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Use the T-Word

Reader comment on item: [Beslan Atrocity:] They're Terrorists - Not Activists

Submitted by Raphael Cohen-Almagor (Israel), Sep 30, 2004 at 11:36

As a general rule, the BBC World Service refrains from using the term "terrorists," which is perceived to be too loaded and prefers to resort to more neutral terms, even when the brutality involved in the violent crime against innocent civilians is obscene.

Similarly, the CBC Ombudsman, David Bazay, in comments about the use of the word "terrorist" wrote that "There is nothing in the CBC's journalism policy that prevents the public broadcaster's journalists from calling a spade a spade or a terror attack a terror attack." But, at the same time, he instructed the CBC to be careful with the use of language. While quoting his colleague Jeffrey Dvorkin, Ombudsman for the American National Public Radio, Bazay explained that while the use of "the 't' word" may be accurate it also has a political and "extra-journalistic role of de-legitimizing one side and enthroning the views of the other." In his view, this is not the role of responsible journalism, "which is and should be to describe with accuracy and fairness events that listeners may choose to endorse or deplore." Indeed, this is the role of responsible journalism and therefore journalists should resort to the term "terrorism" when such acts are conducted. Bazay took pain to explain that sides to a given conflict use and abuse the word "terrorist" to frame the issues to advance their political agenda, but it does not matter how one side or another characterizes the acts of violence it carries. What does matter is whether the acts fall within the definition of terrorism. However, because the description of a given event as terrorist might be difficult and controversial, the CBC is opting, in general, for the simple solution of refraining from using the term.

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