Section 11: War, Terror and Emergencies


The BBC has a special responsibility to its UK and international audiences when reporting conflict including wars, acts and planned acts of terror, sieges and emergencies.  Large numbers of people across the world access our services for accurate news and information.  They also expect us to help them make sense of events by providing context and impartial analysis and by offering a wide range of views and opinions.

At such times, when there may be conflicting information and opinions, and with reliable information hard to come by, we need to be scrupulous in applying our principles of accuracy and impartiality.

(See Section 3 Accuracy: 3.2 and Section 4 Impartiality: 4.2)

However, we must also take care that our journalism does not put individuals at risk of unnecessary distress or harm.  Alongside normal ethical considerations (and exceptionally for journalists), the Terrorism Acts place legal obligations on individuals to disclose certain information to the police as soon as reasonably practicable.

The tone of our reporting is as important as its reliability.  We need to be sensitive to the emotions and fears of our audience when reporting matters involving risk to and loss of life, as well as human suffering or distress.  Some will have relatives or friends directly involved.  We will need to handle painful stories with great care.  We should avoid causing unnecessary offence whilst also ensuring we continue to convey the reality of events and do not unduly sanitise our reporting.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.4.38 - 7.4.44 and Section 5 Harm and Offence: 5.4.11)

(See Guidance: Violence in News and Current Affairs Output)

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

At times of war, terror or emergency, we should keep 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 5 Harm and Offence: 5.4.53)