HonestReporting Communique, September 21, 2004.
HonestReporting has repeatedly denounced media outlets’ categorical
refusal to call terrorists ’terrorists’ in news reports.
As Islamic terror continues to spread worldwide, one major news
outlet decided that enough is enough — it’s time to call terrorism by
its name. CanWest, owners of Canada’s largest newspaper chain,
recently implemented a new editorial policy to use the ‘T-word’ in
news reports on brutal terrorist acts and groups.
So when CanWest’s National Post published a Reuters report on
Sept. 14, they exercised their right to change this Reuters line that
whitewashes Palestinian terror:
“…the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a
four- year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West
Bank.” (Jeffrey Heller, 9/13 ‘Sharon Faces Netanyahu Challenge’)
to this, more accurate line:
“…the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has
been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”
Reuters didn’t like the adjustment, and took the unusual step to
officially inform CanWest that if it intended to continue this practice,
CanWest should remove Reuters’ name from the byline. Why?
The New York Times reported:
“‘Our editorial policy is that we don’t use emotive words
when labeling someone,’ said David A. Schlesinger, Reuters’ global
managing editor. ‘Any paper can change copy and do whatever they
want. But if a paper wants to change our copy that way, we would
be more comfortable if they remove the byline.’
“Mr. Schlesinger said he was concerned that changes like those
made at CanWest could lead to ‘confusion’ about what Reuters is
reporting and possibly endanger its reporters in volatile areas or
situations. ‘My goal is to protect our reporters and protect our
editorial integrity,’ he said.”
journalistic principles,’ and raised the
key question: ‘If you’re couching language to protect people, are you
telling the truth?’
An editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, one of CanWest’s newspapers,
spells out the issue in black and white:
“Terrorism is a technical term. It describes a modus operandi, a
tactic. We side with security professionals who define terrorism as
the deliberate targeting of civilians in pursuit of a political goal.
Those who bombed the nightclub in Bali were terrorists. Suicide
bombers who strap explosives to their bodies and blow up people
eating in a pizza parlour are terrorists.
The men and women who took a school full of hostages in
Beslan, Russia, and shot some of the children in the back as they
tried to flee to safety were terrorists. We as journalists do not violate
our impartiality by describing them as such.
“Ironically, it is supposedly neutral terms like ‘militant’ that betray a
bias, insofar as they have a sanitizing effect. Activists for various
political causes can be ‘militant,’ but they don’t take children
The CanWest/Reuters affair is remarkably similar to CNN’s Iraqi
cover- up from last year, when CNN’s top news executive admitted
that CNN’s knowledge of murder, torture, and planned
assassinations in Saddam’s Iraq was suppressed in order to maintain
CNN’s Baghdad bureau. We asked back then:
“Now that this senior CNN executive has come clean, it leaves us
wondering: In what other regions ruled by terrorist dictators do the
media toe the party line so as to remain in good stead?”
We now have our answer in the Palestinian region. Reuters admits to
regulating their language to appease the terrorists — and that’s an
open admission of pro-Palestinian bias.
(1) Send comments to Reuters: firstname.lastname@example.org
(2) If your local paper uses Reuters wire stories for coverage of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bring Reuters’ admission of non-
objectivity to the attention of your local editor.
(3) Write a short letter to your local newspaper, citing Reuters’
declaration that the goal of their soft language is to protect reporters,
and recognizing the implication: Reuters is not providing
unadulterated, independent coverage of stories like the Israeli-Arab conflict.