive to Muslims. The term unwittingly gives the organisation a status which it should be denied.

There is significant political support for the name Islamic State to be dropped, with David Cameron and Alex Salmond among the voices calling for the media to end reference to this term. Mr Salmond, the former First Minister, has backed calls for the use of Daesh, the term used in the Middle East which denies the terrorists the association with religion that they need. Meanwhile the Prime Minister believes that Isil would be a better option.

The majority of those in the media would probably have sympathy, and many will agree with Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond that the name is a misnomer. The difficulty is that the term has become accepted general use, and attempting to remove it is akin to putting the genie back in the bottle.

The alternatives are not perfect. Daesh is an abbreviation of Dawlat alIslamiyah f’alIraq wa alSham, which carries little recognition for all but Arabic speakers, while Isil refers to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – it is just another form of Islamic State.

There is one other concern here: the issue of what we call the terrorists is a distraction. Changing the name will not stop the killings. Whether accurate or flawed, the use of Islamic State leaves no-one in any doubt about who or what we are talking about. Simply using the name Islamic State does not confer upon the murderous terrorists the granting of statehood. It is simply the name by which this organisation is known. Energies should instead remain focused on the heart of the matter – removing the threat.

What price Wimbledon?

The diminished status of public service broadcasting has suffered a fresh blow following Discovery’s securing of the rights to the Olympic Games from 2022 onwards in a £920 million pan-European deal.

This does not mean that the Games, summer and winter, have been lost to the BBC, host to television coverage of the Games continuously since 1960. A package can still be negotiated by the BBC via a sub-licence, and, under UK government legislation, the Games remain one of sport’s “crown jewels” which demands that coverage must be provided free-to-air. The issue is the extent of that coverage. In 2012, when the summer Games were held in London, the BBC screened 2,500 hours of action over a variety of platforms. At present, Eurosport has committed to broadcasting only 200 hours of summer Olympics and 100 hours of winter Games on free-to-air television.

Even if the BBC secures those free-to-air rights – and there is no guarantee that this will happen, with competitors free to enter the fray – this will be small consolation for sports fans who do not subscribe to pay-for channels. But there is bound to be a sense of weary resignation, because the loss of the Olympics would follow the departure – from 2017 onwards – of golf’s Open Championship, a development previously considered unthinkable.

The shift of such an iconic part of BBC coverage to pay-TV requires the UK government to reconsider the effectiveness of the legislation it designed to protect sport’s showpieces, because the Discovery deal shows events can still be bought. What price Wimbledon next?

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