Earlier this month we covered the fragile nature of the egos at Al Jazeera and how they were dismayed by the world’s support of Charlie Hebdo. It turns out that the emotional wounds must have run fairly deep, because their English language editor has determined that certain words “have a tendency to trip us up” and are just plain detrimental to their fair and balanced approach to covering world events. And in the true spirit of journalistic integrity, they’re just going to stop using them. Brenden Bordelon at National Review has the details.
“All: We manage our words carefully around here,” the network’s head of output wrote to staff at the Doha-based news channel’s New York and Washington, D.C. newsrooms. “So I’d like to bring to your attention some key words that have a tendency of tripping us up.”
In an email obtained by National Review Online, van Meek warned the network’s journalists against the use of terms including “terrorist,” “militant,” “Islamist” and “jihad.”
“One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” the Al Jazeera executive wrote.
The word “extremist” was labeled off-limits. “Avoid characterizing people,” van Meek said. “Often their actions do the work for the viewer.”
“Do not use,” van Meek’s said of the term “Islamist.” He described it as “a simplistic label.”
They’ve got the entire internal email at the link and it’s worth a read, if only for a peek inside the inner workings at AJ in America. It tells a story of what’s actually going on over there, and the inside picture isn’t a pretty one. These types of directives go well beyond anything you’d even see on the evening line up at MSNBC. It’s one thing to run a network with a bit of editorial bias in one direction or the other, but moves like this cross the line straight over to out and out propaganda.
What do they offer in place of extremist? They suggest that “violent group” would be a better way to talk about Boko Haram, for example, because you might find yourself reporting on a violent group that’s in the news for a non-violent reason. How does anyone in the news business even arrive at that point in the thought process? If you’re reporting on anything to do with Boko Haram, you’re talking about an army of evil murderers. There is really no need to dance around the subject.
The examples continue, and they demonstrate a very calculated strategy to bring their employees in line to deliver a message designed to “soften the image” of terrorist groups. I still don’t think we can shut down Al Jazeera in America without treading on some delicate lines of how we define “the press.” But we also are under no obligation to take them seriously.