BBC journalist Mishal Husain has clashed with Grant Shapps over the corporation’s coverage of the war in Israel and Gaza.
The defence secretary tried to take the Today programme presenter to task over the BBC’s refusal to describe Hamas as a “terrorist” group.
Appearing on the Radio 4 programme this morning, Shapps accused the BBC of “not being particularly interested” Hamas - prompting a stinging rebuke from Husain.
The tense exchange came as the UK sent warships to the region in a show of support for Israel.
They suggest journalists use words which specifically describe the perpetrator, such as “bomber”, “attacker” or “gunman” instead.
Veteran BBC foreign correspondent John Simpson has also said that “calling someone a terrorist means you’re taking sides”.
During his interview this morning, Shapps said: “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 hit back: “Have you not seen any of the coverage on the BBC of the atrocities the dead the injured the survivors?”
When the minister said he had, the presenter replied: “So how can you say that we’re not interested in in those atrocities?”
Schooling Shapps on the basics of UK broadcasting, Husain added: “Are you aware of the Ofcom code and the rules for broadcasters?
“So you will know that the Ofcom broadcasting code requires that news in whatever form is reported with due accuracy, and presented with due impartiality.
“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.”
Shapps said that the evidence of Hamas’s actions makes it “pretty clear” they are engaged in “terrorist activity”.
“It’s pretty surprising not to hear it being called that,” he said.
But Husain said: “I don’t know whether you’re singling out the BBC and singling out Hamas or whether you are calling for a change in the Ofcom broadcasting code?”
Shapps said: “It would be reassuring if the BBC called a spade a spade when terrorists act in this way.”
Shapps and Husain also clashed over Israel’s order for the 1.1 million people living in north Gaza to leave their homes ahead of an expected ground offensive in the next 24 hours.
The BBC presenter asked the defence secretary whether the UK government believed that was “an achievable thing”.
She said: “You think it is possible for a million people within 24 hours and the UK government support the Israeli government in issuing this order?”
After he failed to give an answer, Husain added: “You’re not answering my question. I’m still not sure whether the UK government supports this order of the Israeli military.”
Shapps replied: “I think you’re literally the only person listening to this who would be confused by this.
“I’ve just said that the UK government supports Israel’s right, both to defend itself and that Israel is providing an advanced warning of military action in order for people to move themselves out of the way.”
In a separate interview on Sky News, the defence secretary said it was “highly likely” that British nationals were among the hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas.